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Of Conferences, Egos, and Instagram

I recently returned from the industry conference for personal finance bloggers thoroughly exhausted, yet happy and full. I got to spend quality time with many people I haven't seen in years, and it’s always good to get in the room with people who truly understand the “ins and outs” of running a blog. I know for me, that for this one weekend each year I get to feel very creatively understood as a blogger and business owner and so it’s nice to “talk shop” in person instead of online.

While I was decompressing on the plane, however, I realized I spent a significant portion of my time over the weekend defending my recent decision to go back to work at a full time job.

I was fine at first, expecting some questions about it since a lot has changed for me in the two years since I last attended this particular conference (rebrand, my own inner emotional and spiritual journey, etc.) but by the end of the weekend I tired of trotting out my list of bullet points as to why I stopped working for myself to go back to being a “corporate slave” (yes this term was used.)  

Which got me thinking about how these personal development experiences (or really, any kind of experience where people question deeply personal life choices) can leave us feeling very, very raw. The thoughts for the instances below came up for me in the context of an industry conference, but truthfully, you can run into someone’s ego at a friend’s backyard bbq or while picking up your kid from daycare.

 

Instances of Encountering Someone Else’s Ego….

 

The Judgey, McJudgerson.

 

At the opening night party of the recent conference I attended, I was chatting with a well known side hustle blogger I’m friendly with. (After all, I’d been on his podcast before, extolling the virtues of having multiple streams of income.)

I was filling him in about how I recently went back to work, how my blog is now my side hustle again, how great I feel…..blah, blah, blah and his response was…

“Oh, so you went backwards.”

Yes, I was offended, but I’ll give the interaction the benefit of the doubt. And honestly, he was only one of four people who said this exact same thing to me this weekend.

And If I’m being real (which you know is one of my favorite things…), I'm not entirely surprised. The ego force seems to be especially strong at conferences.

 

  • I’ve had one older, female, credit blogger email me to take down a (very positive) recommendation of her book because she thought I was “elevating my brand to her status.” And no, it wasn’t Suze Orman. I mention this to further illustrate my point.
  • I literally had a male blogger non-ironically refer to himself as a celebrity at the bar one night. (My response: “Oh my God, the blogging equivalent of Ryan Gosling is here? I HAD NO IDEA.” This blogger avoids me on twitter now.)
  • And then there are the bloggers (or people at a party, whatever) who think they are so cool they can’t talk to you or remember your name when you try to talk to them. And I find this behavior incredibly sad because it’s never the actual folks with real success that behave in this manner.

 

When the person mentioned in the story above made the comment about “backwards”, my first thought was, “Well, who the f*ck are you?” and my second one was, “Who establishes what forward or backward is?”

This encounter is textbook ego, because it asserts they are the authority on what defines “forward” and “success” in a life they’re not even a supporting player in. It's judgement at it's simplest. 

 

Instances when Your Own Ego is Taking Control

 

Worrying What Other People will Think

 

Admittedly, I did worry (a lot) about what people would think when I was deciding whether or not to go back to work. What other people thought was literally one of the only things holding me back from accepting my current job. Like, the only thing. Once I decided to take the job, I then became very caught up in the timing of if/how/when I’d “announce to my readers” I’d given up full-time blogging.

Then I got over myself and realized a) they’re not readers, they’re my friends and b) No one actually gives a flying rip when/where I work. Sure, they may have initial opinions on it, but I don’t think they truly care. 

I am not the Ryan Gosling of blogging, and I am okay with this.

 

Comparison-itis

 

I remember after a conference in 2015 coming home feeling especially low. My good buddy Erin (before she got hella famous) and I were chatting about how someone can blog and reach a certain level, feel successful and really good about what they’re creating, and then come to an industry conference and realize you’re not a special snowflake, you’re actually one of many. And it’s not just bloggers, I’m sure at some point everyone has looked at someone else and felt like what they have isn’t enough.

We all covet our friends travels, jobs, skincare regimen, and instagrammable life. It’s why social media has led to the age of unhappiness (especially among millennials.)

But isn’t that your own ego talking? Who are you to say what other people do and do not deserve or that they deserve it more or less than you? Who are you to say that your own efforts aren’t worthy enough?

Not to mention this feeling, the “Oh god there’s so many of us,” not only creates anxieties within ourselves, but tensions in the relationships and communities we want to be a part of.

 

The Strive, Strive, Strive Mentality

 

“What have you been up to this year?” People asked me over the weekend, “What are your goals the conference?”

“Well, I’ve been….ya know…. living my life, and my goals for the conference are just to have fun.” I’d say, and sometimes I’d get smiles of acknowledgement and recognition and other times people would look at me like I’m nuts.

In my own situation, I’m in an industry where (most) folks preach on the principle to live and be happy with what you already have materially and financially. I find it funny that in light of this our major industry conference reflects the notion we should constantly be striving for something bigger and better than what we already have when it comes to our careers, online presence and businesses. It’s definitely evolved into a “digital nomad or bust” way of life and mentality, and I’m not sure that’s ideal or even attainable for everyone.

I mean, have your goals and dreams. Work for them.

But beware what I call “the hamster wheel of striving”: where you continue to work and achieve without stopping to assess, savor, and take pride in your accomplishments. I did this for years, so trust me when I say that chasing down a moving target will literally drive you crazy, and when confronted with it, whether in a conference type setting, or touring your neighbor’s new house, or wondering how your broke cousin can afford to go to Morocco….you’ll feel frustrated that your efforts aren’t “enough.”

Cait Flanders (who I consider the queen on intentional living) and I were chatting over coffee discussing this same thing and I called it “emotional bankruptcy,” because it’s the idea around that we’re robbing any type of present happiness we may feel because we’re too busy chasing down the next “in level.”

Answer honestly: how many times in your life has this happened to you?

 

In Conclusion

 

Conferences and social media channels are fun, but don’t let them make you feel as if what you’re doing isn’t “enough.” I’m here to give you a reality check and say that you are plenty, exactly as you are right now.

Despite a few awkward/negative interactions at the conference last weekend, I had a ton of fun and came away with some great memories with dear friends and confirmation that when it comes to me and my life, I absolutely made the right decision to go back to work and do what is best for me.

I feel PROUD these memories are what I left with, because it’s more than enough.

Backwards indeed.