The Discomfort of Becoming a “Public Person”
Photo courtesy of Marc Wathieu.

The Discomfort of Becoming a “Public Person”

Written by Emilie

Topics: Renaissance Business

Back when I started Puttylike, one of the biggest fears I had to overcome was the fear of becoming a “public person.” I remember thinking that there’s this distinction– some people are “public people,” and the rest of us are, well… everybody else.

Of course, this whole paradigm has shifted in recent years, with everyone posting their life all over Facebook. But while it’s become commonplace for everyone to post pictures of their Saturday night on Facebook, not everyone is opening up emotionally or starting movements around their beliefs.

Launching a blog or passion(s)-based business certainly feels different from what most people do online (especially if you’re doing it right and injecting your personality into your content and design). It feels like you’re standing up, raising your hand and opening yourself up to criticism.

And guess what, you are.

However, the truth is that you rarely get the kind of criticism you fear. And the love, friendship and sense of purpose that comes into your life is worth it, a million times over.

Putting Ego Aside for Your Cause

In Renaissance Business, I tell the story of how my first real sense of vulnerability came when I recorded that video on my sidebar. Making that video was very uncomfortable for me, but I knew that doing it and showcasing that personal side of myself was what was “best for business.”

It reminds me of something Zack Braff said in the commentary for Garden State. Remember the part in the film where his character shakes his head like a wet dog in the rain? For Zach Braff, the actor, that was really embarrassing. He didn’t want to do it. But he put his actor self aside for a minute and stepped into his director role. Shaking his head in the rain like a wet dog made sense for the character and made the scene stronger. It was what was best for the film.

When you’re faced with a choice between preserving your ego and doing what’s best for your cause, choose the latter. Don’t let fear be the thing that decides your actions. Put yourself out there, allow yourself to be momentarily embarrassed, and then move on.

Letting Your Guard Down so You Can Speak from the Heart

Although it’s now much easier for me to open up publicly than it was a year ago, I still struggle with this. When Renaissance Business came out a few days ago, I knew I’d have to shore up that precious ego, in order to “do what’s best for the book.”

What I found is that when you talk about something you know well and care deeply for, everything gets easier. It doesn’t feel like you’re selling yourself. It just feels right. The tricky part is learning to let your guard down, which comes with practice. Once you let your guard down, the rest is easy.

After putting yourself out there for a while, you also begin to realize that there isn’t some big distinction from “public people” and everyone else. We’re all accessible, we’re all human, and we all struggle with the same fears.

Renaissance Business Interviews

Here’s a roundup of interviews, features, and reviews of Renaissance Business that came out in the last few days. Thanks to everyone who helped spread the word and gave me another platform on which to share my passion for this project!

(Let me know if I missed you, and I’ll add you to the list.)

And thank you everyone for making my first launch an absolute joy!

Your Turn

Have you struggled with this issue of standing up and becoming a “public person”?

21 Comments

  1. Jessica says:

    Hi Emilie,

    Thanks for creating such a cool space with such thoughtful posts. I found your site today from your generalist article on Brazen Careerist. Very happy to be here. :)

    We are so similar, except your Montreal is my Toronto, and your Denmark is my Germany. Replace also law school with grad school, and being queer with being a visible minority.

    I often struggle with opening up publicly too, especially in a blog. I’m don’t know what I’m really afraid of though – probably judgement and criticism. But when I lay it out that way, it isn’t so scary anymore. I think it’s worth the risk if one wants to do some good in this world.

    You’re right that it takes practice to be able to open up publicly. A lot of practice, probably everyday. But now I’m inspired to start practicing somehow. Probably in new blog. :)

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Jessica,

      Haha it’s funny that you found me through the Brazen article. I had no idea how controversial that post would be! I’m so accustomed to writing to an awesome community of multipotentialites and non-conformists, that I was a bit taken aback by the extreme responses. However, I’m happy to divide the audience and have the “generalists” swing by Puttylike to be among friends. So anyway, all to say, I’m glad you found me. :)

      It does sound like we have a lot in common! I think it’s really important for people who are minorities to open up publicly. Visibility and representation is crucial. So yeah, good stuff. :)

      • “I think it’s really important for people who are minorities to open up publicly. Visibility and representation is crucial. ”

        Love this Emilie! I agree, but not only do I agree, I propose that the multipotentiates are NOT a minority, but are the heart and soul of a huge percentage of artists/entertainers/celebrities.

  2. Nicole says:

    This!

    I am struggling with this right now. This! is my main reason for me being waaaay to slow in starting everything up. I am an observer, I have difficulty being observed. This will probably be one of my biggest achievements in the coming couple of months (assuming I actually DO start everything soon), overcoming this.

    Thanks, Em!
    Good timing ;-) I need a kick in the ass every once in while (often in a while? :-p)

  3. I’ve totally struggled with this! I’m a very private person by nature and the idea of being a “public” person used to feel overwhelming… but you’re right: “the love, friendship and sense of purpose that comes into your life is worth it, a million times over.”

    And my cause, purpose and passion is what helped me push through that fear and create something that’s impacting the lives of others.

    Thanks for going public! xo

  4. Annie says:

    I have been considering this lately, as well.

    In becoming a “public person,” totally vulnerable to Web 2.0 and junk, I’ve realized that I can’t really keep secrets.

