My Experience at BlogHer ’13

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I was lucky enough to attend BlogHer ’13 this year in Chicago. Wow, what a treat. Being a newbie to the blogger community I can tell you that I was at first a little (ok, very) overwhelmed by this conference. Put me in a boardroom full of 50 something, grey-haired corporate men and I’m fearless. Now ask me to attend a conference with 4,000+ intelligent, witty and strong women and I will want to pull the covers over my head. I know it sounds funny but I’ve discovered that my passion (food and writing about food) is way scarier than what I do from 9-5 Monday through Friday.

This all came in to focus when I heard Sheryl Sandberg speak. For those of you who don’t know her and live under a rock, Sheryl is the COO of Facebook. Ever heard of it? Yeah, no big deal right!? Her pedigree is kind of impressive– former Google exec, a Chief of Staff for the US Secretary of Treasury, Harvard Business School grad…you get the point. Oh and did I mention she has two kids? What a rockstar.

Sure, she went to an Ivy League school and yeah she has a stellar professional resume. But her most significant accomplishment is the initiative she started to educate the world on workplace gender differences and provide women with advice and tools to achieve their goals. I’m not going to give you a review or synopsis of Lean In, but if you’re a woman (professional or not), I highly recommend it.

So anyway, Sheryl talked to us about her background, her trials and tribulations and how she got to where she is today. She asked us all to think about something we would do if we were fearless and had nothing holding us back. What is that one thing you really want to do but don’t have the courage, the financial means or time. Or maybe you just don’t have the support from your friends and loved ones. Whatever it is, she asked us to take a moment to reflect on this subject and write it down.

I racked my brain for things that scare me—run a marathon? Um, no thanks. Hate running. Skydiving? Nope! Scared of heights. Sing the national anthem at the Super bowl? Ok a) that is unrealistic and b) I think my voice would cause a blackout worse than 2013. So I shifted my thinking to something a little more close to home. I wanted to focus on something I WANT to do, but am a little scared of. Well, it’s this. It’s blogging. Putting my ideas, my writing and part of my life out there is downright terrifying.

I say this because I found myself experiencing a little bit of self-doubt during the conference. Every time I met someone new and told them the concept for my blog I felt myself get nervous. Did they like my idea? Is the name of my blog dumb? Do people even care what I have to say? Are my business cards ugly? The questions went on and on. Now I doubt that any of the attendees at BlogHer would tell me my idea sucks, but I couldn’t help but wonder if these people were just buttering me up. In all honestly though the BlogHer community is really the sweetest, most open group of women I’ve ever met. Not only are the women incredibly inspiring and talented, they offer invaluable advice for this complicated and ever-changing world of blogging.

Sidenote- I met four ladies that have blogs about cats. Not to discriminate against felines, ok I’m going to discriminate about them anyway, but WHO writes about cats. I hate cats. So much. I am allergic to the subject of their blogs. And I wish I can tell people that write about cats that their idea sucks. But guess what—I didn’t. Because that wouldn’t be nice, would it?

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Towards the end of the conference I realized one thing: who cares if you’re a little unsure of your idea or passion. Sure, we all have to be realistic and set our expectations, but I learned that as women, we tend to naturally lean back and let society tell us what we have to do. We don’t sit at the table, we don’t raise our hands and some of us are scared of pursuing our interests and dreams. I’m glad there are organizations and leaders out there like Sheryl who are committed to changing this. To not only inspire women to “lean in,” but to also encourage men to recognize this issue and create more inclusive and equal world.

I’m so glad I got to attend the conference this year. It helped reaffirm my aspirations, taught me some useful tricks and most importantly, introduced me to hundreds of women who have been in the same position as me. For now, this is a just a hobby and something to do on the side. Who knows where it will go… but for now I’m having fun!

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