If you say that you like my dress then I’ll make a joke about it being vintage because I haven’t been able to afford clothes since 2011 – HAHAHA. If you ask if I’ve lost weight then I’ll mock my inability to digest wheat. And if you acknowledge that I’ve dyed my hair, I’ll say “Well, you know, we’re married now, gotta keep things fresh!” even though I’m not really sure what that means.
And it would appear that I’m not the only one.
Yesterday I went, for the second year in a row, to Mumsnet’s annual Blogfest. You might remember me writing about it last year – it’s a day when (mostly) women come together to learn new things about writing and blogging, chat to each other, and hear from a line-up of speakers so brilliant that it’s worth getting out of bed on a Saturday morning at an hour normally only reserved for knocking back a couple of much needed post-Friday night ibuprofen. Nick Hornby, Tim Dowling, Suzanne Moore and Lucy Porter – to name just a few – were definitely worth the early alarm clock call.
Networking scares the hell out of me. Walking into rooms full of people I don’t know (except in some cases from their twitter avatar, but starting a conversation by telling people you’ve been ‘following’ them feels very creepy) and having to make conversation fills me with dread. And worse, I’d paid money to do it. On a Saturday! But you have to remember two things: 1. Most people don’t know anybody either and 2. It is completely worth it to speak to interesting people. (And secret option number 3. If it doesn’t work out, you can always just hide in the toilet. Though that seems a bit of a waste of £95.)
And I met some wonderful people. Endless interesting women who are all giving the whole blogging thing a bloody good go, often whilst also raising a child or two, holding down a job and managing to stay up to date with major TV box sets. It made my moans about not having enough time to get things done seem pretty pathetic. And I’m still seriously behind with Breaking Bad.
But it saddened me to see how much self-esteem was an issue for all of us. The fact that the round-table discussion on ‘Blogging and self-esteem’ was so oversubscribed spoke volumes. Dozens of us sat together and talked of fear of judgement when writing about personal things, nasty tales of trolling, and just wondering who the bloody hell we all thought we were for daring to put ourselves out there.
But the good news is that we all still do it. People spoke of comments they’d had from readers saying they’d found their writing really helpful, of using blogging to work through problems in their own lives, and also of all-important bloody mindedness and refusal to stop doing something we enjoy. I can’t be sure, but I think Beyoncé would have been really proud of us.
And even if you reach big time stardom it seems that the fear never goes away. ‘How to find your funny’ – a session on how to make people laugh through your writing – was chaired by Bryony Gordon and brought together Rebecca Front, Arabella Weir and Jon Ronson. All people I like and admire an embarrassing amount. It also introduced me to Kirsty Smith of Eeh Bah Mum and Elaine Miller of Gussie Grips – another two funny women to add to my list.
And though my heart was beating through my chest (I’m surprised they couldn’t hear it down the microphone) I asked a question about something that has been bothering me ever since I started this blog: Does the feeling that hits every time you write something and wait to see if anybody likes it or finds it funny – you know, when you just feel like a bit of a DICK – ever go away? And you know what? They said no. Absolutely not. You need that, they said – as soon as you think you’re great, you’re screwed.
And it really made me feel better. Every Sunday when I write something and hit publish I go into a spiral of self-doubt, regret, and bemusement as to why I put myself through this each week… So it’s good to know that even the greats have that feeling too. We have something in common. We’ll be best buds before the week is out, I’m sure of it.
And then Francesca Martinez, the marvellous comedian, actress and writer, spoke about self-confidence and self-image so well that I was at serious risk of smearing teary mascara all over my cheeks. She talked about realising that ‘normal’ doesn’t exist, that beauty and success are all social constructs created to disempower us, and reminded us that we have the power to control the way that we think about ourselves. If only I’d been to hear her speak when I was a teenager, I could have saved myself years of angst. That woman is an absolute inspiration. If you ever get the chance to go and see her, I recommend you take it.
Just like last year, this day has done me the world of good. It taught me things, it introduced me to lovely new chums and, more importantly, it made me feel a lot less alone in this little online world. It also showed me that self-esteem is something everybody battles with, whether writing about marriage and relationships and attempting to make jokes about eating too many crisps (that’s me for anyone that’s new here), or blogging about family or children or, in some cases, even post-labour incontinence. (Definitely not me. Yet.)
So now I shall hit publish and wait for the inevitable feeling of ‘dickhead’ to kick in. But it’s OK; I now know I’m in very good company.