There is this idea that personal bloggers or individuals who mostly write about themselves on the internet are being narcissistic when they share personal stories. I remember the first time I heard that statement a few years ago and winced at the thought. I revisited that statement quite recently and again, my objections arose, not because I have written about myself online, but because of the people I have come across the internet who do this. I cannot remember any incident where I came across a personal blogger or personal essayist and thought Ugh, they are so full of themselves. In fact, the opposite happened. Because of these people, these storytellers and truthsayers, I became braver and bolder. I began to take up more space and “go there” with pieces that had previously only taken residence in my head. And best of all, I made genuine connections with a number of these people. In fact, I found lifelong friends because they took to task the strangeness, fearsome, and exhilarating experience of sharing parts of themselves online.
I sat down and made it a point to think about what made those connections so meaningful. I considered why these writers resonated with me so much that the word “narcissism” never crossed my mind. And I decided to take my observations from these people and create what I hope to be a helpful guide on how to write about yourself without being narcissistic.
1. Be vulnerable
This is can be hard, but it is incredibly rewarding. Admit when you mess up. Share a not-so-pleasant moment in your life. Seeing your vulnerable side among the thoughtful personal commentary and among the accolades you may share will remind your audience that yes, you are human. In this airbrushed digital age, we need those reminders.
2. Share valuable lessons you learned from your personal experiences that you know others will benefit from
And as you write about this, pretend as if you are visiting a cherished friend at a coffee shop. Pretend as if you are talking to them and write as such. This mindset will help keep your tone accountable, encouraging you to write to your audience in a relatable way as opposed to an authoritarian, preachy manner. But I know that in other moments when you are writing about yourself, you may need to be more forthright to get your point across. Use wisdom to determine which tone is needed in your piece.
3. Turn your personal blog posts and personal essays into a conversation.
One great way to do this is to end your blog post or essay with a relevant question that your audience can answer. For example, if you are talking about a moment in which you experienced growth through a difficult circumstance, at the very end of your blog post, ask your audience if they have also experienced something similar and how that changed them. And of course, respond to them if they comment.
4. Directly address your audience in your piece
You can turn it into an open letter, addressing your audience saying “Dear (type of person you are writing to).” You can also write in such a way that it sounds like a scenario, beginning with “Let’s say you…” or “Let’s pretend that you…” followed by what actually happened to you. After you have given them the brief story, you can follow with something like “that is exactly what happened to me.” That turnaround from having your audience as the subject of the piece and later revealing that it happened to you creates an opportunity for even more emotional impact in your post or essay.
5. Read others’ personal written pieces and let them know when they resonate with you.
Just as you are interested in connecting with others through your story, take genuine interest in others’ stories. Sure enough, you will come across others’ experiences that you can connect to. Let them know in a meaningful comment or email that it struck a chord with you. You can also share their piece on social media and mention how great you found it. By doing these things, you are demonstrating that writing is not an individualistic pursuit.
6. Be genuine
This one is a no brainer.
I hope that in your journey of self-expression, you grow not only as a writer but as an individual who seeks to make a positive impact. I also hope that you meet likeminded souls along the way, folks that lift you up and challenge you to be your best self. Most importantly, I hope you return the favor.