Don’t Be Afraid to Feel Invisible

Allison Burney

It won’t last forever — but it’s necessary for now

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GrowinPhoto by San Fermin Pamplona — Navarra on Unsplash

For a long time, I’ve dreamed of being my own boss.

Maybe you have, too.

Actually, I’ve dreamed of a lot of things: being a writer, traveling the world, being financially free, and living life on my own terms.

I’ve also dreamed of making an impact, helping others, and seeing a world where love and peace conquered violence and suffering of all kinds.

Of course, for about the same amount of time, I haven’t had a clue how to make any of those dreams a reality — and I don’t think I’m alone here.

Is any of this sounding familiar?

The many lives I’ve led in the past decade

While at university and throughout my twenties, I tried so many different jobs and explored enough interests to make your ancestors dizzy (think Yao from Mulan!)

I worked at a cafe, a bookstore, spent two years teaching ESL in Korea, tried out the direct sales/MLM world, catered at weddings and events (at the same venue I now manage), and did transcription, proofreading, and even data input for a real estate company.

I created a website and did admin support for a counsellor, worked as a sales ambassador promoting products in-store for a marketing company, spent a few summers as a youth leader at an enrichment program for high-achieving high school students at my university — and probably a whole lot more I can’t even remember!

Needless to say, I’ve experimented a lot — and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

In fact, my curiosity and desire to learn and grow is something that’s stayed with me over the years, and I believe it’s a part of who I am at a deeper level. My soul yearns to live up to my true potential, and part of that is figuring out what I love.

Looking back, I don’t regret all these adventures, because they helped me find out what I like and realize what I don’t like. All of these different jobs each allowed me to hone my interests and become more of myself in their own way.

But in reflecting upon my past decade of work experience, something has become blatantly obvious to me.

I’ve never really stuck with anything long enough to see real results

I’ve come back to certain jobs over the years because I enjoy them, and because they’re more in line with who I am as a person; but I’ve never really gone “all in” on any of them, or given them enough time to grow and develop into something meaningful.

The one thing that I can actually see myself doing long-term — like for my entire life — is the one thing I’ve yet to actually try.

That thing?

Writing.

The funny thing is, writing is where I began this journey over a decade ago. As a little baby 17-year-old, I went off to journalism school with the idea that getting a degree in journalism would “keep my options open” in the field of writing.

After all, what does a journalist do?

They write stories.

And I did have to write many stories during those four years, but I didn’t keep up with it in the years afterward.

Apart from a blog series about living and working abroad for Verge Magazine and a whole year of writing every day for my eyes only, I all but abandoned this thing I felt compelled to do.

The little voice inside telling me to write didn’t go away; I just ignored it. And I think I finally know why.

I’ve been afraid to feel invisible

I’ve admired writers all my life. I’ve dreamed of writing full-time, and of making a living from my writing. I’ve imagined what it would be like to build a business around my writing from the ground up, and to have control over my life and how I spend my time.

In reality, though, I’ve never attempted it. In all these years, I haven’t put my head down, focused, and done the work, day in and day out.

I haven’t shared my writing with the world by practicing in public and actually publishing my words on a consistent basis — until recently.

This morning I read a blog by author and entrepreneur Jeff Goins about the myth of the “Big Break.” It was full of key points and takeaways for somebody at the very beginning of a long haul like me (and maybe you).

The advice that stood out to me the most was this:

Be prepared to be invisible for awhile.

As Goins says, “Nobody notices you when you’re getting up at five a.m. for an entire year to write on a blog no one reads.”

As hard as that fact is to swallow, it’s entirely necessary.

We all know it’s not easy to put yourself and your work out there, especially when it isn’t well received and nobody seems to care day after day.

So what can you do to make it a little bit easier?

Here are some of the things I’ve started doing that will help you too:

  • Read things that reinforce this messaging

Save blogs in your reading list that talk about the importance of perseverance so that you can come back to them again and again, whenever you need a little boost, some motivation, or a healthy dose of reality.

Highlight passages and quotes from articles and books that remind you of the fact that success doesn’t happen overnight. Remember them. Come back to them frequently.

Better yet, write them on sticky notes and post them around your work space so that every time you sit down to work, there they are, right in your face. I’ve done this with some of my favourites, and when I’m struggling to believe in myself or when I can’t see a reason to keep going, they truly help.

These little doses of inspiration remind me that just because I’m not seeing results right now doesn’t mean I never will. It takes time.

  • Focus on the bigger picture — the long-term approach

When nothing much seems to be happening with your writing or other creative pursuit, day after day, challenge yourself to remember why you’re really doing this.

Are you doing it simply to hit the publish button, like checking any other item off your daily “to-do” list? Or are you doing this for some bigger reason — something that goes way beyond hitting publish today?

Are you doing it to get praise and attention? Or are you doing it because it feels genuine to you — like something you were meant to do? When I publish yet another article that doesn’t gain much traction (or sometimes doesn’t even get one view), it’s easy to want to quit, because I feel like I’m being rejected.

It’s easy to take it personally, and to believe things like I’m not good enough, nobody cares about me, I don’t have anything important to say, or I don’t matter. But if your intentions for doing it are genuine in the first place, you’ll still feel compelled to do it the next day anyway, and the day after that, regardless of whether these thoughts appear or not.

If you’re being true to yourself and acting on what’s authentic for you, you’ll eventually realize that you can’t help but do it anyway.

This is the way it was for me; it just took me a decade to figure it out.

  • Find someone who believes in you

Everyone says you have to be your own biggest supporter. You have to believe in yourself before anyone else will.

And this is true — but being true doesn’t make it any easier.

Sometimes, what we need more than anything else is just someone else who believes in us, because we can’t always be strong for ourselves.

We’re only human, and some days we struggle. We feel defeated, insecure, doubtful, and exhausted. We’re tired.

On those days, having that one true fan who knows you can do this when you can’t see anything but the utterly unimpressive results you’re getting right now can mean the difference between giving up, and publishing just one more post — the one that ends up spreading far and wide.

It’s all up to you

So, while the thought of being invisible for months or years to come isn’t really enticing, this is:

A few years from now, you could be living your dream life.

All those people you admire right now for accomplishing what you want to do? They could be your peers — or better yet — your friends!

All those things I said I wanted at the beginning of this article? They’re all possible.

But it all depends on me, and you.

All of these things are available to each of us — but only if we choose to stick with our thing long enough and put in the work it takes to build it.

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Writer & proofreader. I love travel, reading, coffee, and exploring nature. On a mission to keep learning, growing, and enjoying this adventure we call life.

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