Pssst…. Why haven’t you responded to that interesting job board ad yet?
Still sorting your underwear instead of making money?
Why aren’t you pitching all those great ideas of yours? You’ve got heaps of them!
Yeah, I thought so. You’ve got doubts, despair, cold feet…
Aren’t you tired of watching other freelance bloggers cash in on plum assignments as you struggle to shore up your spine just to send an email?
It’s okay. You don’t have to fess up. I know exactly where you’re coming from because I’ve been there.
This dark and frustrating place is called social anxiety, and it’s one rough neighborhood for freelance bloggers. In fact, it almost did me in.
The good news is that once you recognize where you are, you can pack your bags and move on out.
Are you ready? Let’s talk…
Face Your Enemy
We freelance bloggers are particularly prone to social anxiety, but often mistake it for mere shyness.
But with social anxiety disorder, you’re looking at debilitating beliefs and thought patterns that block your productivity, your financial health, and your happiness.
So learn to recognize when the enemy is thumbing her nose at you:
- You avoid responding to job ads because you’re certain you’re not ready or as good as other bloggers out there.
- You’re angry all the time because you’re falling short of your writing goals, you’re not getting work in the door, and you’re sick to death of those ramen noodles with the mystery broth.
- You’re afraid to set up interviews, send emails, submit guest post pitches, and do pretty much anything that might attract attention to you.
- You feel unworthy and fear being criticized publicly by all the trolls out there.
- You have a lot of great excuses to justify why your spice rack deserves more of your attention than your writing.
Unless you’re an outright sociopath, you’re going to have these unproductive feelings at one point or another. It’s human and it’s normal. But if you’re at the stage where your anxiety is crippling you both physically and emotionally, you’re skating on the precipice of disorder.
Wait! Don’t let the word “disorder” scare you.
You can break free and get your freelance blogging career on track, just by changing the way you think about a situation.
Reframe your thinking
Yes, you read that correctly. You have to start by changing your thinking.
First, let’s look at your brain on fear as you ponder pitching a blog post idea:
I don’t think I’m ready to contact this editor. What if she thinks this idea is stupid? The last time I sent something out, I never heard back. What if I do get the assignment and fall on my face? Oh no! What if this gets published and people start posting nasty comments? What if I don’t look good compared to other bloggers?
—Your brain :-/
As with all social anxiety, your fear erupts to “protect” you from rejection and shame. But it’s also keeping you from pursuing experiences and opportunities you want and need to grow and experience life to its fullest. This fear is also keeping more lint, and less money, in your pockets.
Larry Cohen, LICSW, has found that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective for disrupting the negative thought patterns that are the result of social anxiety.
He explains, “It takes a little bit of courage to face our fears, but a lot of work and perseverance.” But the payoff is well worth the effort.
At its core, CBT is about retraining the mind to react differently to social anxiety triggers. Triggers, in the world of blogging, include emailing prospects and clients, networking on online forums, marketing, starting projects, finishing projects, submitting projects…
With CBT, you learn to recognize what’s going on in your head. This helps you step outside your automatic thoughts so that you can test them against real-life experiences.
In my case, just learning about social anxiety and its signs was enough to help me break free and do the things that typically cause me angst and sweaty palms.
Am I free of the reservations and physical symptoms? No, not completely. But by recognizing the symptoms for what they are, I can move ahead in spite of them. And, I get the satisfaction and positive feedback that comes with accomplishment, so the next time, my resistance and avoidance are less crippling.
Seek shelter… but don’t take cover
Freelance bloggers are a bashful bunch. It’s so easy to hide online, avoiding pesky things like phone calls and face-to-face interactions.
But if you’re prone to social anxiety, this hiding leads to dark, destructive thoughts known as “rumination.”
Don’t go there!
Do go and hang out with people both online and off.
If you’re rolling your eyes at this point, wondering what this has to do with your writing, I say, everything!
Real-world interactions put your fabricated fears in perspective. I did this by joining the public speaking club, Toastmasters International.
You see, I had reached a point in my life where I’d had enough of being in the background. And of being quiet when I should have been speaking up and going after the things that mattered.
