Feel Great Naked: Confidence Boosters for Getting Personal

painting Dejeuner sur l'herbe

One of the underlying themes from last weekend’s SOBCon was putting more you into your work. There are literally hundreds of millions of blogs out there, with more starting every day. In a sea of competition, you’ve got to capitalize on what makes you unlike anyone else.

Your unique point of view. Your writing style. Your own individual, personal stories and the way they shape your message.

There’s just one problem with all of that. It’s terrifying.

It sounds great and idealistic to just be completely yourself online, to strip naked on your blog and hope people will love you. In practice, it’s not just scary, it’s a good way to give yourself a ferocious case of writer’s block. Not to mention making life easier for the occasional wacko or stalker.

Fortunately, there’s a middle ground between being Howard Hughes and Roseanne Barr. There’s an art to revealing personal details on your blog without making yourself look dumb, pathetic or just giving out TMI.

There’s Naked and then There’s Naked

We’ve all got our own definition. Dooce’s version of naked would make me pretty nervous, but I’m downright wild compared to Godin. Decide how much personal “skin” you’re willing to show.

Don’t wing it. Sit down and work out, in writing, exactly what you will and won’t talk about. Maybe you’ll talk about old boyfriends but not your current husband, or you’ll say anything about your parents but nothing about your kids. Decide exactly where you draw the line, and live by that.

If you write a post that goes over your particular line, you can edit it and save the personal stuff for your private journal, or sleep on it (at least two nights, ideally) and post it anyway. Either way, you’ll have made a conscious decision.

When Blogging Naked Isn’t Your Idea

If you’ve got a secret somewhere, you may be closer than you think to having it shared with the world. Your sexual orientation, questionable business deals, the foulmouthed voicemail messages you used to leave, that inconvenient FTC filing. If it’s out there, someone will find it.

The first rule of professional communication is: Always tell your own story. If there’s a juicy secret out there, beat ‘em to the punch. Don’t wait around for someone else to break the news. Come clean, be as honest as you can stand, admit you’re embarrassed (if you are) and move on. When you spill your own scandals, you take away about 98% of their energy. Any political advisor will tell you that the cover-up always does more damage than the original indiscretion.

Don’t Undress Anyone But Yourself

Your spouse, your kids or that hilarious control freak neighbor might not be as ready to unveil themselves as you are. Pseudonyms are a great idea if you’re going to write about other people. The occasional obfuscating detail is good, too. Change the unimportant stuff–race, age, weight, height–so you can keep the important emotional details intact.

And if you’re a little nervous about your own personal details, there’s nothing wrong with using a pseudonym yourself. Woody Allen, Billy Holiday and Lenny Bruce all managed to communicate an intensely personal message without using the names on their birth certificates. If using another name gives you a little more courage to let your readers see through to the real you, go for it.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is CMO of Copyblogger Media and founder of Remarkable Communication. She’d love to hang out with you on twitter — but no, she doesn’t get naked there.

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Comments

  1. Trying not to copy how ‘open’ other bloggers are and sticking to what you are comfortable with is probably quite essential…If we pretend we get caught out.

  2. Great post and great topic Sonia! People often remark that my openness on stage and in my blog is helpful to them in their own lives. And they tell me I’m “brave” for being open. What I always say is that when I control the output (i.e. – stage banter) it’s easy to be open. But I’m never comfortable “being seen” – which usually involves some current stupid thing I’ve done or am dealing with!

  3. There is definitely an art in how to reveal oneself.

    I write about personal development and also read many blogs in the field. The posts that I find most inspiring are always those that draw from the writer’s real life experiences. So I aspire to write such stories myself, and from the comments and stats, I see this approach works well.

    However, revealing oneself doesn’t mean revealing every little details of one’s life. What is revealed need to be relevant and meaningful to the message of the post.

    So I often write about my experience of coming to the US because it works to inspire my readers to find courage that is sleeping in them. It also works in the context of valuing our own uniqueness.

