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.




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.


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  • Dumpster Doggy
    December 6, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    This is exquisite. Can’t wait to see all that you do. Xo

  • Jessi Fearon
    November 21, 2017 at 8:49 am

    Oh my goodness, you literally just stated every reason why I didn’t try too hard to come to FinCon this year. And I LOVE FinCon and I was super bummed to miss out seeing all of the folks that I love so much but I couldn’t make myself go. Honestly, at first I was like “why am I not going – I feel like folks think my husband denied me being able to go, but he didn’t. He was totally willing to find a way to remodel homes and get kids to school and things. So why am I not going?” And this was why – everything you said. Last year, I felt like some of the magic of our beloved FinCon was gone and I couldn’t figure out why. I had so many folks that only came up to me to talk to me so they could get an “in” with another very successful blogger that happens to be one of my BFFs. It was sad and frustrating – and I had someone introduce themselves as a celebrity to me last year too….weird. You’re an amazing talent Lauren and you have such a beautiful soul. And you are a celebrity!

  • Whitney Hansen
    November 16, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    Lauren, this is why I adore you! Thanks for the honesty and authenticity behind this post. I think you are a motha effing rockstar! Keep on keeping on my friend. <3

  • Nick Loper
    November 8, 2017 at 11:33 pm

    Lauren! I’m super sorry — I promise my gut reaction was more one of surprise, not judgement, and I’m totally eating my words right now.

    Backwards, forwards, sideways, you gotta do you what’s best for you and it’s definitely not my place to say.

    I’m still a fan. Hope we can catch up for more than 15 seconds at the next FinCon!

    In the meantime, please accept my apologies and side hustle on 🙂

  • Donna Freedman
    November 8, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    Thank you for this post. I had some of the same feelings, stretching back over several years now; That what began as a conference to help us all get better at giving people the tools they need to change their financial lives has evolved into a conference about “how to make a lot of money off courses and coaching and affiliate relationships.”

    Nothing wrong with making money. But the undercurrent of EARN MORE DO MORE ACHIEVE MORE OR YOU’RE A LOSER makes me wary, and a little sad.

    I, too, have throttled back on writing/achieving/earningearningearning. My current focus is, as you say, on living my life. While I still love what I do (writing, being a writing coach), it is not the ONLY thing I do. Many other things are important to me, and right now I’m more interested in them than in becoming a millionaire. Additionally, as an old print newshound I am not comfortable with some of the get-rich-quick models out there. For example, I don’t run sponsored posts; if other people want to, that’s fine, but it’s not for me.

    I’ve gone every year since FinCon began; in fact, I’ve spoken at every FinCon. And I want the conference to get over these growing pains and remember that we’re supposed to be providing a service to readers. If we don’t do that, readers will go away. Without readers, there are no writers.

  • Stephanie
    November 8, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    Hi Lauren,
    I was at FinCon also. First-timer–and while I loved it for reasons you explain as well, there was such an obvious disconnect between the lowly newcomers and the bigshots. I so wish I could have met you. Your down-to-earth demeanor and words are a breath of fresh air! Keep doing your thing, and thanks for giving your honest opinion about human nature…even at an awesome conference. 😉

  • Shannyn
    November 8, 2017 at 10:53 am

    YES YES YES YES. I feel so lucky we got face time at FINCON and yes, so much of this hun!

    • Miranda Marquit
      November 9, 2017 at 11:09 am

      Ditto. So much ditto. And, I loved our three-lady sushi dinner. I could have totally talked this over with you both. Because we all went corporate recently, “selling out.” Let’s do it again in Orlando!

  • Mark
    November 8, 2017 at 10:02 am

    Real people are my favorite. This was a refreshing read.

  • Amy Beardsley
    November 8, 2017 at 9:33 am

    Thank you. This was me. It was my first conference and while I was all “gung-ho” about being a freelance writer/blogger for my side-hustle (with the intention of building up enough income to replace my 9-5 job) a year ago, the last year has seriously kicked my arse. It’s been one setback after another (mostly medical – for me AND my husband) and I lost steam. This conference was a great opportunity for me to find my mojo again. I mostly avoided networking because I didn’t want people to think I was a fake – like I wasn’t serious. Because I am. It’s just I don’t have any big projects going on right now because I’m trying to find my feet again after getting kicked in the gut, repeatedly, for a year. I hear you. Thank you for sharing your perspective!

