I don't really buy into a lot of the blogging advice out there--the tone just doesn't sit well with me. But I have consistently found inspiration in the courses A Beautiful Mess offers because they are so down-to-earth and authentic. You don't read their course and think you're going to be the next, well . . . them, but you you do read it and think you could probably be a pretty decent you if you could just clarify what that is.
Authenticity is possibly Elsie's and Emma's greatest strength (well, closely rivaled by insane creativity), and they stress the importance for authenticity in your blog and brand as well, with chapters like "Play to Your Strengths," where the homework involves prompts to help you identify your strengths and consider them from several angles.
This was not an easy exercise for me. I have never enjoyed writing resumes or "About Me" blurbs. I doubt myself a lot. I don't want to state my strengths because I am afraid you might disagree with me (and that would be embarrassing). And I struggle to see my strengths clearly because mine seem to be less skill-related and more personality-related. Basically, I am friendly, I like to be nice to people, and I am nerdishly enthusiastic about small things (paper! letters! thoughtfulness! more paper!). My fear is that I may also talk/write too much as a result of this friendly nerdy niceness.
(Nevertheless, in the face of that fear, I am going to share with you a little story.)
The summer before 8th grade, I wanted to go to basketball camp at OU. My parents weren't sure if spending my babysitting money on this camp was such a wise investment when, all through my 7th-grade season, I seemed to lack any real drive or competitiveness. My mom was like, "Steve, do you really think it's a good idea for her to spend $150 on basketball camp when she isn't even aggressive?" My dad wasn't so sure, either, but he chose a humorous angle and said, "Who knows--maybe she'll win Miss Congeniality or something."
|Waving happily just months after winning |
This might explain why my "list of major accomplishments" for the Blog Life course homework includes things like:
"sophomore class rep"
(FYI, "basketball and track" were also included on this list, as I did develop some competitiveness in high school.)
Yes, these are all of my MAJOR life accomplishments.
I had to laugh at the relatively short list, the fact that nothing showed up post-college, how minor it all was, and the way it basically boiled down to being popular. Is that really an accomplishment?
Nah, not really.
But--there is more to the "Playing to Your Strengths" homework than a list of accomplishments, and when I took everything I had written in response to each prompt and looked at it all together, I felt like I had a pretty good idea of my strengths after all. I looked at my "accomplishment" list from another angle and wrote out these sentences--
"I am friendly, and I like to help people. I am kind. I like to connect and encourage."
Over the years since college, I've dismissed my school day "accolades" as a result of being a people pleaser and growing up in small-town, sports-crazed Oklahoma (where there is basically a formula for popularity). But I've realized something--I truly believe in and enjoy being kind to everyone, and that probably had something to do with it too.
|Best All-Around and Best Matching Denim|
I'm still trying to figure out exactly how this translates into a clear, well-written, purposeful blog, but I'm also still only at the beginning of the course. :)
But regardless of how all of this affects my blog's much-needed development, it has already affected me in real life--hey, I just figured out some things I am good at by living in the past for a little bit! The last 12 years of "real life" (marriage, motherhood, the workplace, the home, mommy friendships) have seemed mostly to highlight my weaknesses. I needed real life in order to grow, but recently I needed to be reminded of who I was from birth to 22. And something as simple as a page of list exercises helped remind me.
I've been so inspired and encouraged since purchasing this course because I feel more confident and comfortable in my skin. I'm giving fewer disclaimers. I have more answers than questions for the first time in a long time, and that's a good feeling.
"We are all original. There is no one else exactly like you in the whole world. You have something different to offer. But, you won’t get there by looking at others and trying to be just like them. Be yourself. Do your best work. Play to your strengths, not somebody else’s."
Emma Chapman, "Blog Life" e-Course
by A Beautiful Mess
by A Beautiful Mess
Oh, but I do have one favor to ask--I would reeeeeally appreciate your vote for the "Most Likely to Win Miss Congeniality at Basketball Camp" award. Thank you so much. :)
P. S. If you are interested in the Blog Life class, I recommend it, obviously. Check out the course description for more info. I write all of this because I am a walking commercial for things I like, especially when I think they might help someone else, and also because I want to express my appreciation to Elsie and Emma for being such kind, authentic, generous bloggers. ♥ Thank you SO very much!