    Thank you for a great post and the opportunity to share my view.

  4. Sonia,

    This post was loaded with great points, particularly “you’ve got to capitalize on what makes you unlike anyone else.” There are over 50 million blogs out there on the web. And unless those people provide something unique and different, they will probably go unnoticed. Excellent post.

  5. Right on. You have to be yourself. If your not, sooner or later someone will “out you.”

    Getting noticed takes work.

    You need a plan, and a commitment to that plan. You need passion for what you are doing.

    Live From Las Vegas
    The Masked Millionaire

  6. I’m not comfortable with how you lumped hiding one’s sexual orientation with “questionable business deals, the foulmouthed voicemail messages you used to leave, that inconvenient FTC filing.”

    Being gay is not immoral.

  7. Excellent point, A.J. I meant orientation purely as an example of something that many people feel the need to hide at some point in their lives.

  8. Thanks for the clarification, Sonia :)

  9. I LOVED this article.

    People just want the truth.

    From my experience being authentic, congruent AND consistent are important elements in building credibility and allowing people to believe and trust in you.

    We all have a story we can share the world and delivering truth and value which will truly help others are key.

    It’s true . . . “the truth shall make you free.”

  10. Great article – full of good points and a great reminder to bloggers everywhere. The graphic, however, seems inappropriate.

  11. The graphic, however, seems inappropriate.

    Really? Sorry about that…

    I guess I see nothing inappropriate about the female form.

  12. My blog readers often tell me how much they enjoy the blog because of how open and honest I am about everything in my life. Since my blog is about personal growth I kind of have to be naked. If I’m not willing to share my personal growth stories, how can I convince anyone to change their own lives?

    Of course I’m not totally naked – I do keep the blog family-friendly…

    Cheers,
    Alex

  13. Loved the graphic (um…hope that is not painting thew wrong picture, I AM happily married LOL) loved your words and the whole picture your post paints.

    I have developed a fetish for getting naked on my own blog and the response has been nothing but amazing.

    Now if you are hoping to actually see me undress – beat it!

  14. We’ve tried the professional, stiffer route. It fit like a bad suit. Being ourselves and showing our personality has made a huge difference on our blog.

    It’s also very easy to be personal and to hide all personal details at the same time. People can probably pin down what type of person I am easily from having read my blog… but they know very little indeed about my personal life.

    What counts is that they think they know me, and that’s fine. I have my privacy, I’m relaxed and they feel my personality. Win win win.

    The picture’s fine. Sheesh.

  15. James hit it on the head here. His adoring fans get snippets of his life (he has a teen and a toddler, for example) but not a heck of a lot else. And that’s just fine, because what he does give us is genuine. We do know James, even if we are light on details.

    My brand is, by its nature, a personal brand: I tell stories about my dreams and about my life as an Internet writer in order to help other Internet writers achieve their dreams, but I do so in a way that holds back most of the mildly interesting but ultimately distracting personal information that I could give.

  16. A warning on the fake name idea – all bloggers are going to have to be a little more transparent in May 2008 in the UK, when laws stipulate you have to declare any association or payment by a brand.

    My real name isn’t kenobi, but I’m not selling anything – yet. But when I do, I’ll think about ‘doing a Scoble’.

    How about saying something like ‘This [product] is great. They paid me to say that, but I’d buy it anyway.’?

  17. I just want to add this: It is a waste of time and energy to keep secrets about yourself. You care way more than other people care about your life and what you may or may not have done. It is best to open up, vent, move on, and advance to the next stage. Let others worry about hiding in the corner.

    Live From Las Vegas
    The Masked Millionaire

  18. Sonia your post is so timely. I missed SOBCon :( but have been challenging myself to get up close and personal with readers without throwing up on readers. I have always prided myself on being true to who I am and “keeping it real,” but doing it while blogging is harder than you think! There is a vulnerability that almost makes you queasy and it’s like having that naked in public dream come true. Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement.

