In public relations (PR)– the field in which I work — a boilerplate is the standard paragraph of text found at the bottom of every news release that offers up key information about your company. You might consider it a long-winded version of an “elevator speech.”
While I have no trouble telling people about my job in ten words — “I’m the public relations manager at a top digital agency” — I found myself in a pickle this weekend at a PR conference with respect to my blog.
You see, when I began blogging, in spite of laying it all out there for anyone who could Google “disordered eater” (I ranked #1 and #2 for forever; my old blog domain is now #3) I was deeply ashamed of the topic.
I mean, really, who wants to admit something as taboo as, “I’m blogging about my ongoing disordered eating recovery journey. I’ve never been anorexic or bulimic — but I chew and spit, and overexercise, and have a sordid and complicated relationship with food. I’m in therapy and also using my blog as a way to beat this.”
Not exactly the stuff of water cooler chats or cocktail reception shmoozing.
So I’d tone it down, depending on who I was speaking with. I’d say something safe and vague and possibly relate-able — such as, “I’m blogging about food issues,”or “I’m writing about weight challenges and body image,” for example.
Anything was better than admitting the ugly truth of what I was doing.
But in time, I realized I needed to own it. If I was going to be blogging on a public platform (versus a private journal) then I had to accept the responsibility — and consequences — that came from such an existence.
The better I got on my recovery journey, the easier it was for me to talk about. Like someone who once was in debt but now had no bills to pay, I felt more sure of myself and my ability to stay the course. I felt like I was in a position to “save” money instead of sinking further into the red.
I found myself opening up to people when they asked, and the more I talked about it, the easier it got. I grew less and less ashamed and instead, felt proud of what I was doing and how others were relating. I can’t tell you how many emails and Facebook messages I’ve gotten from old friends, random strangers, you name it … people who could relate and were grateful someone was out there talking about this taboo topic.
I felt like I could be an advocate for women experiencing the same feelings and engaging in similar (ugly) behaviors. And if I could get past my issues and be a source of inspiration for others — all the better! By March 2009 I was fully recovered — and haven’t slipped up since. Sure, I still deal with emotional eating from time to time and I haven’t lost the ten pre-pregnancy pounds I’d like to … but I became a mom and well, that feels less important. Plus, in spite of them, I feel pretty good in this skin.
And blogging about my issues has led to many good things. In addition to blogging at WeAretheRealDeal and speaking on a panel at the first FitBloggin’ conference, I’ve been featured in Fitness Magazine and on ABCNews.com, and will be in the Oct/Nov issue of FitPregnancy (I’m not pregnant–but I was interviewed for a piece on disordered eating and pregnancy). Finally, I’ve recently had two pieces published at Babble.com (check them out here and here).
I share this because none of these things would have happened, had I not publicly outed myself here on my original blog.
The problem is — I’m not blogging about “that stuff” anymore because, well, that doesn’t epitomize my life anymore. My existence is centered around my family: Luis, Maya and Rocco. My parents. My siblings. My friends. Motherhood. Our home. Travel. Family walks. BBQs. Zumba. Peanut butter. Shopping. Chocolate. Writing. Shutterfly.
Which leads me to my blog now.
I’m currently blogging with far less frequency about whatever I find interesting, whenever I feel the urge to write. I’m writing about body image and raising a daughter; I’m blogging about Maya’s growth and development; I’m blogging about the challenges of being a working-outside-the-home-mom. I’m sharing pics and vids and thoughts and feelings about my post-baby body and weight. But without the obsession on size or the scale, those posts come off as tame (in my mind’s eye, compared to where I was mentally four or five years ago).
So my blog really doesn’t fit neatly into any one category at this moment, and that became quite evident last week in New York. On the first day of a 2-day PR conference, I was chatting with one of the young women seated next to me. We were talking about our Twitter activity levels and after she said she doesn’t use her account much, I admitted that, aside from managing my company’s Twitter account, I really mostly use Twitter personally for my blog, more than for engaging with others. Her natural next question was, “Cool — what’s your blog about?”
I found myself once again stumbling like back in the early days. “Well I used to blog about food issues and body image, but now I’m writing about motherhood and raising a daughter …”
It might sound OK written out, but even as I was saying it, I didn’t like my answer. As a PR person who knows how to wordsmith, when it comes to my own blogging identity, I’m at a loss. I don’t have a good boilerplate, let alone a good elevator speech. And that is not OK.
I chose this new title (Let There Be Light) because I felt like I wanted to shine light on the positives in life — to find the good in even challenging times, and not dwell on the negative. My old blog was a downward spiral in many senses — literally one could witness me fail — and while I did eventually achieve recovery, it wasn’t without a lot of blips on the radar and challenges. It was messy and ugly, visceral and real.
So I wanted something more positive and less defining, less pigeon-holed and came up with the title and the heading that reads: A new mom navigates the ebbs and flows of life. While there is truth to that, now that Maya is 18 months old, I’m no longer a “new” mom … and “ebbs and flows” really doesn’t get to the heart of my blogging existence, either.
My goal is to work on these things this coming weekend — coming up with a new heading for under the blog and a new, refined boilerplate and elevator speech. Writing it out here means I am committing myself to doing it.
I don’t want to be ashamed of my past, but I’d like to be able to explain it more eloquently and also be able to better explain how my blog has morphed into whatever it is today — a living, breathing chronicle of one woman’s life.
How about you? What would your boilerplate be? Or, in shorter form, your elevator speech? (I think it’s important to have both).