I posted myself on Side Hustle’s Instagram account yesterday. I felt just about how you would imagine: awkward, slightly embarrassed, skeptical, full of myself. Basically hands over face monkey if you speak in emojis. Which I do, entirely too often.
Self-promotion is awkward. It feels phony and a little self-obsessed and sometimes just plain wrong. I still feel the redness creep up my face when I tell someone I want to be a writer. But I created Side Hustle with the intention of providing a platform to promote the real passions of others and encourage all women to do the same—how can I do that if I refrain from promoting my own?
Growing up the youngest with two older brothers and the seventeenth of eighteen grandchildren, just on my mom’s side, I’ve always naturally been a people pleaser. I wanted my brothers and cousins to think I was cool, to think I was relevant, to want me around despite our age gaps. This resulted in a lot of time spent in sports and a lot of stifled emotions. Vulnerability did not seem like something that would be considered an attractive quality. So instead I went for laid back, easygoing, tough-skinned, athletic, nice, avoiding controversy like the plague—all things that for the most part (I hope) I am, but it’s not the whole me. It’s the showwoman version of me, and I’m good at it.
Toward the end of my stint in Charleston, I started to develop a fear of flying. I was traveling so much (the decade of weddings—twenty-seven dresses is amateur hour), and the combination of hangovers, exhaustion, and separation anxiety from friends and family back home became too much for me. I started getting migraines that took over my whole body. I took myself (sometimes with friends, thank you Charleston crew) to the ER a few times with chest pains, and I even flew home to Mobile to run a gamut of tests including an MRI and a CT-scan. Serious stuff. Turns out I just had anxiety and zero means of vocalizing it. I’m a bottler by nature, so what goes on internally stays there, temporarily.
I got married this past December: 7 bridesmaids, 5 groomsmen, 24 honorary bridesmaids, 13 ushers, 8 flower girls, 2 ringbearers, hundreds of guests, and one real snow in coastal Alabama for the first time in years. As you can imagine, there was a lot going on.
As the hours crept closer to 6 PM, when we would exchange our vows during a full Catholic wedding ceremony in a church that seats 325 people, I slowly entered the anxiety factory in my mind and started bottling every emotion I was feeling on the biggest day of my life. For some, in particular my family members, this came as no surprise. Anxiety runs in our family. We’ve even given it a name, Crow Anxiety, and it is very real. But for others who don’t know this about me, it came as a shock.
An hour before our ceremony, I had a full-blown panic attack. I had to take my wedding dress off three times before multiple encores of “Meet Virginia” sung by my cousins was finally answered with laughter from my end of the bathroom door. After that the indomitable Jason, who was responsible for my hair and makeup, put me in my dress for the final time and told me I would walk down the aisle in front of all those people because I had no other choice, because if I looked at the beautiful reception set up outside I would be reminded that my parents had sacrificed a lot to give me this day, and because there was a man waiting for me at the end of the aisle who I loved and who loved me, but who Jason would happily marry if I would not. (Spoiler alert: I did walk down the aisle, and Jason did not.)
The point of this trip down memory lane (who doesn’t love reminiscing on their wedding day?) is to remind you that while the applause may be loud for the showwoman, I promise you she doesn’t hear it. The truth is I am an incredibly sensitive and emotional female. I cry during peanut butter commercials, I get my feelings hurt by the slightest change in tone (sorry, Spence), I would rather be reading or writing than playing any sport, and I carry a great deal of fear within me. But I’m learning that all of these things that make me vulnerable or different don’t have to be weaknesses; they don’t have to be sore wounds I hide from everyone else.
My true self doesn’t have to become the disappearing act so that the show is better for everyone else.
Your weaknesses, your fears, the dark, hidden corners of your heart, when shared, can become the strengths on which someone else stands. They may be the parts of you that someone else really needs in order to have the courage to be their true selves.
Before launching Side Hustle, I spent a lot of time observing so many others who I admire, who broadcast not just the pretty edges of their lives, but the tough stuff, the center, where real life is lived. And I think that’s why they’re the ones who are succeeding.
Pull the curtain on the showwoman. Give her one last round of applause and send her home. Step out on the stage yourself. It’s time.