  19. Sonia, I always thouroughly enjoy your posts and this one was no exception, Sorry, got nothing more constructive to add than that, but great work!!
    Oh, and to the person who said the picture was inappropriate…. um…. WHAT!?
    How so?

  20. @Karen – I want to get up close and personal with my readers but they start pecking at me. :)

    This is a great post and comment thread. It’s inspiring me to write my own outing post today.

  21. I agree that your post is very interesting and well-written, Sonia. But… I can’t say I know you any better after reading it. There’s nothing in it that tells me what makes you unlike anyone else reporting on what they learned at a conference.

    I’d have loved to have had you kick off the post with a personal story to frame the concept and show, rather than tell us, what you’re communicating.

  22. Inappropriate graphic???

    She’s beautiful… There’s no blood, no gore, no kittens being injured – there’s not even a nipple shot. Oh Well, maybe next time…

    Ironically, we’re doing a live show Sunday (5pm CDT) on Ustream talking about a very similar point. Why can large, overweight men run around topless and this girl can’t – it’s illegal? Which one would you rather see walking down the street?

  23. In the interest of full disclosure, I suppose I have to admit that the photo isn’t me.

    Of course, she *does* bear a striking resemblance . . .

    @Kenobi, I have no earthly idea what the UK law stipulates, and getting an actual lawyer to weigh in is certainly a good idea, but I would think one could disclose an economic affiliate relationship (which you should anyway) without disclosing your personal legal name. There are a number of legal hoops to jump through when doing business under another name, so this would probably fall under that.

  24. Sonia,

    (If the title is “Feel Great Naked,” then the photo is perfect. What else would it be of but a naked person?)

    This post is great. The truth is, without some self-revelation, a blog is going to be a bore. Readers need your work to be anchored in some way in order to relate to you, the author. Who, what, where when, why? Answering those questions about yourself helps me to connect with you and get involved enough to return.

    The Masked Millionaire’s comment gets it right: “You care way more than other people care about your life.” So true. No sense worrying about hiding too much. Getting naked allows people to care just enough.

    Regards,

    Kelly

  25. Great post! As a blogging real estate broker, I find most real estate blogs boring and dressed for winter. In sales, how much one exposes is a bit of a tight-rope walk. You can’t be everything to everyone. But, you have to be something to someone. I try to expose myself just enough to leave a little something to the imagination. But, maybe some fully nudes might just be the trick! Oh, and, the graphic is great.

  26. When you are your brand and Brian tells you to get naked in public you know it is the absolute right thing to do. And here is Sonia underscoring that advice. But I am usually the one looking at the nudes and drawing them. I ‘m really good at that. Being the nude?
    It requires a bit of….total fear and panic….some calmer deliberation… and then some serious looking. And some help. Because context is important. Relevance is important. Results are important. Touching your ideal audience is important. I can draw a human form in a minute or two and nail the essence the model is giving me…myself? It’s hard to know what’s interesting to others.
    Great tips… and the nude , lovely .

  27. I fully agree. Unfortunately, the web–especially the b2b web-is a sea of mediocrity. The brochure site is dead. People want more humanity when they visit a website and getting naked is about exactly that. The art of it comes in knowing just how much to reveal and just how much to keep to yourself. That’s what makes blogging so compelling to readers.

  28. @Karri–” sea of mediocrity”

    Don’t we hate that. On the other hand….makes standing out a distinct possibility.. : )

    Makes it very appealing to let go of a comfortable shore and head out to the good stuff. Maybe skinny dip a bit more. :)

  29. …so there I am with a 10 pound tub of cheese, two ladies from Vizovskii, a feather duster and a cornucopia of odd mousetraps from around the world.

    Too much?

  30. @Orange County – It really depends on the type of cheese.

  31. LOL….thanks for that visual….I’d wanna hear that one…chuckling..

  32. As my blog emerges, I struggle with how much ‘me’ because my topic is midlife marriage. My blog launched because of several deeply personal health challenges we faced early in our marriage, which caused us to question each other, our lifestyle and our future together. Our stuggles seem universal; and for now, I’ll draw content from the broad strokes of our life together.

