But here's what I didn't really talk about last week. And this is why I wanted to hop on today and explore this. Because I didn't directly address just how hard it can be to do just that, to share yourself, and specifically to share your voice with the world. Sharing yourself and stepping into your voice falls under the category of simple but not easy, to me. On the surface to talk about who you are, what you believe, what you do, what you think, how you feel. That seems pretty simple, right? But that doesn't make it easy. And in fact, in many ways, it's one of the hardest things we will do as coaches and business owners. And it doesn't necessarily get easier the longer we spend in this profession, the bigger our business grows. Because the fact is, and this is a bit of an uncomfortable truth, but I'm going to say it anyway. As our visibility increases, our vulnerability increases. So as we become more connected to our voice, and what we stand for, and what we want to share with our people. As we tap into and express our voice, we become more visible and therefore more vulnerable. And as we know, our minds are in no way comfortable with vulnerability. It feels like a threat and our minds are hardwired to protect us against threats. So putting ourselves out there, taking a stand, sharing something that matters can open us up to criticism, harsh feedback, even being excluded, all things that feel extraordinarily scary to the mind. Because if we're excluded, if we're shunned, if people think ill of us, then the mind views that as compromising our social safety, and so it's going to do everything it can to protect us. The way your mind protects you may look similar or different from the way my mind protects me. But I can tell you some of the tricks that my mind uses is self criticism, doubt, impostor syndrome, fear of being found out as a fraud, you name it. All of the unwanted thoughts that flood my mind whenever I'm about to put myself out there. They don't feel good, even though I know this is simply my mind's way of trying to protect me. And I still retain choice, I still get to decide, “Am I willing to make myself vulnerable in the service of whatever it is I'm doing in this case connecting with my audience? More often than not, the answer to that is a resounding yes, I am willing to feel the fear and experience the discomfort and do it anyway. But knowing that and making that decision doesn't necessarily reduce the discomfort that comes with being vulnerable. Because I know this is something that not only I deal with, but pretty much every coach and entrepreneur I've ever met deals with. I wanted to create space during this week's episode to really dive in to share some stories, some personal examples of how I've navigated this, in the hopes that maybe it will empower and encourage you to do the work of not just finding your voice, but sharing it with the people who most need to hear from you.
When I think about the clients that I've worked with privately, and also many of the members of the Coach with Clarity Collective community, what's so interesting to me is that these initial fears of being an imposter, being found out, the self doubt, the criticism, all of those mind tricks. It's funny to me that they often emerge as people start writing. That's not to say it doesn't happen when you're creating a podcast, or a video or a course, it absolutely does. But there's something about the act of writing and maybe facing down that blank page that really taps into our vulnerability and brings the fear out. I have coached so many of my clients around sharing their story in written form, whether it's their first blog post or their 50th, or their 500th, whether it's their first book or their sixth, it's interesting to me that the act of writing tends to tap into this fear of being vulnerable. And it certainly does for me as well. I'll talk a little bit about that in a minute. But the thoughts that come up from my clients, when they're writing, often start with, “What will people think of me if I share this? Are people even listening or am I just screaming out into the void? Does what I think or feel really matter? Do I matter?” So much of this comes down to “Am I valuable? Does my perspective count? And what happens if I share my perspective, and people invalidate me?” And I want to start by saying that these are all perfectly understandable and legitimate fears. Because especially in today's day and age, we do have to be concerned with exposure, and how people might treat us when we share a part of ourselves. Sadly, on the internet, we don't have to look very far to find trolls or really hateful behavior and comment threads in groups. And so these fears that the mind generates, they are based in reality. So you are not wrong, I am not wrong for experiencing them. They are legitimate concerns. We have to decide blog post by blog post, podcast episode by podcast episode, whether it's worth experiencing this discomfort in order to share our message.
