Your Online Self

So just what is an online self? The simple answer is that it’s a REpresentation of you, online.

Many of us already have an online self, we just don’t realise it and certainly aren’t conscious about creating it. If you’re on Facebook or any other social media platform, you already have one.

All of your online activities contribute to you online self, so that means:

  • What you write, what you tweet, and what you post
  • What you share, created by you
  • What you share, created by others
  • What you comment
  • What you private message (note, even this isn’t private)
  • The things you ‘like’
  • What you retweet, and more.

If you really look and see, you can often build up a pretty accurate picture of who someone is, or certainly who they present themselves to be.

[Side note: How do you think Facebook, Google and other platforms know what adverts to show you, and sometimes manage to show you something spookily relevant to what’s going on in your life?]

Your online self is the self your online activities present you to be – consciously or not.

Why Does An Online Self Matter

If you’re aiming to work online – whether remotely for someone else or to start your own venture online – it makes sense to be more conscious about your online self and who you present yourself to be, doesn’t it?

For people to choose you, to hire you, to pay you, they need to know who you are; who you are matters. (It matters in real life too, doesn’t it? So why not online?).

And you’ll get the most benefit if you show up, as uniquely, authentically you.

Sure, you can ‘hide’, pretend to be someone or something you’re not but ultimately, you’ll be the one who suffers the most from this.

Using online tools to show up as you, to amplify and showcase you in all your glory (or weirdness, or uniqueness!), gives you access to a world you’ve never had access to before.

Online tools can be a hugely powerful tool to connect you with people and opportunities you’d never have access to otherwise…

  • Remote jobs and global clients, where you’re no longer restricted by living in a rural community or having to stay at home because it’s not easy for you get out of the house to work or travel to client sites.
  • Knowledge and skills, to learn almost anything you want/need to know, often for free.
  • People and communities, to connect with, learn from, gain support from, give support to without ever having to leave your sofa.

How To Create Your Online Self

The easiest way to start building your online self if you’re starting with nothing is to start writing.

Share your opinions, what do you feel strongly about?

Where do you stand on the things that matter to you in life?

What have you done that you’re most proud of?

What have you done that you’re least proud of?

What are the most important life lessons you’ve learned?

What are the things that have made you ‘you’?

Which book has had the most impact on you, and why?

Employers of the future are going to be looking for folk who stand out – for folk who know who they are, who aren’t ‘vanilla’ or ‘sheeple’.

You don’t have to have a blog to do this (though I’d highly recommend one!) – you can start by writing posts on LinkedIn, Facebook, a Twitter Megathread or an Instagram carousel post or similar.

Effective written communication is THE most valuable skill to hone when you work online.

While you’ll have video and voice calls, the majority of your communication online will be written. Honing your ability to communicate your thoughts, beliefs, and opinions succinctly, compellingly and effectively is key.

Start writing. You’ll only get better at it the more you do.

Where To Start When You Have No Idea How To Get Started

Rewind to 2006…and I’d just spent 2 years and well over £10,000 re-educating and re-training myself as a personal trainer and holistic health coach, and countless hours setting my own business up, including securing a healthy supply of both personal and corporate clients.

Only to realise and admit to myself that I hated the reality of working with clients to help them change their lifestyles in this way 😱

That realisation and subsequent pivot, kicked off one of the most impactful lifestyle changes of my own when we decided to hit the road, travel the world indefinitely looking for ‘home’, and run our businesses from our laptops.

What began as nothing more than a very personal journey of exploration – both metaphorical and literal – ended up resulting in global press and media features and the foundations of a pioneering movement which has impacted thousands of other people since 😱

Start Blogging…

That’s it. Two simple words of advice of how and where to start, when you have no idea where to start or how to do your something great…but that could lead you to everywhere you’ve ever wanted to go and everything you’ve ever wanted to do.

The blog I began back then – to share the many, many things we were learning about running our business on the road, the countries we were visiting and the general ups and downs of a nomadic lifestyle that very few other people at the time were living – resulted in so much more.

But Why A Blog, Lea?

You know what we all love? What we’re conditioned to love from childhood? Stories.

The reason why Location Independent became what it did is because, fundamentally at its core, it began as the story of a pioneering journey of a young couple doing something different, and doing something that others want to do – a hero’s journey of sorts.