  • Holly Johnson
    November 8, 2017 at 8:44 am

    #1: Who is this credit blogger who said for you to take down a book rec? I must know.
    #2: Who is the celebrity blogger from the bar? I must know.
    #3: I totally agree with you on the idea that a lot of people think you’re losing if you’re not doing something huge every year. I got the same questions at FinCon. What big things are you guys working on? We’re like…ummm…..I don’t know…making money and going on vacation? You DO NOT have to have a giant project in the works all the time to be happy or even be winning for heaven’s sake.
    #4: I’m happy you went back to your job and are living your best life doing what you want. The awesome thing about blogging is that it’s flexible like that. And if you change your mind in the future, it will obviously still be here!

    Yay Lauren, I love this post! Glad to call you my friend,

    • Shannyn
      November 8, 2017 at 10:54 am


  • Michelle
    November 5, 2017 at 11:33 pm

    I don’t pay your bills. How you pay your bills and LIVE your financial best life is up to YOU. This is the one thing about the personal finance community that continues to drive me crazy-there is no ONE way. We create the best way for our own life. GRRR!!

  • Jason Vitug
    November 5, 2017 at 9:35 pm

    Thanks Lauren for your post. I’ve felt this way myself. I had someone say some pretty awful things to me. I am also in the belief that I would go “backwards” if that’s the right course for me. I certainly have entertained the idea. I think this whole notion that to be something one must work for themselves and hustle like crazy. I don’t agree with it. In fact, I never had. I chose early this year to focus on what makes me happy and fulfilled. I left my corporate job because I felt unsatisfied. But then found myself finding the same thing with my own business.

    I’m also seeing a push towards profitability at any cost as opposed to positive social impact. I attend the “boring” financial literacy and education conferences because I want to learn better ways to budget, save, invest, etc and better ways to educate people on those topics. I want to use blogging, social media, and other channels to educate. I have felt there need to be more sessions that aim to educate us on finances not just running businesses.

    I had people tell me how easy it is for a blogger to call themselves a financial expert without any real background in finance, a certification, or education. I conceded we’re all not experts and just because we have a following doesn’t mean we should call ourselves that. In some degree, we’re influencers and bloggers (people just sharing their personal opinions on topics).

  • Francesca - From Pennies to Pounds
    November 4, 2017 at 11:53 am

    Really interesting to hear this, although I’m not surprised. There is a lot of pressure to me the most successful blogger! I would love to be earning more from it,but I’m happy as I am.
    People need to realise that everyones dreams and goals are different, and that’s ok 🙂

  • Kate @ Cashville Skyline
    November 4, 2017 at 12:09 am

    I’ve read your post twice now, Lauren. And I shared it on my Facebook page earlier. So many of us in the FinCon community (and elsewhere) feel overwhelmed by the pressure to be “on” 24/7, and hustle every moment we’re awake. For what? Not going to lie, I’ve definitely obsessed over the same traffic, social media metrics, email subscribers, press mentions, as everyone else. Online entrepreneurs have developed this crazy level of competition that simply isn’t attainable. We get to spent time around smart, interesting, and truly inspiring people. But we’re also stuck with some of the lame interactions you experienced. I had very little agenda this year too. Mainly, I just wanted to see my friends. It’s awesome you’re doing so well, and I hope to see you in Nashville soon!

  • Kathleen Celmins
    November 3, 2017 at 10:58 pm

    Ick! What a bunch of jerks. I’m glad I had a bit of time with you. I wish I had more!

  • Sarah Li Cain
    November 3, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    Argh, I meant to say PT not OR

  • Bridget
    November 3, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    Everyone has a job or a paycheque they’d go back to “corporate slavery” for. It’s way better to be open to opportunities — no matter their form — than to be smug and think you’ve “made it” (who peaks in their career in their 20’s or 30’s or even 40’s? I don’t want to!)

    You don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself, and there’s no such thing as backwards.

  • Femme Frugality
    November 2, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    I can’t reply to it on mobile, but Allea’s comment all day. It has turned into this culture of learning how to line your own pockets rather than learning how to better serve your readers. I’m a firm believer that if you do the latter, the former will follow.

    FWIW, Lauren, I hosted a table at a freelancer’s conference where an entire lecture was dedicated to how to use your freelance experience to leverage more pay in your next W-2 job. Who the heck wants to shop the marketplace and pay quarterly taxes??? There are pros and cons to each path, and there are absolutely no rules dictating which is better for any given individual at any given period in their life. Congrats on reentering traditional employment, and thank you for writing a REAL post about our weird subculture!

  • Matt Schulz
    November 2, 2017 at 11:53 am

    This is a great piece ,Lauren. Thank you for sharing this.

    I’m sorry you’ve had that experience, Lauren, but I’m not all that surprised. So many people feel the need to judge and belittle other people’s choices in order to make themselves feel better about their own situation. It’s sad.

