Like any pursuit in life there’ll be hurdles to jump in travel blogging that have the potential to throw you off kilter. The biggest one of these is usually self doubt.
My self doubts
Self-doubt is an absolute killer of all creativity and talent. When no one reads your work, interacts with your social media statuses or remembers little old you when events come around it can be very hard to keep the faith.
I can be full of self-doubt, but I’ve definitely come a long way in overcoming it. When you’re a travel blogger there’s no one to ask ‘Is this right?’ or to constantly tell you you’re doing a good job – especially when you’re starting out and you’re full of questions.
When I clicked ‘publish’ on the first few Travel Blogger High posts I felt a bit sick and my heart was racing because I knew so many of you were reading. The few email unsubscribes that have come through push the level of self doubt even higher, but when I focus on the 100s who stay and the positive comments I’ve had along the way I know that I’ve done a good thing.
If you’re anything like me that self-doubt creeps in before any meeting, before an event, even before emailing another blogger I don’t know very well. I’m often convinced the person at the receiving end won’t remember who I am, even though we may have spent an hour chatting in the past.
Thinking that a PR must’ve contacted the wrong person when a press trip offer comes through, worrying that no one will talk to me at events or that no one will respond to my question in a Facebook group are just a few example of the other pointless self doubts I have in travel blogging.
“Comparison is the thief of joy”
So said Mark Twain. When you envy other travel bloggers’ press trip selfies, #awesomeeventname social media updates or millions of followers you are only going to damage your confidence. When your confidence is low that self doubt is sure to creep in and sabotage being proud of how far you’ve come. Instead of looking at their updates, have a flick back through your Google Analytics, your Facebook page or your latest posts to admire your progress instead of theirs.
Of course you need to keep up with other bloggers, they’re fun. But if dark thoughts start entering your brain you need to stop. There was this one blogger I followed who I started to compare myself too. She’d done so well in such a short amount of time, it was actually making me feel a bit shit. I realised how I felt after reading one of her updates so just deleted my follow. It worked! There are loads of amazing and successful bloggers I follow but she just got to me for some reason.
I never really realised how bad I was at measuring success by comparing it to others until I learnt to surf in Mexico. My instructor Luis kept telling me I was doing really well, but as a solo lesson all I wanted to know was how well I was doing compared to past students rather than focusing on the fact I could stand up and ride the wave quite quickly. I realised that was a really weird attitude and vowed to stop comparing in all areas of my life.
“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
I’ve thought of a few examples where I doubted what I was doing, thanks to things other people have said, but then gone ahead anyway. Each one has turned out for the better. Banish the self doubt!
Someone told me I shouldn’t do travel videos, so I didn’t. I wasn’t feeling very confident before and after that I didn’t bother for two years. Then, when I was in Saint Lucia the idea was in the back of my mind. On that trip I read the Sheryl Sandenberg (Facebook bigshot) book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. One of the biggest takeaways I got from that was her question ‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid’. And in that moment it was to make a video. So I got up and did a review of the St James’s Club Resort where I was staying. Two days later it was on YouTube, I had a lot of compliments and so far it’s had over 2000 views. Admittedly it makes me cringe now but I had fun doing it and this year I hope to bring out more videos from my travels. If I hadn’t listened to that person I could’ve had fun making even more on my travels, and be a pro by now.
Another blogger said you should never write for other travel bloggers on their blog. It sowed the seeds of doubt for me to write the Travel Blogger High series and yet, 5 posts into Travel Blogger High and I see a post on how to be a travel blogger on their blog! Further evidence that you should take what other people say about your craft with a pinch of salt, and just do what feels right.
At travel blogger conferences you hear other blogger snuffing press trips, often in a condescending way. You shouldn’t take press trips, you should travel independently, ra ra ra. And then you’ll see them gallivanting round the world at some PRs expense a few weeks later. If I hadn’t have gone on press trips I wouldn’t have seen Cape Town, Saint Lucia or any of the other incredible destinations I’ve been privileged to be invited to.
I’ve also heard travel bloggers declare you shouldn’t do sponsored posts only to see the same company post miraculously appear on their blog too. If I didn’t do the occasional one I wouldn’t be able to afford to travel and write all this free content for everyone.
Someone told me I shouldn’t give all my learnings and secrets away in this series when I told them about it. But for personal satisfaction, as much as yours, I’ve really enjoyed it and judging by the amount of views and subscribers the series has had, so have you.
This is why I can’t stress enough that you have to do what feels right for you as a travel blogger. Do not compare yourself to anyone – especially anyone who’s been around longer, has more time to blog or who’s travelled more than you – as long as you’re proud of what you’ve achieved that’s what matters.
You can’t please everyone and if they don’t like you, that’s fine, maybe they will in the future. All you need is to like yourself.
5 ways to overcome the self-doubt
1. Remind yourself you’re awesome. Sometimes people I know will take the piss out of things I write or how I write them. I smile and just remind myself they don’t have the guts to put themselves out there like that – to be open to the world and all the emotions and experiences in it. And, they’re not following their ultimate passion so if mocking me cheers them up, great. Another service the blog provides!
2. Work to your own measure of success. Don’t let anyone get to you, or make you feel you’re not good enough or talented enough to blog if that’s what you want to do. You only need to work to your measurements of success no one else’s. I talked about this more in How to Be a Successful Travel Blogger. Set out what’s important to you and focus on that as your goal.
3. Wait till just before you’re ready. I’ve had a few bloggers write to me saying they’re too nervous to show their friends and family their blog. Well don’t. They don’t have to know everything about you. It’s a shame because they could be your biggest advocates but if you don’t feel comfortable then there’s no need to rush anything. There’s no such thing as perfect though so there’s no point waiting around for that either.
4. Abolish the ‘should’. I try really hard not to use this word as I don’t think you ‘should’ do anything particular in travel blogging. It’s up to you to take the movement and interpret it how you want. I find all sentences with ‘should’ in create a negative feeling and usually align with someone else’s morals and ideas. Notice how in the examples above all the people were shoving their ‘shoulds’ on me.
5. Follow your intuition. Do what you feel comfortable with. It’s good to listen to others but when it comes to doing I’ve learnt over the last three years the best idea is to listen to yourself and do what you think and what you feel is right.
“Keep your head up, keep your heart strong”
Love that lyric from Ben Howard.
Any sort of creative endeavour takes guts. It’s hard to put yourself out there, revealing your feelings and thoughts so freely for anyone who follows you to read, or even any randomer who happens to type your keywords in Google. Like artists, poets, creative writers and musicians, bloggers will generally put everything they have into their work. It becomes your baby. If you can keep your confidence in it, and in you, and not waste any time or energy on doubting yourself or comparing yourself to others you’ll find you have a lot more to spend on your blog.
Stay strong in your belief in yourself and keep going with what you think is right based on your knowledge, experience and intuition.