The fear around creating and putting work out into the world is so big it’s created a pretty massive market (just ask Liz). Making and sharing content is easier than ever, and it’s more foreboding then ever too. Online, opportunities for criticism are everywhere and anywhere and it can be enough to stop even the most passionate of content creators with something to say.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie shared some wise advice when she said, “If you start thinking about being likable you are not going to tell your story honestly, because you are going to be so concerned with not offending, and that’s going to ruin your story, so forget about likability.” I’d argue that if you start thinking about being likable you might not even tell your story at all. It’s far better to tell your story honestly and risk being disliked than not tell it at all. Unused creativity is not benign, right?
The bloggers I love and follow most closely set a stellar example in boldly sharing their personal stories. Without their passionate honesty a lot of people, including me, wouldn’t get to be as informed about certain things, as interested in certain things, and as inspired to share our own work.
Bloggers who don’t let likeability stop them from telling their stories remind me that it’s important not to downplay or compromise the stand we take for something. That believing in ourselves as worthy representatives of our causes is key, because believing in ourselves will help our stories stand up for themselves. That takes a lot of courage and self-awareness to do – and to continue doing over and over again. It’s part of the job to know that “one of the side effects of making something important (rather than likeable) is that some people aren’t going to get the joke,” and just do it anyway. That’s the emotional labour part of the gig.
… Or, it could be fuel. Those who share their values and a bit of their heart in their work open up and invite people to have an opinion for the sake of starting a dialogue. They turn their own experiences and perspectives into conversation-starters – and those that result are a positive outcome in and of itself. To me, this is what using the internet for good, using it really creatively, looks like. I admire that work and those who do it. I don’t just like it.
Mey at Astrostraddle said it well when she explained her philosophy behind bringing her whole, honest self into her work: “I sometimes pass (as a woman), but I’m also like 6 feet tall, and these big broad shoulders… in public I’m extremely othered and people will avoid me, give me nasty looks… treat me as if I’m weird. On one hand, I wanted to embrace that and empower that and say “my weirdness” is something I own, its something that can give me power, it’s something I can use to make my life better.”
By allowing others to share in our perspective, by being generous with our story – even the parts of it we might be judged for – by owning it and owning it honestly, we can make our lives better. It’s important. It’s about reclaiming our stories, having hope, starting something. We are all better for that.