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What You Say is What You Are – The Problem of Blogger Inferiority Complex

Blogger-Inferiority-ComplexImage by JettGirl

Today I was scanning through some emails from readers and it struck me that so many of those that I hear from are suffering from a similar ailment. Let me share a few excerpts from emails I received today and see if you can spot what it is:

“Darren, I’m just a small blogger but was wondering….”
I’m no A-list blogger but I wanted to let you know…..”
“I’ve only got 70 readers a day….”
“My RSS reader counter is embarrassing….”
“I don’t know any HTML…. I feel like I have so much to learn….”
“I’m just starting out and don’t know much about blogging…..”
“In comparison to others I’m just a small fry….”
“I don’t write as well as they do….”

Notice something about all of these emails?

They all define themselves by something that they are not achieving, that they don’t know, that they don’t have….

Many of them are also based upon a comparison with others.

While I understand why they do this (many are emailing asking for advice and it’s logical to present a problem in such an instance) I wonder if it is also a little more than that.

My suspicion is that many of us as bloggers think of ourselves in similar ways and have “blogger inferiority complex“.

There’s are 3 problems with this type of thinking:

1. The impact it has on You

The main problem with defining yourself with words that describe what you are NOT is that it impacts the way that you think about yourself. I strongly believe that the words we use to talk about ourselves (spoken and thought) impact us.

No I’m not going to get you chanting positive mantras about yourself with the promise of it magically transforming your life but I do think that if you’re continually thinking of yourself in terms of what you are NOT that it has an impact and can be a limiting factor on what you ARE.

Also when your view of yourself is tied to what others do and achieve it can also be very limiting and stop you from actually be something that distracts you from your own true potential (more on this later).

My wife often encourages her friends to be more positive about themselves by using the concept of ‘self fulfilling prophecy’. Sometimes when all we can see is what we can’t do or have not achieved it’s too difficult to move past it and these things not only are our present but they become our future also.

“If we did all of the things that we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” – Thomas Edison

Edison is right – each of us has amazing potential, however unless we learn to see what we have and can do rather than focus upon what we can’t or what others are doing we’re likely to even catch a glimpse of what we can do let alone ever achieve it.

2. The impact that it has on your Readers

While most of the negative definitions of ourselves are generally kept to ourselves or are only spoken about in private – at times they do creep into our blogging and can impact our readers.

Sometimes this happens explicitly (I regularly see people apologizing to readers about the things that they don’t do well) and sometimes it happens more subtly.

I’m not arguing that we should pretend to be something that we’re not and to only talk about the positives in our lives (I think being transparent and honest with readers about our failures can actually be powerful) however when the negative self view becomes the dominating one it can’t help but impact readers.

If you can’t be positive about yourself why would your readers be?

3. The impact it has on other Bloggers

In a similar way – when you talk about yourself in terms of what you’re yet to do, achieve or become your words can impact other bloggers also. I noticed this particularly at the recent SXSW conference where there was a wonderful room set up specifically for bloggers.

As I interacted with bloggers I noticed three groups of people:

  1. Those who pumped up themselves and their blogs beyond the reality of them. The ego and arrogance of this group (a real minority of those I met I should add) was something to behold!
  2. Those who defined themselves by what they are not. Just like the email excerpts above this group quite often introduced themselves with a ‘I’m just a small blogger….’
  3. Those who seemed to have a healthy blend of positivity and humility

It was interesting to see how these three groups of bloggers were received by other bloggers that were in the room. Group one was sniggered about, Group two tended to be talked to politely but people quickly moved on and Group 3 tended to be the ones that people gravitated towards. This third group was also the ones that seemed to get a lot of links after SXSW from other bloggers who were there.

If you want to grow your profile with other bloggers in your niche then I think it’s really important to get the balance right.

How to Define Yourself More Positively

Ironically this post has become a little negative hasn’t it! I’ve just spent the last 850 words talking pointing out how many of us have the problem of pointing out the problems in our lives….

Yes I do see the irony in this, however before I offer some more positives suggestions on how to dig yourself out of a negative framework it’s important to talk about the problem itself (the purpose of this post).

So how do you turn your negativity around and become a more positive blogger in the way that you think about yourself and your blog? I’ve got a post lined up for tomorrow with some of my ideas on the question but in the mean time I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Update: Here’s the 2nd Part in this series of posts.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. How about keeping in mind that there is not just one “right way” of doing things when it comes to blogging, and that we all evolve and improve as we go along. It’s perfectly ok to do things your own way, in your own time… and there’s no need to match the pace, expectations and accomplishments, or to follow the same path as anyone else.

  2. Darren,

    Thanks for bringing this issue front and center for all of us. No matter what stage of blogging we’re at, we can focus on the positive and have a vision for where we want to be in the future. All bloggers start from the same base. Those who succeed have perseverance, hard work, a positive attitude, vision and planning to thank for it.