  • giulia
    November 2, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Really interesting post, I liked a lot because it is so personal, thanks for sharing!

  • Emily @ Woman Vs Loans
    November 2, 2017 at 10:38 am

    Thanks for sharing this! I didn’t go to FinCon this year, but really connect with the comparison-itis and the need to keep striving. I try to remind myself that I started blogging because a) I wanted to learn and hold myself accountable to becoming debt-free and b) I hoped that people would connect with my experience and be motivated to do the same. My blog is not less because I have no intention of pursuing it full-time.

  • Ms. Liz
    November 2, 2017 at 7:47 am

    Lauren–you do you and let them do them! You can create a ton of value for your community by emphasizing the value of choosing a path that allows each of us to thrive. I wouldn’t be surprised if that job provides inspiration we can all benefit from through your exceptional writing.

    We don’t all have to be super efficient, traffic growing pinterest experts living in RV’s. Our readers benefit from messages telling them to pursue their dreams–whatever form they take.

  • Kara
    November 1, 2017 at 10:38 pm

    You know I agree! FIRE or digital nomad life is not the end goal for everyone, and some people act as though it’s the only sane thing to do. And yeah, let’s start checking egos at the door. We’re all bringing something to the table, and we’re all people who deserve respect. I’m glad we got to meet in person too!

  • Sarah | Smile & Conquer
    November 1, 2017 at 10:03 pm

    Super relatable post Lauren, that k’s for writing it! I wasn’t at FinCon this year, I’m hoping to go next year to experience it at least once but I do have concerns about the things you mentioned.
    There seems to be a hierarchy in the PF community with those (not all, but some) who are on the FIRE track placing themselves above the rest of us who still work full time. Not everyone wants to retire early. I really love my day job and am happier with it than I would be without it.
    Blogging to me is a hobby. Sure, it would be great to make some income from it but I’ll never be able to give it my 100% commitment…and that’s ok.

  • Michelle Schroeder-Gardner
    November 1, 2017 at 9:47 pm

    I can’t believe some people gave you a hard time over it! I think we talked about it for like 30 seconds – everyone has a different path and as long as a person is happy, that’s all that matters.

    “Ryan Gosling of blogging”

    That might be the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time. You’ve got to tell me who said they were a celebrity! I’m curious now 🙂

  • Kali Hawlk
    November 1, 2017 at 9:35 pm

    Thanks for this honest, effin’ REAL post, Lauren. I really really appreciated it because I have thought all this and more years ago — then questioned my own sanity because no one else really talked about it. I thought I was somehow not enough or totally lame.. then realized, nope, 100% them, not me!

    There are a lot of amazing things and people at FinCon. But there are also crummy people everywhere. You gotta stay grounded in who you are, what you stand for, and YOUR version of a good or successful life. You’re amazing for doing just that despite these experiences!

    I’m glad I got to see you this year and hope we can chat again soon. In the meantime I hope you keep rocking your thing and I’ll keep crushing mine 😉

  • Allea Grummert
    November 1, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    Oh I love this so much! I appreciate that you put it in the lens of “conference life” — I think I needed to see that it’s a fishbowl of different situations, viewpoints on achievement and whatnot. I fall to comparison way more than I want to admit. It can really feel like a rat race!

    I can’t tell if I walked away from the conference eager to do good work or just cower in defeat. Probably 50%/50%, actually.

    Congrats on the new job! Seriously, thank you for being real and telling your story. People like me (with full-time jobs and barely able to “keep up”) really need to hear this.

  • Keith "Shin" Schindler
    November 1, 2017 at 9:19 pm

    Lauren, Good for you in doing what you think is best for you. Going back to work full time is not a “Sin” and it’s not going backwards, as it’s moving you forward in life. So many people toss out opinions about what they think other folks should do. Thing is, other folks are not them, so where do they have the right to be “Experts” in your life.

    They don’t.

    I attended FinCon for the firs time this year and I have to say that I’m still overwhelmed, but found the event mostly positive. Of course, I’m a “Nobody” in the Financial Blogosphere, so I flew under the radar quite a bit.

    I’m 57 and there’s been a number of times where I went “Backward” to move forward. Kind of like driving a Model T up a hill in reverse, just so it didn’t starve for gas.

    Nope, I’m not old enough to have done that, but I’ve read that it was common practice.

    Thing is, keeping moving forward, no matter what directions you have to take to get there.

    Most of all, Live Your Life For You. You’re the only person that you’re guaranteed to spend your entire life with. Others will come and go, but you’re stuck with you until the end.

    Make You happy. Y’all have fun together.

    All the best from Texas!