That kind of story is compelling for other people to follow – we all love a good story, to follow the ups and downs and root for folk to overcome the odds.

Overcoming Your Objections (Yes, I Can Read Your Mind!)

But, that was then, this is now. There are thousands of blogs these days does the internet really need yet another one?

Who on earth is going to be interested in what I blog about, when X, Y or Z are already blogging and have done what I want to do?

What do I have to say? Surely it’s not that unique? 

It’s too technical for me, I’ll never manage it. 

Here’s Why Your Objections Are BS…

Let’s hit these objections head on, shall we, and move swiftly on?

Wouldn’t you be interested in someone you know deciding to actually DO something different? Not just talking about it but actually going for it and doing it…

So many of us harbour desires to write a novel, or start painting, or unleash our creative powers on something – but we’ve been conditioned not to, because it’s frivolous, it’s not serious, it’ll never make money, it’s selfish, it’s ridiculous etc. etc. Yawn, yawn, yawn.

Here’s what starting a blog will do for you…

You’re always ahead of someone and blogging gives you a platform to share with people behind you on the path…

  • What you’re doing
  • What you’re learning
  • What you’re doing ‘right’
  • What you’re doing ‘wrong’
  • What you’re finding hard
  • What you’re finding easy
  • What you’re enjoying (and what you’re not)

All of those are valuable for others to read.

Wouldn’t you find it interesting to read about someone else doing similar, if you wanted to pursue your interest in writing your own novel, or repainting dolls, or learning how to build your own websites?

But wait, doesn’t it just show how much I don’t know? How much of a novice I am? How far away I am from being a professional/expert?

Yes, perhaps. And it also shows…

  • Your willingness and ability to learn.
  • Your willingness and ability to apply your learnings.
  • Your ability to research and find out what you need to know.
  • Your willingness and ability to think critically.
  • Your ability to communicate.
  • Your ability to write, talk or create.
  • Your vulnerability and willingness to show up, even when you’re not an expert.

Not only that but you begin to build your own presence, your online ‘self’, your own expertise (yes, expertise!) and showcase who you are, what you can do… 

Fast forward to 1, 2, 5 or even 10 years from now, and imagine if you will, how it would feel to have this body of work, charting your journey, being able to look back at your own progress and how far you’ve come…

And that’s just the start. When you blog, you also give yourself the opportunity to:

  • Build a loyal, engaged audience (and it doesn’t even need to be big to earn a decent living, if that’s one of your goals).
  • Connect with and meet a whole raft of folk you might never have met otherwise. I’ve met some of my closest friends and confidantes online, and other folk who I’d never otherwise have come into contact with yet who I’ve learned so much from.
  • Become seen as a passionate advocate in your field (maybe even an expert in time!), and inspire others.
  • Be held accountable to the people who support your sharing efforts.

Blogging 101

So an obvious starting question is “What counts as a blog?”…is it just writing? Is it like an online diary?

To me, a blog is a platform which allows you to share whatever content you want – writing, videos, music, photos/images etc. – on a regular basis. 

So, perhaps you’re a writer who wants to share the journey of writing your first novel. Or you’re an artist who wants to share your artistic creations. Or you’re a musician/singer who wants to share your performances or songs. Or you’re a coder who wants to share your own builds…

It doesn’t matter what you share, more that you share.

There are a number of places you can start sharing…they include platforms like WordPress (what I use for this website), Ghost, Medium, Buy Me A Coffee, Patreon, and more. 

The key is to decide what works for you – what will actually get you sharing – and commit to creating and sharing, consistently. Are you in?

Are Your Childhood Patterns Hurting Your Career?

Watch the video or read the transcript and then tell me that working on ourselves and our childhood ‘stuff’ isn’t holding us back in our careers and business lives!

“…our chances of leading a fulfilled adult life depend overwhelmingly on our knowledge of, and engagement with, the nature of our own childhoods, for it is in this period that the dominant share of our adult identity is moulded and our characteristic expectations and responses set. We will spend some 25,000 hours in the company of our parents by the age of eighteen, a span which ends up determining how we think of relationships and of sex, how we approach work, ambition and success, what we think of ourselves (especially whether we can like or must abhor who we are), what we should assume of strangers and friends and how much happiness we believe we deserve and could plausibly attain.” 