    Can everyone succeed at making money as a blogger? I’d say it depends on their attitude and on what’s in their head space. You become what you think about all day.


  3. I recently tried a recommended game that focuses on developing your inhibition skills.

    It’s called MindHabits and it helps improve your ability to identify people who are negative and filter them out…pretty cool.

    I agree that if you set yourself up to fail in your mind, you will not reach your goals.

    I don’t typically subscribe to writings like “The Secret” because the information isn’t new, and it’s not really possible, in my experience, to think something into existence, no matter how positive I am. But, focusing on what you aren’t means you’re stuck looking at the past and you have nowhere to go but the future, so quit looking in the rear view mirror.

  4. Darren, Thank you for this post. Your post topics are almost always timed perfectly with issues I have as a blogger. I just recently made a comment on my blog about how I am “no where near popular” while true, I can see that it is also very negative. Sure, I don’t have hundreds of visitors a day, but I have a nice core group of people that continue to visit.
    Looking forward to the next post on this.

  5. Darren, I usually make a comment to a nice article a little more personal, but you hit on a subject very near to my heart and I actually have 2 posts in the past 2 weeks I have written on the subject:

    1). http://www.changeforge.com/2008/04/18/do-you-walk-the-critical-path/

    2). http://www.changeforge.com/2008/04/28/are-you-cowardly-or-committed/

    Your post almost reminds me of the Dao of Pooh ;-)

  6. The problem with going negative is that it never accomplishes anything. Ever.

    So why waste your time?

    I have a friend who can find the positive aspect of being on the Titanic. It makes me crazy. But you know what? Things always seems to work out for them. It truly is the power of positve thinking.

    Live From Las Vegas (Where Hope Springs Eternal)
    The Masked Millionaire

  7. I think many people come to times when they have some self-doubts. This post is a great reminder to just STOP IT, before you become too entrenched in the practice.

  8. This is off topic but it was just two short months ago that I “tiptoed” onto this site in awe.

    I barely knew what blogging was let alone that there were “experts” writing advice blogs about it.

    Now, through great sites like yours, I’m happily (OK, some days I swear – OK I swear a lot!) blogging along the road to happy destiny!

    You are a wonderful example. Thanks for being there.

  9. I never own one of the inferiority complex in my career on blogging, so far it’s been fun for me doing blogging. never even once to think im inferior than Darren Rowse of john chow, so whoever suffer inferiority complex then you could start to remove that rite now, because no reason for you to do so!

  10. Don’t get downhearted! When I worked as a paper journalist I made a good living on monthly magazines with circulations as low as 5000/month. I’ve always lived in niches.

  11. Hi Darren,
    great post. I have to admit that I tend to change between group 2 and 3 – sometimes I think “oh, other people can do this much better” and sometimes I think “oh, I am doing quite well”. This especially happens when I get a positive feed back.
    I think for me the best is, not to compare myself to the “blogger elite”, but to reflect on my own way of progress.

  12. I think a reader wants to be impressed, informed and inspired, but in a way that he or she can identify with – and if that means a blogger being a little bit vulnerable or a little bit unashamedly rubbish in some areas, then that’s a good mix. We’ve all got things wrong. We are all acquainted with both ends of the stick.

    It’s vitally important to use mistakes and shortcomings as opportunities for growth and calls to action, not turning them into millstones.

    As you say, the word is ‘humility’. Unceasing, vocally self-obsessive contempt is another form of arrogance, I think. After all, we all can, and do, get things wrong all the time.

    The most successful people in the world are motivated by their ‘nots’…..they just don’t wallow in them.

  13. Darren,

    This is a powerful and important post. Thank you.

    One thought on avoiding negativity is to set the goal of making each post informative, inspiring, empowering or enlightening. Pointing out our flaws and shortcomings can help readers feel a common bond and show humility, but we can’t leave it there. When we impact readers lives in a positive way we fulfill blogging’s greatest potential.

  14. What a great post… quickly generated so many replies. Great suggestions from everyone!

    Thanks for starting this discussion, Darren.

  15. You are absolutely correct here. In all my studies and interviews of highly successful people, one of the traits they all have in common is that they believe in themselves.

    They define themselves in terms of who they are and who they are becoming (all positive things) rather than in terms of who they are not (negativity).

    Whether you call it inferiority complex, lack of belief, lack of confidence, poor self-esteem, whatever, it is all the same thing.

    To be successful, define yourself in terms of who you are and who you are becoming. Always move forward, don’t look backward. If you tell yourself (and your readers) that you are NOT capable of doing something, your mind (and your readers) will believe that.

    Those are the types of subjects I write about and speak about all the time.

    Good post, keep up the good work.

    Stanley Bronstein
    Attorney, CPA, Author, Blogger & Professional Motivational Speaker

  16. Another superb post, Darren. I think you should be making these kind of posts more often.

    Yes, bloggers are humans too and sometimes we feel low when we seem to be not reaching our goal.