So when I'm coaching my clients around this, the first thing we have to do is acknowledge the discomfort and normalize it. Really understand why this feels so uncomfortable, why we are having these thoughts, and to just normalize them. To ground down in the fact that this is not our mind trying to hurt us or work against us. This is our mind responding to what is a perceived threat, because it could potentially happen. So that's the baseline. Yes, you're scared. Yes, this feels uncomfortable. And yes, this is understandable. That's part one, we have to start there by really acknowledging and accepting what it is we're dealing with in the present. At that point, that's when we need to check in with our overarching vision of what we want to create in our businesses and in our lives. We need to check in with what matters most to us, our core values, and we need to ask ourselves a set of important questions. Number one, “Is what I'm about to share in alignment with my values? Does this represent what I believe in what I stand for?” First and foremost, we want to make sure we're coming from an aligned place. Number two, we do need to ask the question, “How likely is it that I might experience some of those negative consequences that my mind is afraid of? Are people going to troll me? Could this ruin me?” All of those worst case scenarios, let's really look objectively at how likely it is that that's going to happen. And we can also look at some of the less than worst case scenarios, “What happens if I'm ignored? What happens if no one comments?” We can kind of play that out and then we ask ourselves the final question, “Is it worth it? Or what am I willing to experience? Am I willing to experience the results of those scenarios that I've just run through in order to share my voice, and share my story, and live out my values? Now, let's be perfectly clear, sometimes the answer more often than not, the answer will be “Yes, it is 100% worth it.” But sometimes the answer might be “No, this is just too personal. It's too raw, it's too close. And I'm not at a point where I feel like I can withstand any blowback or criticism I might face by sharing this.” And if that's the case, I want you to feel like you have permission to not press publish, to not share it, maybe it's a story that you will share down the road. But maybe now is not the right time. And that is a perfectly acceptable choice. It is not a failure, it doesn't mean you're being led by fear, it simply means that the timing is off. So you have permission to not share that blog post, not publish that podcast episode, you have permission to take care of your own needs first. And if that's not the case, if you get the sense that “Yeah, it's scary. But this matters to me, and I want to do this, and I want to do this now.” Then it's time to take action. And it's time to share your voice with the world. And the truth is, sometimes there will be tons of positive feedback and wonderful comments and accolades, and people who just love what you have to share. And sometimes there will be blowback and negative comments, and people who disagree with you, who slam you who get personal and ugly. And then sometimes there's crickets, and you won't hear anything. And you'll think to yourself, “I just published this piece of my soul that feels so important. And I have no idea if anyone's reading or watching or listening. And I have no idea what they think.” And that can be difficult to manage as well. What I will remind you is that people tend to be more likely to share negative criticism than positive criticism. And so silence does not mean it hasn't landed or resonated with your audience, it probably just means that it did. And they don't feel the need to reply and let you know that they are connected with you. That connection has already happened for them internally so they might not need to make that external by acknowledging it with you. So if you get crickets, it doesn't mean it was a flop, it simply means that for whatever reason, we are hardwired to respond more actively when something angers us or when we disagree with something, versus when we connect to something. So just remember that the next time you publish a blog post or a podcast episode, and you don't get any feedback, it's not necessarily a bad thing. It's just kind of how we work.
Let's talk a little bit about what happens if or when you receive negative feedback, when there is blowback to something that you've published. This has happened to me a few times in my coaching career. And let me just preface this by saying it's not fun. I didn't enjoy it, it didn't feel good. And I learned a tremendous amount about myself, and what I believe in, and what I can withstand, and the times that I have received negative feedback. There have been lessons in there for me, personal lessons that have been a little painful to learn, but have been so important and have guided me through the next stages of my business. And I have a couple examples that I'd like to share with you. So back in 2016, right when I was just starting my business, just starting to coach, I wrote an article initially for a smaller blog called The Scientific Parent. And then that blog post got picked up and published on salon.com, which was a national platform. And I was so excited. I had never had something that I had written before published on a national platform. So it was incredibly exciting. And also terrifying because the article I wrote, I don't know if it was, well, no, it was controversial. At least that's how it was interpreted. So you can still find it. In fact, we'll link to it in the show notes. But the title of the article is How I spoke to my nine year old son about sexual assault and white privilege. Okay, so we're talking about sexual assault, we're talking about white privilege, and we're talking about children. So yeah, I probably should have guessed that this was going to spark some controversy, and that not everyone was going to be happy with my perspective on the topic.
