What do you do when nothing is working?
You come up with an idea. You set a goal. You sacrifice, and you put in the work, and you keep your nose to the proverbial grindstone.
Yet when you look up, you’ve (seemingly) got nothing to show for it.
You’ve built it, but nobody has come.
In that moment, it’s hard to not drown in the hopelessness, self-doubt and defeat that surrounds you.
You’re convinced you’ve reached this point because nobody believes in you.
But maybe you’re here because you don’t believe in yourself.
Welcome to the newest edition of “On the Clock,” the series in which we explore how to make the most of however much time we have left.
If you’re unable to watch the video, its transcript is below…
When You’re Invisible in Plain Sight
I want to be noticed.
I want to get a bunch of followers and grow my email list.
I want to have trending stories, and gain notoriety, and make money off the videos and articles I work so hard to create.
There, I said it. I said the things you’re apparently not supposed to say.
The experts say you shouldn’t be a writer for fortune and fame.
They say you should be one because you’ve got something to say, and because you want to help people and add value to your audience’s lives.
Truthfully, I agree with them. I want to do all of that.
But I’ve been writing on blogs, and for small and large publications, for over 10 years now.
And every time I’ve had something published, for as much as I’ve hoped it would make a difference in someone’s life, I’ve also hoped it would make a difference in mine.
Does that make me selfish?
Does that make me a bad person?
Does that make me someone who’s in this for the wrong reasons?
Or does it just make me human?
I don’t know.
Maybe I am too narcissistic. Maybe that’s what’s holding me back.
After all, the experts are experts for a reason, and they’ve done what I’ve been unable to do. So clearly, I’m the problem, not their advice.
It’s just that this lack of acknowledgement, this lack of views, and likes, and subscribers strike a deeper chord with me, because it all feels too familiar.
A History of Anonymity
When I was in high school, while I was lucky to have a great small group of friends, I was pretty much a nobody. Walking through the halls, I was almost invisible, like I blended into the lockers.
Outside of the few girls who had to reject me after I asked them out, I don’t think that many of my classmates either knew or cared that I existed.
If I had just stopped showing up, I doubt my absence would’ve been noticed.
This was confirmed a couple years ago at my 20-year reunion. While it was nice to catch up with a few old friends, most of my interactions consisted of people staring at the nametag on my chest, as they tried to figure out who I was.
There were times I was tempted to say, “Excuse me, my eyes are up here.”
I don’t bring any of this up as some sort of sob story. I bring it up because anonymity has been a pattern for me, this underlying theme of my life that I’ve convinced myself is an immutable truth:
That I’m not noticeable.
And I’m wondering if that loser’s mindset has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A Confirmation of Anonymity
After college, I had multiple stints of unemployment, which always included extended job searches. Like many people, I’m sure, I’d send out countless resumes, but seldom get any responses.
Everyone would console me by saying, “It only takes one.” And that was true. I just never understood why that one was never among the first positions I applied for.
The whole thing felt like I was screaming into this black hole, where nobody listened or cared about what I had to say.
That’s kind of what this process of being a writer and building an audience has felt like.
The (Misguided) Search for Validation
I write article after article, and put out video after video.
I feel like I’ve got something to say, and some value to offer. And I do my best to present my message in an interesting and engaging way.
But then I look at my stats, and they refute that rosy picture.
The week after I sent out the first video in this video series — the opening edition of what I thought was my big idea — I lost a net total of 18 email subscribers.
The week after that, I lost nine. A few weeks ago, I lost 13.
Again, and I can’t reiterate this enough, I am not looking for sympathy, nor do I mean for it to sound like I’m whining. (Though I’m surely failing on the latter.)
I understand that this is how it goes, that this is something that takes time.
When I see those decreasing numbers, I tell myself I’m just trimming the fat and building an audience of people who actually care about what I’m doing.
And while I know that’s true, it’s still defeating.
For as much as I believe in staying focused on the process, there’s a part of me that’s still tied to the results.
Not even because they might raise my profile or profits, but because they provide a validation.
A validation that, not only is my work worthy, but that I’m worthy too.
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Originally published at medium.com