    But we should not show it within our blog or to other bloggers. They will feel the same too.

    This has been my goal in life. I do not make self-pity in front of others. I do when I am alone and afterward, review myself and think of what to do next.

    I think to overcome this feeling, we should never compare ourselves to someone else, higher or lower.

    The best thing one should do is to compare yourself to yourself. By doing this, you may be able to realize your mistake and correct it.

    In addition, if you compare yourself to the lower ones, you tend to be overconfident.

    I would like to end this comment with my favorite saying:

    “Failure is never fatal, success is never final”


  17. Did you have a conversation with my husband recently about my attitude about my own blog? It just seems too timely,,,,

    @Barabara-I love your Bach quote.

  18. Good point here about being positive. It’s not a very good idea if you come across as nett-negative overall and with nothing to inspire your readers. Why would anyone want to follow such a blog anyway?

  19. When I run into a problem, I take a few minutes to figure out exactly what’s holding things up, and then think of a few steps I can take towards a solution. This does two things: 1) Immediately stops me from wallowing since I’ve reframed and gotten to the root of the problem, and 2) Gives me a solution to focus on and work towards. Thinking positively just isn’t enough, you need to consciously take action and do some work to turn things around. I do believe that what you focus your energy on expands.

    My blog offers mostly timeless writing, but once a month I post a blogging journal with an update on what I did and didn’t accomplish. Most importantly, at the end of the post, I have a list of goals to accomplish for the next month. Even if I don’t get everything done, I don’t feel bad, I celebrate what I did accomplish, and work on the other items for the following month. Sincerely, Amanda

  20. It is not how many people click on your domain that is important, but how many people actually read and comment on your blog.

    There is no such thing as a “small fry”. If you have something to say, please say it. Others will comment to you and you engage with them in productive dialog.

    Communication is a self fulfilling prophecy!

  21. I loved this post Darren, you are right. Many people ( in general ) many times are negative with themselves, creating an atmosphere of bad feelings. This way they could not make anything, because they are limiting their minds…

    Being positive is the best we can do, the limit is our imagination, keep it in mind.

  22. I had lost my blogging way, and I think you just diagnosed my ailment, Doc Rowse. I’ll take these couple of posts, and maybe blog about ’em in the morning…

  23. Hi Darren…
    Great post! I just started a blog this week, and I already have the complex! I hear all about traffic and making money. But right now, I just want to use my blog as a way to make my thoughts public.

    I just want to be the best I can be!

  24. It’s all about socializing, you will learn many things while you keep blogging. Good luck!

  25. I am deffnately an A type. I love to write and am waiting for more traffic. http://drthaxter.blogspot.com is my first blog and I love it. It has, as does ‘publicvariety’ info and ?’s. Having been attacked in 2001, spending 4 1/2 years in a wheelchair taught me alot about myself. They said I would never walk again, I do. No surgery, no pills for pain, just alot of hard work and positive attiude. NO ONE TELLS ME I CANNOT DO SOMETHING. Every one can learn, I guess that is the point of my blogs and I love the way you are letting people know it all within their grasp. Keep up the great work, I am finishing my first week as a blogger soon. Thanks to the likes of you.

  26. I will echo the words of Chris Marshall. While there are undoubtedly some insecure bloggers out there I think there are others who use these types of comments strictly for manipulation.

    And the fractal brothers comment made me laugh!

  27. Hey Darren,

    I have been blogging since Sept 2007 and I’m still learning more and more each day about the blogosphere.

    I did start off being a little too apologetic but I quickly changed. I have only a few readers right now but it doesn’t stop me from using my posts as springboards for publishing articles as well as a way to think out loud and clarify my thoughts on various subjects.

    I am currently reading a fabulous book which ties in nicely to what you are talking about. It’s called, “Egonomics” (http://www.readegonomics.com/). The authors talk about the 3 pillars of a healthy ego as being 1) Humility 2) Curiosity 3) Veracity.

    Maybe the problem here is not a Blogger inferiority complex. Blogs reflect who the blogger is, so the problem might simply be a lack of confidence in the blogger.

    I think that everyone should feel that they have something worthwhile to contribute and whether or not they are as popular as Seth Godin should have nothing to do with how or what they say.

    Thanks for the post!


  28. I am a new blogger, and while I don’t know any HTML and rely on the online function of WordPress, I still insist that it is the writing and content that matters. Look at Maddox, for example; his site is just text in various colours, and a few images dotted around. Yet, he has a crazy amount of readers, and he’s one of the most popular writers (I won’t say blogger, as he resents blogs) since the beginning of such culture.

  29. I think I’m amazing, but it’s discouraging to see your feed burner counter stuck at 0 after 2 months.

    I mean, I didn’t think I was that amazing.

    in my defense, I do this for fun – not for money, or ego. But it would be nice to know that someone is reading.

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