Once I got out there, I discovered legions of folks who struggle with fear as much, if not more, than I do. Breakthrough!
In the process, I also found a community where I’m welcomed and supported every step of the way. It’s been a great way to gain confidence in myself and in my skills and ideas.
What are you waiting for?
Try attending a workshop or class, go into theater, public speaking, basket weaving, Tai Chi, or whatever it takes to help you develop your skills, get fresh perspectives, and some reassurance that you have a place in the world.
You may even find that in addition to rewiring your own thinking, you can make a positive difference for others. After all, isn’t that why you chose blogging versus drug trafficking? Just saying…
Wield your writer’s wiles
Do you often sit down to write, only to find Madame Phobia staring at you through your monitor?
If so, just remind her that you’re a writer and that you know how to sniff out stories that people want to read. You know how to structure a compelling tale that has a beginning, middle, and an end. This means that you have to tools to grab and hold an audience’s attention.
And I’m not just talking about blog posts, I’m talking about all kinds of presentations. This is where public speaking exercises or workshops can help boost your confidence.
The first time I was to stand in front of strangers and deliver my first Toastmasters speech, I was exhausted from all the preparation and anticipation.
My shirt was drenched. My heart was racing. My mind was busy crafting scenarios of failure and shame. I was doomed! How could I go through with this speech? What the hell was I thinking signing up for this nonsense?
Throughout that day, I kept looking for excuses to back out. But I had already put so much time into my speech. Ironically, the fear of looking like a coward exceeded my fear of speaking.
Then the moment came and I stood up and let my preparation take over. The shakes were quickly replaced by satisfaction and delight as I saw my audience leaning forward in their seats, nodding, and laughing at all the right points.
This was my second breakthrough… getting a live audience’s immediate reaction to my ideas and writing.
Is it because I had suddenly transformed into the epic Tony Robbins? [Don’t be silly. Tony is much taller than I am.] No, it’s because I’m writer and I know how to craft a compelling narrative.
Take small steps to big victories
Now, you may not be ready for public speaking or cold calling clients right out of the gate. And that’s okay.
Cohen advises, “Take a series of small steps at a time. And do this consistently, not occasionally.” In fact, he warns that trying to get to the end in one big leap can lead to failure and disappointment.
Here’s some strategies to help you bust past your anxiety and find fulfillment in your blogging career:
Figure out your triggers
These are the things that lead you to devise all sorts of excuses and procrastinations. You need to know your triggers intimately so that you can slap them in the face when they surface.
Choose to focus on a situation with curiosity rather than with judgment. Instead of, “This is going to suck,” think, “Hmmm, I wonder which prospects are best suited for my pitch. It should be fun to find out!”
Look into CBT
If you’re not ready for individual counseling, there are oodles of great books out there. Cohen also recommends group workshops where you can act out scenarios and get feedback from your peers in a positive environment.
Try things that interest you. Take a chance on something new. Send out a pitch you’ve been sitting on and see what happens. I promise you won’t get sucked into a temporal vortex.
Desensitize your anxiety responses through repetition
For example, don’t just respond to one job listing a week (or month). Set a timer each day and respond to at least two a day, every… single… damn… day. This is where taking small steps consistently pays off. After a while, this activity will be so “whatever” that you won’t even cringe anymore.
Get off your butt and on the road
Numerous studies have shown that running or walking briskly help focus your mind and calm your jitters. It’s also a good way to organize your thoughts and come up with ideas. I’ve found movement to be far more effective than meditation (which can actually aggravate us nervous Nellies).
Write down your worries
If you’re afraid of emailing a prospect, write it down. If you fear that your latest topic is too stupid to share publicly, write it down and explain why you feel this way. Do this consistently every time you get negative thoughts or find yourself procrastinating on a project. Capturing your fears on a page helps you eject the nasty critters from your mind… which has far better things to focus on.
Remember, you’re not alone and you’re not “broken.” Just take things one consistent step at a time, and you’ll soon be on your way to realizing the life and work you want.
Where are you getting hung up? I’d love to hear from you!