BUILDING AUTHENTIC BRIDGES: FROM BLOGGING, INFLUENCING, TO LIVING

Last week, I was proud to be the invited speaker for the DC Bloggers Union’s April meetup. After not being available the first time I was asked last November, I knew I was being called upon by force greater than me to share my story when I was asked earlier this year again. I can honestly say that if I had accepted the first date late last year, I wouldn’t have been ready to discuss what I did, and the experience for myself and the audience would have been completely different. Let’s say the universe works in mysterious ways.

A few days before the event, I started to construct an outline. Authenticity and self-love was the topic of the night. I intended to share how I got to a place where vulnerability and authenticity have become my online brand’s backbone. My draft began as general talking points on how my blog started and when the change(shift) happened from being travel and fashion-focused to much, much more. I really wanted this “conversation” to be free and easy, and I certainly didn’t want to read from a piece of paper.  So, I wrote down my thoughts and kept coming back to my outline – reciting, adding, and removing text. I decided to put my laptop away and talk to myself for a few hours before the event. When I say talk to myself, I mean that literally. I was in my apartment, walking around talking and saying my thoughts out loud to myself. Two hours before the event, while rehearsing thanking the Macy’s Pentagon City, DC Bloggers Union, the audience – there, it came… Not only should I be thanking my fellow bloggers, but they should also be thanking themselves. On the topic of self-love and self-care, there it was. The perfect way to segway into the conversation. From that moment, the words came out like water out of a faucet. It was almost time…

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When I arrived at the event, I noticed the chairs neatly aligned in front of a clear plastic makeup chair and a table with a Macy’s branded backdrop set up behind it. My heart started beating a little bit faster. Born and raised in Arlington, my childhood years were spent walking these same halls in the Pentagon City Mall.  Now 30 years later, there I was about to get up and speak to roughly 80 people.

I saw many familiar faces, some I had met previously, and some I saw on my Instagram feed. I realized when I saw these women making their way in, coming up to take photos with me (me?), and making their way to their seats –  wow, I was about to have the opportunity to speak to a room full of women and impact their lives in some way.

When Carly came up before her announcements, she whispered over to me, “Britt, all these people are here for you.” At that moment, I realized this was the start of something huge; this night was going to be a landmark moment in my life and the beginning of something much bigger than myself and for the greater good. It is all happening, and it’s happening right now. That moment gave me the most pride in realizing it wasn’t really about me anymore. This was the start of using my story, my truth, as a vehicle to help others.

Carly began the announcements by thanking and introducing Macy’s, the beauty reps, and giving some background on what the DC Bloggers Union was for the first time attendees. All I could think about at that moment was how I was about to have the full-on attention of over 80 people in t-minus 5 minutes.

And then it happened, my introduction. I thanked Carly, Macy’s, and those in the audience, and I had the women thank themselves for taking time out of their evenings to connect with other women like them. My hands were shaking in those first few minutes, and I kept thinking to myself, “How am I going to get through this?”  It’s much different to type away at a keyboard and hit publish on my website, but being vulnerable and speaking about one’s own story in front of actual human faces is very different. That said, a few minutes in, I started speaking about my blog and how it went from a travel and fashion blog to a fashion and lifestyle blog and when and how that shift happened. The more I opened up, I started to notice women straightening their backs, smiling at me, nodding their heads, shifting themselves to the edge of their seats… that’s when my hands stopped shaking, and the words just started to flow. Outline aside, preparation out the window… I just talked, I started to connect, and I was feeding off of the women in the audience. The more they smiled and nodded, the more I would go deeper.

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I spoke about my feelings from when my marriage fell apart, and when my blog changed. That change started with my first post of 2018, “2018: The Year of Me”. I then spoke about my 8 month sabbatical from blogging. I explained why I took that break. I told the audience that I never wanted to be in a position where I put the weight or burden of my problems onto my readers. Instead, I go inwards. I use my resources to get through my own struggles and challenges and then come back to my readers with honest vulnerability. Once I heal and am ready to talk about it – I speak of how I overcame the challenge and how I used it as an opportunity for growth.