    I think that the sense of familiarity, recognition and building community is what makes thismarriagething.com stand out, or at least that’s my story (and I’m sticking to it)

  33. @Janice, you can just dip a toe in. I’ll hold your hand if you want. :-)

    @Shannon, RE agents are such a good example. A tiny bit of showing who you really are will make you stand out tremendously.

  34. Probably a corollary to Being Naked on your blog would be Not To Assume Everyone Will Find You Attractive. Since I’m writing an advertising-related blog that I publicize to clients and the ad community, I avoid sharing any polarizing opinions or risque stories that might come back to haunt me later. Instead, I try to just provide a little food for thought and maybe a chuckle or two over advertising’s stumbles.

    http://craigmcnamara.blogspot.com

  35. No need to get lawyers involved – as a trained journalist you develop a keen eye for any legal issues. All you need to remember is just be transparent. Well, as much as you can be with a fake name.

  36. I’ve developed a thick skin going through art school, so now it’s weird but it’s easier to be completely open than to try to hold back. Sometimes I think I go too far, but being open has become who I am. Certainly didn’t used to be, but I now love self-promotion. Helpful as an artist! Therapeutic as a human being.

    Peace.

  37. @ Sonia- ; -) First margaritas.. then we all go into the pool…love the kitty!! chuckling here. I hear you.

  38. I’m a lawyer, so if anybody needs to be bailed out of trouble:-)

    Just kiddin’

    Great post!

  39. Ok, this post inspired me to out myself.

    btw, I looked for a naked picture to post but the closest I came was a picture taken of me in a bar. I’m pretty sure nakedness occurred a few hours later…

  40. Wow! I can’t remember a word I read, but I remember that picture. Kidding (sort of…) Got to love working naked and woman into a legitimate article. I smell search engine fodder.

    Great article. It can be tough to determine how much of “you” to let through. Sometimes the circumstances dictate a total filter, but other times choosing between sterile/formal and you can be tough. I like hearing that others are thinking about it.

  41. Interesting post, as my blog’s called The Naked Coywriter.

    The name came from the idea that I wanted it BS-free.

    It also seemed to go with a photo I had of myself on my honeymoon (although I’m not fully naked in it, so I hope it’s appropriate enough for you.)

    I reveal what I really think and feel but I always think hard about what I want to share. I mean you’d hardly call it an expose. I don’t know. See what you think.

  42. Whoa, Sonia! You’ve one-upped James and Harry in terms of sexy blog post photos! Not easy to do …

  43. @ Dave – Just you wait… We’re due for some racy.

  44. Sonia, this is a GREAT article! When I saw the title, and the fact that it is on Brian’s website, I had high hopes, and you totally delivered. I’m just starting out and have had this EXACT question cross my mind more than once…

    How much will I reveal? I will use your post to think/write it out tonight and “stick with it'”.

    Way to go!

    PS: If we get naked in our blogs will we look like that girl on top? Figuratively, of course… :)

  45. Sonia I had to go there with today’s post. : )

  46. @Janice, I saw! Nicely done, as well. :)

    @Jen, but of course! Reading copyblogger & remarkable communication regularly will create firmer, more toned content in 30 days or less. :D

  47. @ Jen And Sonia- :)) There’s an offer!

  48. Great post, Sonia. This is something I’ve been thinking about lately with my blog. I’m not rich, but if I were would I want to showcase it?

    Another blogger I know had someone who read their blog call their mother and say, “did you know your child is planning . . . ”

    Crazy! Almost as crazy as anywhere James Chartrand’s name is mentioned on the web he magically appears.

  49. @ John – Now that is *not* true… I just happen to be in many places at once. ;)

  50. I think James secretly clones himself!

    Actually, I think it’s pretty cool. It’s like you see the web in Matrix code.

