When the power of our identity constrains our actions and growth.
Launching a newsletter supports my personal and professional goal of showing up, being seen, and sharing my knowledge, skills, and work with the world. And it is a fairly simple process to do.
Three Simple Steps to Launch a Newsletter:
- First, set up a way to gather people’s emails.
- Second, write content.
- Third, send that content to those people’s inbox. That’s it!
Step One — Done. Mailchimp for the gold! Step Two — Solid. An Evernote full of unshared writing and ideas to use as source material Step Three — *crickets*.
This is a simple thing to do, right? Apparently not, as I have not sent a newsletter yet.
What can I do to make step three happen?
I could find a supportive community online of entrepreneurs and freelancers, set up deadlines for myself, and teeter on the edge of trying to trick, guilt, or plan myself into doing something that I truly want to do anyway. I could go down the rabbit hole of researching how everyone else formats and structures their newsletters. I could get caught up in the supposed to’s and best practices. I could read articles about writing prompts and productivity techniques. I could distract myself by watching an entire season of Parks and Recreation on Netflix and say I’ll do it tomorrow.
I could and did do all of those things. And yet, not a single person has received a newsletter from me.
Clearly something else was going on. I was constraining myself and I’m wasn’t sure why. I decided to dig into that question — why won’t I publish a newsletter? Why am I making it so hard when I know it is simple?
Gathering the Tools:
A main tool I have to help me navigate into this messy, deep, introspective question is knowledge and experience applying the design thinking methodology to problems. And Post-Its. I’m using lots of Post-Its!
Applying Design Thinking Methodology to My Problem:
- Discovery of Information. In this case I am both the researcher and the user. But, luckily for me, I’ve been consistently writing in a journal on a regular basis throughout my life starting as a middle school girl. I had already amassed a primary source of information to do a longitudinal study of myself through time.
- Do Empathic Research. Reread 10 years of said journals and take notes. Notice the patterns that emerged in my life. Pay attention to the things I continually and repeatedly struggled with. Make observations about actions and situations without judgement. Note where what I said and what I did misaligned.
- Make Sense of My Research. I broke out the Post-Its, dived into my notes, and put all the research on Post-Its. This observation on a post-it, that struggle on a post-it, and that feeling on a post-it.
- Find the Themes. I grouped my notes. By putting like with like, four connected themes emerged and I was able to labeled them — Fear of Disconnection, Identity Double Binds, Going it Alone, and Unwillingness to Be Seen.
- Dive Deeper. What insights can I identify? How are insights connected? Where are there exceptions and what about those things are different? What are the whys happening behind the scenes?
Huh.. I found a couple interesting tidbits which I feel provide a working answer to my question. One is that I seem to hold a (unwanted but still powerful) value of being a low-maintainence person which contradicts with how being seen and being vulnerable would be expressed for me. Those conflicting ideas create a double bind situation where I felt unable to be both seen (publish a newsletter) and also hold that ‘go it alone/low-maintainence’ identity. That identity has been the stronger force so far and so the actions of launching a newsletter and being seen weren’t happening. All the planning and pressure in the world don’t stand a change against the power of identity.
What stands a chance against the power of identity? Deep, caring understanding and acknowledgement of its existence. Now that I know you exist I can name you; I can notice when and why you show up and change my responses and interactions. I can ask myself how I might challenge that identity in small ways. How I might integrate my desire to be seen and known well with the needs powering that identity until it grows and changes into a new more well aligned identity.
So, what is next?
This is not about sending a newsletter. This is about more than that. This is about excavating the old and unwanted stories that constrain me. This is about moving through fear and doing the thing anyway.
And that doing of the thing looks different than I thought it would.