    Fortunately, I’ve also realized that if you’re open with everything–provided you don’t make really bad decisions–people will understand you more as a human being.

    I feel that there’s always something to be gained from being honest (and candid!).

    Props to you, Emilie, for going forward with becoming a public person. :) I hope the process doesn’t wear me down too much as I get more involved in the blogosphere.

    • Emilie says:

      That couldn’t be more true. I really accredit most of my success to my openness on the blog, and especially in Puttytribe emails.

      We get drawn in by other people’s personal stories. And if you draw someone in, it’s much easier to teach them something and to get a message to stick. I start most of my posts with a personal story for this reason, and then make a larger point and talk about applying the same lessons in your own life. That format seems to work nicely for me. But there are many ways to do it.

  5. Denise says:

    Just so ya know…

    I love your video! That’s what drew me in, girl!

    I’ve been hesitating putting video on my blog.. (insecurities).. but I’m planning on doing some video posts real soon.

    Glad you went public :)

    • Emilie says:

      Right on! Thank you!

      And go for it! All you have to do is make it once, throw it up there and then you can never look at it again and pretend like it doesn’t exist (that’s what I do. :)

      But yeah definitely, give it a go.

  6. Juventud says:

    I always have this problem of becoming the public person. I hate to be scrutinized by others, though i am not much scrutinized now but earlier i’ve always been picked on for reasons i could not understand. Now i have created a solid wall against criticism and scrutiny. Whenever someone tries to pick on me i just shrug off and their joke falls flat and they get embarrased. I have learned it is really hard to find amazing friends cause they never discourage you and humiliate you among others. But still i could not overcome this horror of scrutiny because whenever i posted anything on my wall i sulked in fear that what may others think or they may know how mediocre my thinking is and i deleted the post. Later i deleted my account permanently and created another with anonymous name and no picture to stay in touch with good fellas. Thanks

    • Emilie says:

      Aw.. Well you’re right. One of the best things you can do is surround yourself with good people and cut the toxic friends out of your life.

      I did this a couple years ago in terms of friends I see in my day-to-day life. Didn’t do it with Facebook though. I’m pretty sure a lot of really judgmental people still see my posts. But I never hear from them. (Except this one time when a former elementary school bully sent me a message saying how much she liked my site and also apologizing for her 10 year old self… that was odd/amazing).

  7. Abe says:

    You and I have talked about this before Emilie, and I STILL struggle with being a public person! Even performing music and comedy most of my life, it’s not easy for me to put a vulnerable, non-polished me out there for all to see. But I’m working on it. ;)

    Good things happen when we put ourselves out there and keep it real. Most of the time other people are too busy with their own stuff to notice all the little things WE think are ginormously embarrassing about our art, our work.

    PUTTYFACT: There were a couple times when I was designing Renaissance Business that I hesitated to send you a revision because I thought it was super whack. I sent it anyway and you ended up LOVING that part of the design. Obvious (or whack) to me, amazing to you!

    I guess what I’m trying to say is we are not as whack as we think. Sometimes we’re just too close to our work that we minimize and de-value it to the point of not showing it to the people that need it most. We can’t make an impact that way.

    Thanks for reminding us of that.

    • Emilie says:

      Abe,

      Yeah I know this is a big issue for you. I’ve seen you evolve a lot in the last year though. It’s really cool to watch your growth actually, especially since I know you’re going to be such a big deal one day. I think we all see that in you, which is why everyone wants to work with you. Now you just need to see it in yourself. :)

      And that’s so funny about RB. Derek Sivers made a great video on this topic. Check it out.

      Thanks for the comment bro.

      p.s. So nice to have you back!!! <3

  8. My blog isn’t huge like some others, but I’ve been recognized three times now in my city because I have my picture on the main page. That is a weird feeling. But I have to admit – I kinda like it and it’s brought some amazing people into my life.

    I think there is some vulnerability that comes with being public and putting your stuff “out there”. I continue to do it because I think if even just one person is helped from something I’ve written, I’m a happy person. It’s worth feeling vulnernable and scared that people are going to judge, think I’m weird, etc…

    I’m an introvert so this is all new to me, this getting attention thing. But given that most of it’s online, I’m becoming more & more comfortable with it.

  9. Just found you through Remarkablogger, and all I can say is “FINALLY! People like me! Hooray!”

  10. Maria says:

    I recently opened a shop/studio in a great area of New Orleans- it was an unexpected opportunity that I couldn’t pass up, one that I wasn’t expecting for another couple years (maybe). It was a commitment I made w/i a mere 48 hours and a short 3 weeks later, BAM, I’m a gallery owner.

    I make what I like to call ‘meaningful jewelry’, and I do it on my own. Well I can’t possibly ‘wo-man’ the gallery and be in my at-home studio at the same time so with no other choice I set up my studio at the shop. This turned my ‘private-comfortable-with kitty and coffee- in my PJs work life’ into a very public show working at a bench for all my customers to watch.

    Some days it’s terrifying, I can be a complete social-aphob and some days it’s just natural. There are only so many times a girl can say “everything’s handmade if you have any questions let me know.” I mean, I’ve gotta get involved sometimes…just to keep my brain interested.

    It’s a small and intimate space, frankly there’s no avoiding being personal. I’m a few months in, and I’m still learning how to find the balance between being on complete display, and putting on the headset and smiling.

    Cheers.

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