  51. @Brian Clark – I just noticed the .ico image in the address bar for Copyblogger. Is that new or am I just totally blind? LOL

  52. This is great advice, and the think the balance between full nudity and selectively showing some (writer’s) skin is a tough one.

    While we’re on the topic of nudity, check out Robin Wolaner’s book “Naked in the Boardroom”. I just posted about it (albeit 3 years after it’s publication).

    Best,
    Mark

  53. everytime I share something personal or raw I find someone has a similar experience to share, seemingly by me being open and vulnerable – it gives another permission to do the same – the best part is it keeps on giving, you realize you are not alone and you sometimes create a new friendship – I call it getting real.

  54. Great post. I think the theme of putting more “you” into your blog is something that I can benefit from. Sometimes it is easy to blog because you havn’t in a few days and you feel it is needed but a bad blog post is worse than going silent for a few days in my opinion. Better to wait until you are in the zone. thanks

  55. Such a great topic. I used to blog about open adoption and foster adoption, but after a while I felt I was getting over the line on personal issues, especially around the birth mom and my daughter, so I quit and moved to other topics. – maybe too late as I’d already written a lot about our family. I’m happy to share anything and everything about me, but now I have to draw the line on personal family issues.

  56. jonson roth :

    Very inspirational article – true to the spirit of blogging. How about a follow-up article that discusses how to actually “get naked” without offering TMI?

  57. This is definitely a really important balance to strike. Without revealing some of yourself, your writing can be dull and impersonal. But of course we each have our limit. Crucial topic in these times.

  58. Haha this is a great post and i love the picture ;)

    I think personal details can help in some cases. I mean it develops a relationship with your readers better than anything else.

    http://onlinemoneyforteens.blogspot.com
    Rory

  59. I like this article.

  60. I have always written with my own name as well as my girlfriend, now wife and our daughter. This has been very good for us and my blog because it gave readers a window into our lives. I tend to pull less punches these days even after we had a recent family tragedy I blogged my feelings about it, not just for me (because yes much of it was for me and my feelings and my need to express them) but also in case some other men, fathers, husbands, boyfriends and so on, may have gone through the same thing and needed to feel connected. I couldn’t do that if I wasn’t real on my blog.

  61. Nice post, Sonia. As someone working on starting a blog/website/business all at once, I find myself now feeling a bit paralyzed on WHICH shots of skin I should show, in order to maximize the audience that will be the most gung-ho about this movement. Thanks for re-focusing my thoughts on setting my own boundaries, which will naturally help me to zero-in on the definition brand of my brand and audience. @BenSpark – great point. Blogging IS all about connections, and feeling connected! :)

  62. Great write up about writing and everything concerned with being the newest blogger on the block. Particularly liked the information about being personal and using aliases of close people so as not to share anything you shouldn’t. I think if I do write about anyone I know I usually try to change the name but never thought of changing the gender or the race before.

  63. This is an interesting point of view that is worth its weight in gold if used properly.

  64. Thanks, no seriously thanks alot.

    Upon reading this I have been filled with bold inspiration and a surge of creativity.

    This is so awesome.

  65. Having been told I was a naked writer and somebody who writes from the inside out – I find this article to be super funny. I love that you totally got naked. I really appreciate it. Thanks. Just got your lesson number five. Reading right along. Don’t get dressed on my account.

  66. getting naked in front of your readers is necessary, if you think of becoming a successful one in your field. thanks for the wonderful article

  67. I love being naked, the problem is that I have cerebral palsy, and (apparently) I can’t be left alone at home because of that. So, I can’t get naked without someone walking in on me.

    It’s a fact that people like to be naked. Why don’t we just get naked? If people feel comfortable that way, then just get naked. It’s a free world. But make sure it’s warm enough.

  68. Hi there! I am a brand new, bright-eyed fan of copyblogger. Simone what you wrote is very true and the degree of “nakedness” is truly entirely personal but it should also be balanced by the audience you aim for. It is a delicate balance but my strategy is simple – do no harm to myself or to others. Whatever the case a little nakedness once in a while cannot hurt! :))