What I learned about myself at #britmumslive 2015

#britmumslive 2015 selfies

This year was my fourth time attending BritMums Live, and I did for a brief moment wonder whether there was anything else for me to learn or if I had already picked up most of the tips available in the previous years. But I shouldn’t have worried, because Jen and Susanna came up trumps (yet again) with an agenda jam-packed full of sessions I wanted to attend and I came away brimming with ideas and enthusiasm for taking my blog to the next level.

It only took until my fourth year at #britmumslive to meet the BritMums Founders Jen and Susanna!

Jen and Susanna did such a fab job, yet again, by organising the best ever #britmumslive!

I have made copious notes from each of the sessions I attended, which include Turning Pitches into ProfitSocial Media OptimisationYour Child’s Digital FootprintBreaking Boundaries with Insight and Passion, and Pinning Ideas. I had initially thought I could summarise all of these points into one blog post, but looking back over it all I am very aware that I cannot. So I am going to write a separate post for each and link to it here. I hope that by doing so, those of you who missed these sessions will also be able to benefit from the knowledge and experience of those who led them!

However, in the meantime, I thought I would focus on what I learned about myself during the weekend, and how that is changing the direction I am heading…

1. I’m a different person now, and that’s a good thing!

It’s a bit of an understatement to say that my life now is so very different to what it was a year ago. I wrote recently about all the changes in the past 6 months, but as one of my blogging friends Emma quite rightly mentioned, the past year has been crazy for me, not just the past 6 months.

A year ago, I was so busy with charity work and the forthcoming publication of the book that I don’t think I even knew who I was any more. The past 6 months has seen a change in this, as I have slowly begun to find who I am and who I want to be, and whilst I may not know exactly who I am, the journey of discovery and change itself is a beautiful thing.

2. I’m a real social butterfly

Last year I spent the vast majority of the conference with a small group of people. Whilst that was lovely, I came away feeling like I had missed something. During my first two BritMums Lives (can your pluralise the name like that?) I had met so many different people, that I had come to see the weekend as a chance to connect with as many bloggers as possible. So it felt strange not to do so last year.

This year I went all out. I don’t think I stopped meeting people, and whilst there is still a list of bloggers I wish I had bumped into or had longer to chat with, I feel like I didn’t miss a single opportunity to catch up or connect with someone new and that makes me happy. In fact poor Emma and Katrina must have wondered what was happening when, mid-sentence, I would suddenly shoot off to grab a hug (and a selfie) from someone I had spotted whizzing by. It’s a good job the three of us had dinner together Friday night, otherwise I don’t think we’d have had chance to catch up at all!

#britmumslive 2015 selfies

Just a few of the amazing bloggers I met up with this year – Emma from Adventures of Adam and Katrina from Mummy Whiskers (my hotel buddies this year), Steph from I’m Counting UFOs (go check out her book if you haven’t already), Tim from Slouching Towards Thatcham, Vicky from Single Mother Ahoy, MIchelle from Bod For Tea, and Caroline from My Family Ties.

What you have to understand about all this is that, up until my mid-twenties, I was terribly shy and in my teen years that shyness was cripplingly strong. I fought long and hard to overcome it and promised myself that I would never, ever allow fear to hold me back again. Last year shook me a fair bit, as I wondered if I had lost the enthusiasm for social events that I had once held. So I am overjoyed to have had such a wonderful (if exhausting) time this year and cannot wait for the next one.

3. I enjoy public speaking (yes, really I do!)

Leading on quite significantly from the last point, I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed being a part of the Bloggers’ Keynote. I knew, going in, what a huge honour it was and leading up to the event I had a fair few wobbles of “why on earth did I think this was a good idea?” But once I actually sat down at the table waiting to go up on stage, I began to simply feel excited to be a part of something so special.

Sitting next to Rachel from The Ordinary Lovely during the Bloggers' Keynote

I got to sit next to Rachel from The Ordinary Lovely during the Bloggers’ Keynote – what a weekend for Rachel, as she also won the Fresh Voice Category in The BiBs!

I got up on stage and, aside from feeling rather more emotional than I had expected to (that lump in my throat came out of nowhere, I swear!), I actually had a really good time. Looking out over the room full of bloggers was incredibly powerful, and made me realise just how privileged we are to belong to such an amazing community. I felt calmer than I’d ever imagined I would, and it has inspired me to take up opportunities of this kind whenever they present themselves. I’m a communicator, and an encourager, so this feels like the perfect way to combine two things I love which come pretty naturally to me.

4. My writing is my greatest creative skill

I love so many different creative mediums, but the truth is I am not a photographer, or an artist, I’m a writer. It can be so easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you have to do it all, that your blog needs to be visually stunning in order to make it in the world of blogging. But here’s the thing – my blog is not one of the “big” ones, I don’t attract thousands of hits per month, and I’ll never be in the big leagues in that respect. But my poem was still chosen to be part of the Bloggers’ Keynote, and that means something. It means that my writing strikes a chord with others, and that is the way I can connect best with the world.

I have come away from the conference more enthused than ever about my writing, something which was unfortunately quashed quite a bit by my work on the HG book (yes, I published a book, but as an incredibly specific factual piece of work it wasn’t really in my natural style!) I also felt very unsure of writing anything on my blog whilst the book was in the process of being written, as I didn’t want my writing here to be in conflict with the importance of the work I was doing for charity or the book itself. It feels incredibly freeing to realise that the blog is, once again, an entirely empty page on which I can write whatever feels right for me at any given moment.

5. It’s okay to let things go, in fact it can be the best thing you could ever do

This is, perhaps, the biggest thing I learned throughout the entire weekend. My whole BritMums Live journey has focused quite significantly on the writing of the HG book. My very first year I connected with other HG survivors as I shared my plans for the book. My second year I met with a literary agent to discuss publication prospects. Last year I went with a group of fellow HG survivors and my business cards even included information on the upcoming publication of the book. This year, things were different…

The book has been published and I am looking into letting it go completely. And I no longer work for the charity I put so much time and effort into. I won’t lie, I was nervous about meeting up with people I had worked so closely with for such a long time, people who knew me just through the HG world, especially as things hadn’t ended all that well. I wondered whether it would cloud over the weekend and cast a shadow over all the changes I had been making in my life.

But the truth was, I needed have worried. I’m Amanda, not “the HG lady”, and within blogging circles in particular I’m “the one from The Family Patch”. It doesn’t matter that I am no longer defined by my work, because I don’t need to be. It is actually incredibly powerful to realise this, and I am so glad I went so that I could discover this. I’m also very grateful for my chat with Kate Hardcastle at the end of her session, for helping me see through what had happened and acknowledging that letting go didn’t automatically equate to no longer caring.

 

So, needless to say, I came away from BritMums Live with so much insight into who I am now and where I am heading, both personally and via the blog. And that’s going to take quite some time to digest.

Tell me… what did you take from the weekend?

 

 

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