I wrote this article after a real conversation I had with my oldest son, who was nine at the time. He is a huge athlete and really into sports. He was watching a lot of ESPN. And around this time is when ESPN was covering the Brock Turner case. And in case you don't remember, Brock Turner was a Stanford student, he was a swimmer. And he sexually assaulted a young woman. And at his trial, he was given an exceptionally light sentence by the judge for all sorts of reasons that directly relate to class and privilege and misogyny. So when my son asked me about this, I realized that this was a pivotal moment for both of us, for him as a boy, a man one day, and for me, as the mother of boys who I want more than anything to grow up to be a good, kind, responsible, respectful, young men. So I did not dodge his question. I was careful in how I answered it. And in the information that I shared, I tried to make sure it was age appropriate. He also asked some thoughtful questions and made some thoughtful statements. And so I wrote about this conversation in a bit of a literary style. And then it got picked up and shared on Salon. Fortunately, in fact, I just went to the website today, it doesn't look like the comments are open anymore, thank God, because I can tell you in 2016, when it was first published, the comments were in fact open. And it was pretty brutal. There were people on there accusing me of emotionally abusing my son, and calling for the Department of Child Protective Services to come find me. There were people calling me a bleeding heart liberal, a social justice warrior, worse names than that. It got pretty ugly in the comments. And you know how there's that saying, never read the comments. Well, I know now, why that saying exists. Because I did read the comments, and I'm not gonna lie, it was painful. I can even now feel my cheeks start to flush thinking about reading those comments and thinking about the fact that number one, these people completely missed the point of my article. But number two, they were making really personal vicious attacks about me. And they didn't know the first thing about me, or about my family. And it was in that moment, when I thought to myself, “They don't know me, they don't know my family, how can they be saying these things?” I thought, “Oh, yeah, it's because they don't know me, they have no idea who I am, they probably didn't even look at the name on the story. They're just reading this. And if they are, in fact, humans and not bots, they're just responding because unfortunately, the Internet can be a cesspool of the worst of humanity. And this is a really easy topic. And I'm a really easy target for people to take their anger and their vitriol out on.” It wasn't about me personally, because they didn't know me personally. Yes, it was about the topics I was discussing and my stance, but it wasn't about me personally. And so as I sat with that realization, and I sat with the pain that I was feeling, I realized that there's a difference between the sting of being maligned in a comments thread by people you don't know. And the hurt that comes from being rejected by people you care about. And so in that moment with that salon.com article, I was experiencing the sting, but I didn't have to experience the hurt. Because I didn't know these people any more than they knew me. And so I didn't need to let their opinion of me matter at all. I've held on to that realization in the seven years since I had this experience. And I've learned to differentiate between the sting and the hurt. At least that's how I describe it. And that yes, things will sting when people you don't know or don't care about, have opinions on you and your work that you disagree with. There is a sting there. And that can be painful. But that sting is not the same thing as the hurt that comes from being rejected by people you care about. Now, I am sure that some of the people I do know and care about and love were not thrilled with this article that I shared, and had they expressed their feelings to me I probably would have experienced that hurt, I probably would have felt rejected. Even just speculating about that makes me a little sad. And I know, it was so important for me to share that message to share my story. Because I did hear back from dozens of parents who really appreciated the story that I shared, the language that I used, the fact that I was willing to be transparent about such a difficult conversation, I did get positive feedback around that. And I'm not saying it's the positive feedback that outweighs the negative. It's the fact that I established that connection with people, and that I shared something that was important and mattered to them. That action is very much in line with my values and what I believe in. And so this was a case of being willing to experience the sting, and the possible hurt, in order to live a life that is in alignment with my values.
That sting versus hurt comparison is something that I still use today. In fact, a couple years ago, I received an email from someone on my email list. Let me say they're no longer on my email list. But I had shared something about the fact that I had just lost my grandmother to Coronavirus. And this email, let me be clear, it was not a sales email. I wasn't pitching anything. It was just an email where I was sharing my perspective and sharing my thoughts on something. And yes, I did reference my grandmother's death. And I got this email from someone who blasted me for inappropriately sharing my own grief and my own experiences. And how dare I do this. And this was so unprofessional, I have to tell you reading her reply literally took my breath away. I couldn't breathe for a few seconds and it took me a while to regain the ability to speak. I was so taken aback. And it was so painful to me to think that someone in my community would think that I would ever use the memory of my grandmother and her death inappropriately, as a way to manipulate other people's feelings or to get them on my side or to get them to buy something, it just felt so gross. And the fact that someone thought that about me, that stung, that really stung, and getting stung is painful. But I did not allow it to hurt me on a deeper level. Because number one, I did not know this person who was emailing me. Yes, she was on my list. Yes, she was in my community. But I had never had any sort of interaction with her whatsoever. And while it's clear that what I said evoked a tremendous response from her, I also had to ask myself, “Well, Lee, let's really look at this, did you share your story in a way to build connection with others? Which is one of your values. Did you do it in a way that you thought was appropriate and ethical? And if the answer is yes, are you willing to handle the sting of someone not