  • Gwen @ Fiery Millennials
    November 1, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    The thing about FinCon I have an issue with is the separating of people into tiers. People bragging about how many lunches and dinners they were asked to, the special parties…. the list goes on. It makes people feel like crap when there are events going on they’re not invited to. We’re a pretty inclusive bunch, so that kind of separation only hurts us. Thanks for the honest recap!

  • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life
    November 1, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    Going backwards? That seems like a pretty arrogant declaration of something in your life that affects that person not at all.

    As a self-aware small fish in this pond, and on my second FinCon, I’m realizing that there’s huge value in knowing why you’re going to one of these conferences, or being open to learning that as you go. I know I’m not there as any attempt at celebrity-hood (weird) and I’m not a social butterfly, and for my health it’s imperative that I pace myself so I don’t fit in with the partiers, either. Nevertheless, I came away this year content with the experience and happy that I went.

  • Kristin Wong
    November 1, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    HAAA! Ok so I’m not the only one. I’ll be honest, all of this is pretty much exactly how I felt the first time I went and to some extent the second (tried to stay away from all of that this time around). I felt like an outsider, and as an outsider, it was…bizarre. (Lol “I’m a celebrity.”) That said, there are so many supportive and inspiring people there, too–like you! I feel like this time around I really got to spend time with people who make more sense to me, so it was a great experience. The gig economy is great and I think it’s wonderful that people are able to become so successful on their own. I love it, and I am all for it. That said, there are drawbacks to it, too. And I do notice a “digital nomad or bust” attitude going on, not just at this conference but in work culture in general.
    Anyway, I wish we got a chance to talk more about this! Hit me up if you’re ever in LA?

  • DC @ Young Adult Money
    November 1, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    I haven’t been to FinCon, and I’m not going to lie this post confirms some of the reasons why I’ve been hesitant to go. I also work full-time and I think it’s opened up a ton of opportunities that I would not have if I was a full-time freelancer. Having a full-time job has forced me to pick and choose what is worth working on in my spare time. I make good use of my time and constantly have to justify side hustles I work on. If I leave to run a business full-time, it will be on my terms. There is nothing to be ashamed of working full-time. Most personal finance bloggers really need to step it down a notch. Almost no one would recognize them in public outside of the pf blogosphere.

    Absolutely loved this post. So good!

  • Colin @ rebelwithaplan
    November 1, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    “Emotional bankruptcy” perfectly describes it. Taylor Milam (previously Freedom from Money) wrote on her blog about an interaction she had last year at FinCon. She said when she mentioned she worked in “digital marketing” there were glowing replies about how there was lots of money to be made in that. When she told people she was studying to become a high school teacher, there was the reply of “well…there’s no money in that”.

    While the majority of people are positive, there is the occasional comment and judgment and it should be addressed rather than just put away. There shouldn’t be shame in having a full-time job. There are different varietys and seasons of life and they each have their pros and cons. One shouldn’t be praised while the other is put down. Thank you for writing this!

  • Bailey @ Becoming Bailey
    November 1, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    Oh Lauren I so needed to read this post! I felt the same way as you after my trip at the same conference you were at. I actually didn’t enjoy the conference and won’t be returning next year. I work a full time 9-5 job and my blog/freelance writing is my side hustle, and I wouldn’t have it any other way! I honestly don’t have a desire to work for myself.

    • Allea Grummert
      November 1, 2017 at 9:38 pm

      Sooooo I already bought my ticket for next year (mostly to keep me accountable to keep going and not totally give up — not sure if that’s a good reason, but alas). And now I wonder if I’ll actually go. I certainly think there are some bigger discussions that need to happen too. Like, is FinCon for us to learn how to provide help to a world suffering from debt and real-life constraints — or for us to learn how to make more money and be self-employed? Because those are two different things.

      Would love to discuss this more! I think it’d make a great panel for next year’s conference. And so if I go, I hope to start these discussions myself.

      • Sarah Li Cain
        November 3, 2017 at 8:52 pm

        I think those people misinterpret what it means to be “successful”. And allea, I feel as though there are those who feel like FinCon is basically an online marketing free for all. On the other, I see OR trying with change that with the money discussions this year. Seeing so many people and how clique-y it is (and the popularity contest) forced me to be more intentional in who I interact with and my goals. I had a great time because I avoided a few parties and was quick to walk away from conversations that I know would bring me down.

      • Jason Vitug
        November 5, 2017 at 9:27 pm

        I hear you. I attend FinCon and attended financial literacy/education conferences too. There seems to be a big focus on making money and entrepreneurship as opposed to personal finance and financial education. I do love and support the conference and the people that go but I realized I can live in the middle between the make money online and the world of financial education.