"You don't know me..." was the subject line that appeared in my inbox. "But I want you to know that you really helped me."
"Hey," his message began. "I'm not sure how I found your blog, but I have to let you know that it may have saved my life."
"I may not always 'like' or comment," she shared through teary eyes, "but I read every single word you share."
When I started writing about my grief, sharing more of my truth, and opening as wide as I knew how to open online... I got a bit of response. Sometimes there were a lot of likes and comments. Mostly there was just "some." And often, it was the same handful of people.
But I kept sharing anyways, because it wasn't about the likes or comments. It wasn't about anything other than sharing what was true for me, simply because that's what I needed to do. Simply because the words asked to be written, and my heart felt compelled to share them. I did it because I had to, because something inside me instinctually knew it was necessary to find healing.
There was no goal, no plan. There wasn't a strategy or tactic. All I knew was that my heart was broken, my life and business were unraveling faster than I could even comprehend, and many friends were falling away as new ones emerged. I was walking through some of the most painful and challenging tasks, the most difficult and sad conversations. And when things hurt so much I wasn't sure I could survive them, I wrote. I shared. And those little bursts of honest expression would relieve some of the painful pressure on my heart.
When I really hit rock bottom in the middle of the year... there was nothing left to do but open even wider. Share even more fully. Tell the truth even more transparently. I literally had nothing left to lose by being open and honest. So I was, because I needed to be, and I continue to do so as much as possible.
Sometimes our work feels like a thankless job.
That's not a complaint, it's simply a fact.
Especially when you're trying to meet people in the darkest corners of their hardest chapters. When you talk about suicide and depression, grief and loss, and letting everything around you burn to the ground. These aren't the most conversational of topics. They're not the kinds of things people go "oh, me, me, me! I have something to say about this too!"
As a person who's never been good at receiving praise or thanks without a bit of discomfort and my inner, bashful child coming out, I've always been okay with this. Sure, it's nice to know that people care and are listening. That your words and work are having the impact you desire. I'm human, and I have an ego I wrestle with too. But for the most part, I'm okay with the silence. It doesn't deter me.
Really what I'm trying to say in this post is this:
People are listening, especially when it seems like they're not.
Just recently on a call with one of my very best friends, we were talking about her word for the year. A beautiful word that stood for showing up, for courage, and for not dimming her light any longer. How she wants to shine regardless of those who try to tell her she's wrong or bad or needs to be different. And we talked about how hard and scary that is... because taking a stand for what you believe to be true can feel challenging and confrontational. It can feel vulnerable in the most terrifying way.
And she began to ask some of the age old questions. Questions like, "who am I to do this?" And, "who really cares?"
So I shared a truth with her.
For most of the year, I shared because I had to, not because I cared if I was right or if anyone was listening. Not for the likes or comments, and certainly not for any other reason than I felt something that needed to be expressed on a broader scale.
But as I began to complete a major healing cycle and really come back into my life and work in a way I wasn't able to for the last year... ego returned with me, and ego began to wonder why less people liked this over that, and started trying to filter me so that I could "be better" at this online sharing thing.
Thankfully, I received all the guidance and clarity I needed over the course of just a few weeks. Out of nowhere, people I knew and total strangers started reaching out to thank me. Friends I assumed didn't care or notice thanked me for my transparency over the last year, for telling the truth about what I went through. For being "real" in spaces where most hide behind carefully curated facades. Strangers and followers and subscribers reached out to thank me for specific posts that impacted their lives in the most profound ways. Posts from far earlier in the year. Family, mentors, and acquaintances who I didn't realize where listening shared with me that they read every single word I write, and thanked me for putting into words what they couldn't for themselves.
I was floored. Humbled. In tears.
And then I remembered all the books or videos or blog posts that had a deep impact on my life or a profound shaking of my soul. Messages where people just showed up and told the truth, letting me know I wasn't alone and that things were going to be okay... maybe not right now, but eventually, simply because I could see they were surviving, or had survived, what I was walking through. Yet, I never once reached out to tell them just how powerful an effect their truth had on my life.
All of this, again, to say:
People are listening, especially when it seems like they're not.
If we want to truly show up and shine with all our bright, beautiful light... If we want to surrender in service of something greater than we may ever understand... If we want to take a stand for something or a group of someones that we deeply believe in... We have to remember this. No matter how big or small our platform or following or reach. No matter how many likes or comments or shares we're getting. No matter the recognition or awards.
We remember the ones who are listening, who aren't ready to step into the light and say, "I'm here too." The ones who may not feed into any metrics that business and marketing strategies have deemed important, but who read every single word. Watch every single video. Who are there and real and struggling. Who need you to keep doing what you're doing. To keep showing up and shining that light. To keep telling the truth with all the transparency you know.
Don't filter for the critics, internal or external. Don't dim your light for those that don't agree or disapprove. Don't alter your focus or change course from what rings true in your soul for those that praise and comment and fluff your ego. Don't forget why you started showing up in the first place in exchange or fame or awards.
Do it for the ones you think aren't listening.
The ones who are hurting and alone. The ones who desperately need you to stay real and true and purpose driven. The ones who don't need or want you to be polished and pretty, they just want you to be honest.
Do it for them.
Stephenie Zamora is the founder of www.stepheniezamora.com, a full-service, life-purpose development, design and branding boutique and author of Awesome Life Tips book. Through her Mastery program, she merges the worlds of personal development and branding to help men and women build passion-based lives and businesses they love. Click here to access her free Foundations for Unshakable Joy™ video training series and learn the unexpected trick to transforming your life with one single question!
For more by Stephenie Zamora, click here.