I explained that once I got through my own healing and was ready to share, I wrote “Embracing my Strength: Finding the Courage to be happy at 31” on my 32nd birthday – it took 8 months. After that post came “Perception vs. Reality,” and that’s when everything changed. I dipped my toes in the water, and the response was overwhelming in an extremely positive way. I discussed those two posts as well as the post “10 Ways we Avoid Reality in Toxic Relationships”. Since I got so real and vulnerable in “Perception vs. Reality,” some of my followers and friends felt like they wanted to open up to me. So, I called upon them to add their thoughts. “10 Ways We Avoid Reality in Toxic Relationships” was the start of my collaborations… I began to connect with women in similar situations to me. I started collaborating with various photographers, make-up artists, stylists, and videographers, and that’s when the doors flew open. This was when my content on social media and my website grew to new heights. I found a way to bring various people into a creative circle and build real and organic ways. Once those walls went down, I began to connect in a truly authentic way.

As the conversation came to a close, I asked the bloggers in the audience, “What is your mission? What is your purpose?” We all have to be doing this for something. We have to work for a greater vision or mission. All of this has to be for something bigger than the number of followers, likes, and comments you receive. We need connection, authenticity, love, and a VOICE. We have platforms; let’s use them to our advantage for the greater good, for a purpose. My mission that night was fulfilled. My mission was fulfilled because I was real; I faced up to my reality and got up face to face in front of many people, speaking up and owning MY truth. I connected with the women in a deep and cellular way – success.

As the questions started, I got a few that really struck me. One was, “How do I get through writer’s block?” That was such a great question and something I want to write in this post and reflect on for my readers who were unable to attend. This is something that I deal with quite often, especially this past year, when my grandfather passed away.  I didn’t write for 2 months after his passing. I wrote one piece, and that was the eulogy for his funeral, which soon I will publish – when I’m ready. I haven’t written (or published anything) about that time in my life because I don’t want to put anything out for my readers that I haven’t finished processing myself. Soon I will post about my writer’s block process and answer some questions. The question really comes down to; what’s going on inside me that is causing my inability to come up with the words? 

All in all, the DC Bloggers event was a great success. It motivated me as a writer, content creator, visionary influencer, and public figure to continue to speak my truth and share my journey and mission to connect with other women. The response has been mind-blowing. I’ve received an enormous amount of messages, texts, and emails with women reaching out applauding me for speaking out the way I did. In particular, one woman wrote to me and said, “You breathe new life into people. You are one of those people who exude hope. You really are inspiring. I am so glad I crossed paths with you.” This message and more like this have lit a fire within me. To have this unique ability to connect with women in a real way, to help them know they aren’t alone, is a true gift and is something I take VERY seriously. I will continue to share my journey of self-love, growth, and my ongoing path to enlightenment with all of you in hopes I can continue to help in whatever challenges you face.

My biggest take away from my own speech, over a year after writing “2018: The Year of Me,” is, it isn’t about me – it’s about you, my readers, and the people I connect with every day. I will ask two final questions. How can we use our platforms, whatever they may be, to shift or impact something or someone? How can you use your platform for the greater good? By having a mission and purpose for doing what we are doing, we will pay it forward and create chain reactions. This will positively impact and create a constructive change in the world for our children, their children, and generations to come. Let’s come together and speak our truth, live our most authentic life, and connect. That is how we will create change. With my hope, perseverance, and the power of vulnerability, we can impact others’ lives.

Listen to the entire speech here!

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Photos by: Raymond Daniel Javier (IG – @rddjavi) and Kit Stanwood (IG – @kit_stanwood)

Hair and Makeup by: Shenoa Nicole (IG – @shenoanicolemakeup)

Event Sponsored by: Macy’s Pentagon City

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