Three months ago, I was having a conversation with my friends about how frustrated I was with the state of social media. Everything looked the same. Every post was hand-selected, curated, and styled. Every avenue for connection was restricted by rules, best practices, and aesthetics. A world I used to love had grown empty and overwhelming.
The worst part is that I was contributing to the problem. Looking at my own channels, my frustration only grew. I was no different than the trends I had grown tired of watching. I knew that I needed to do something different, however I had grown paralyzed by fear. I was playing it safe.
Somewhere along the way, I had grown exhausted of navigating social media.
Going with the current had become my shield from criticism. I knew that the only way to prevent myself from getting hurt was to avoid doing anything brave enough to rock the boat. I had grown afraid of truly sharing my heart because I knew that someone was on the other side of the screen was waiting with a nasty message or hateful comment. I had felt the sting of seeing my messages twisted, my motives questioned, my heartfelt thoughts attacked by people who used their words like weapons. I’ve always been a highly empathetic and emotional person… and when you feel everything so deeply, social media can be a dangerous place.
The truth is that leading a massive community has put me more in the spotlight than I would like to be.
Over the past year, I’ve learned that the internet, in so many ways, is a digital version of the wild, wild west. People come, guns drawn, ready to shoot down anyone who they disagree with. Once you get hurt, it can be harder to get back up. It becomes easier and easier to play it safe and post the same content every morning, rather than trying something new.
The only surefire way to avoid criticism is to avoid doing anything worth remarking on.
Have you ever felt that way? Afraid of trying something new, sharing more of your heart, because you worry about the negative voices on the other side of the screen? Isn’t it exhausting? I can answer that for both of us: Yes, it really is.
When we spend all of our energy trying to protect ourselves, we close ourselves off to the potential of making a significant impact. You can’t play it safe and expect to change lives at the same time. In order to lead others well, you must be willing to put your heart on the line.
The minute you decide to lead people, you must surrender your fears and reframe your focus. Life is no longer about your wellbeing alone, but rather it is about the lives who have been entrusted to you and the eyes that look to you for direction.
This means that on social media, if you want to lead well, you cannot play it safe. You must commit to running wholeheartedly forward, even in the face of what scares you. You have to confront hostility with love. You need to be brave so that others feel permission to do the same.
After this conversation three months ago, I started thinking about how I could break free from my own fears of being vulnerable again. Fast forward to a phone call from a friend of mine from Annapolis who was looking for a summer internship and the idea of starting a YouTube channel came up. He needed credits for school and wanted to use his knowledge as a daily vlogger to help me tell my story.
At first the thought of launching a video blog made me nervous. (Honestly, I’m not sure saying that I was nervous even expresses how terrified I was to hit publish on our first episode.) Sharing that much of my life on the internet is terrifying, however I knew that my audience needed more from me than styled flat lays of coffee cups. I had a choice to make: keep playing it safe or try something new and risk falling flat on my face.
When I brought up the idea to a friend of mine she convinced me in a single sentence. “Nat, I think it would be so beneficial for people to get to know you the way that I do.” Just me being my goofy and genuine self. No more hiding behind curated snapshots and filters.
It was time to do something different. It was time to take another big risk and be vulnerable again.
However, the comments and emails I’m receiving from all of you already prove that this was the right decision. You are craving this level of transparency in a world that feels all too perfect—yes, even with it’s quirky moments and my general nerdy-ness.
If you’re thinking of trying something new (launching a podcast, starting an online store, teaching a webinar, or even starting a vlog), the world needs to you step forward bravely. There are too many brilliant ideas being squandered, too many incredible success stories that will fail to be told because no one took the first step.
If you have been waiting for permission—This is it. Stop living life halfway. Stop sitting on the sidelines. Step in to the arena and know that you aren’t in this alone. Incredible things await you on the other side of fear. You’ll just have to trust me.