liking or appreciating the way you went about it?” And at the end of the day, the answer was, “Yeah, I wouldn't change a thing about that email, I would still send it, I would still let people know that they're not alone in their grief. And if someone doesn't like it, then they're probably not a good fit for me and the way I choose to live my life and run my business.” And so I unsubscribed that person from my list. And I emphasize that because I want to talk a little bit more about what we can do in order to manage our vulnerability when we choose to speak our voice. And one of the things we have to do is set and maintain strong emotional boundaries. And in choosing to unsubscribe that woman from my list, that was me maintaining a boundary. In standing behind every podcast episode I publish, or article I write, even if it upsets people, even if it upsets people that I do care about. It's me maintaining a boundary. It's me saying, “I am willing to stand for this. It's important to me, it matters and you are free to disagree with me. But you are not free to call me names to make assertions about my character that have no basis. And if and when you cross that line, there will be consequences.” And that consequence might be being unsubscribed from my list or us not having conversations the way we used to. It is so important that you maintain those boundaries because again, as your visibility increases, your vulnerability increases and boundaries can help us navigate that. And of course the other thing we have to learn to do is live with the sting and with the hurt that comes when people don't like us or when people disagree with us. I don't want to say that we need to toughen up or have a thicker skin because I don't want a thicker skin. I like being able to connect deeply with people and to empathize with them, to feel what they're feeling, and even experience what they're experiencing. That is something that makes me an extraordinary coach. And if I toughen up my skin too much, then I mute my own superpower and I'm not willing to do that. So I don't think we need to toughen up. I don't think we need thicker skins. But I do think we need to practice acceptance when it comes to dealing with the stings and the hurts when we use our voice, because it will happen. We don't want it to happen, but it will inevitably, so we need to be prepared to deal with the sting as a consequence of using our voice and living a life that's aligned with our values.
It also means knowing what to share and when to share it. And being really mindful that as we use our voice, and we let people into our world, we know where those boundaries are. I am not one to promote cultivated vulnerability. I don't think we need to look for ways to make ourselves vulnerable, or to connect with others from a place of pain that feels really manipulative and gross. And likewise, I think it was Brene Brown, who said “You don't need to be live streaming your bikini wax in order to be vulnerable.” Not every single detail of our lives needs to be shared with our people. And there are things that we may want to keep private, to just keep to our own inner circle. So we want to be thoughtful about what stories we share, and when we share them. And so I think it's important that we are aware of our own personal timeline, when we are sharing a story. If we share our story too soon, then we run the risk of not using the story to center our potential clients or our existing clients. We're not using it as a way of connection. We're using it for our own personal catharsis. And there is a time and a place for catharsis, but I would argue your business may not be the right place. And so you may need to do that healing work and experience that catharsis with a friend, with a therapist, perhaps with your own coach. And then once you've had some time to process your experience, then maybe you'll be ready to share it. And I don't think you necessarily have to be completely through an experience and have it in your rearview mirror, before you can share it. But I do think you need to be at a point where you have some sense of emotional understanding around the impact of the story on you. And you can talk about it in a way that centers your audience, centers your client, versus centering your own healing. At least in a business context, I think that's really important.
Oh, my friend, my goodness, we have really dug into this connection between being visible and using our voice and the vulnerability that comes with it. I hope that it's been helpful to explore this. I hope the stories that I've shared have been examples or illustrations of what it looks like to do this work. And I also hope I've sufficiently acknowledged just how hard it can be to do this. I certainly don't want to gloss over anyone's pain. Because yes, it stings, as we talked about. It's not fun, it's uncomfortable. But sometimes the right thing is the hard thing. And so this is where trusting your intuition, listening to your inner wisdom, and maybe soliciting some feedback from people you trust, can be so helpful in making the decision about if, what, and when to share something with your people. Because again, this all stems from the fact that audiences now more than ever before, want to feel connected to the businesses they're working with. They want to feel connected to you. So sharing your story, sharing yourself is a part of that. And that's why today, I just thought it was so important that we talk about how to do that, and specifically how to do it in a way that aligns with what you believe in, that acknowledges the true vulnerability and the consequences of that, but also connects you with the deeper meaning and why it is so important to share your voice with your people because they need to hear from you. They want to hear from you. And I know that you have a message that only you can share and we are waiting to hear it.
So friend, if today's episode resonates with you, I would love to hear that you can do so by leaving a review of the podcast on whatever platform you listen to. You can do so by sharing it with a friend or another coach that you think would get a lot out of it. And you can do that by leaving me a note over on Instagram @CoachWithClarity or by sending an email to email@example.com. I would really love to know your thoughts about this topic. And I would love to continue to be of service to you as you step into your voice and share yourself with the world because I am here in your corner cheering you on every step of the way. All right, my friend. That is it for me this week, but I will be back in your feed next week with another episode of the Coach with Clarity podcast. So until then, my name is Lee Chaix McDonough reminding you to get out there and show the world what it means to be a Coach with Clarity.