The question is how do you dig into your childhood and figure out how it’s impacting you, particularly in your career and business life?

How Your Childhood Patterns Affect Your Career

I’ve written previously about how my own patterns from childhood have had an impact on my adult life, who I perceive myself to be, and where those patterns have come from in my childhood.

It never really occurred to me that they’d also significantly impact my career, my business and how I show up there…

Being a recovering control freak has meantI initially found it very difficult to let go of control of parts of my own business and outsource to others; I also experienced this as a management consultant, finding it difficult to trust my team and those I managed to do the job as I might want it (forgetting they might do it better!).

Being a recovering perfectionist has meant: I’ve either not started something if I didn’t think I’d do it ‘perfectly’ (which I keep as some undefined, unattainable standard in my head setting myself up for failure before I’ve even begun), or wouldn’t ship something that was ‘good enough’ unless it was ‘perfect’ which, of course, in my own head it never was. 

How To Identify The Patterns Impacting Your Career

Usually the simplest ways to identify your own patterns are to look for:

  •  The places you feel stuck, and don’t ever seem to move forwards with. What is it that’s stopping you? What’s the story you’re telling yourself in your head about why you can’t move forwards? Where could this story possibly have come from in your childhood?
  • The relationships with colleagues/managers/clients/customers that feel full of friction. What is it about this person you find difficult? What specifically about their behaviour triggers an over-the-top reaction in you? Where in your childhood could this possibly have come from? Who does it remind you of?
  • The areas of your life you’re not happy with, or are still hiding from. While there may be many areas of your life – money, relationships, health etc. – that you’re happy with, are there areas you still prefer not to look at? Are you avoiding looking because you know you won’t like what you see but you have no idea what to do about it?

On top of these, there are some common areas when it comes to being stuck or not being where we want to be in our professional lives…

Purpose

This is the million pound question…what’s your purpose? Many of us find ourselves in jobs we’re not keen on or on career paths we wouldn’t necessarily have chosen because…

  • “You’ll never make money in the creative/artistic fields”
  • “You need to get a sensible/responsible job”
  • “Don’t be silly, what makes you think you can make money from doing that?”
  • “But you’re not very good at…, are you?”
  • “You need X, Y and Z qualifications to do that successfully”

Our careers are typically so heavily influenced by what others think – particularly our parents – that we sometimes don’t stop to ask what our purpose is, what we want to do, and whether what we’re doing is aligned with that or far from it.

One of the things people most frequently say to me however is: “But Lea, I don’t know what my purpose is. I don’t know what I really want to do.” Or “That’s fine for a hobby but I can’t do that for a career”.

The answers lie in the journey to radical self awareness and honesty. Only when you know yourself deeply, intimately and honestly can you begin to see/feel your way to what it is YOU want to do, that isn’t clouded by others beliefs, opinions, judgments and perceptions.

Often a good starting point is to remember what you wanted to be as a child, unencumbered by anyone else’s opinions, and believing you could do and be anything you wanted…

Do you know what your deeply held beliefs about your purpose are? Do you know where they came from? Are they still serving you well? What would serve you better?

Money

Our relationship to money – and how we feel about earning it, spending it, having it, saving it, keeping it, losing it – is heavily influenced by how our parents behaved around money as we grew up.

You are likely to have integrated and internalised many (most!) of their beliefs and behaviours as your own, without stopping to question them…

  • Money doesn’t grow on trees.
  • If we’ve got it, we should spend it before it goes.
  • You have to work really hard to earn money.
  • Getting rich doesn’t happen to people like us.
  • I’m not Bill Gates, you know.
  • There’s not enough to go round.
  • Being rich is evil, greedy and dirty.
  • You can’t be spiritual/awakened/enlightened and have money.
  • Rich people aren’t good people…and on and on it goes!

Do you know what your deeply held money narratives are? Do you know where they came from? Are they still serving you well? What would serve you better?

Being Seen & Being Big

There are many clients I’ve worked with who are reluctant to show up, be seen and play bigger. They know they’ve been staying small and are desperate to play bigger but something, somewhere stops them.

Most frequently, it’s the correlation they’ve created (or that has been created for them in childhood), that it’s necessary to stay small to remain loved, and if you play bigger the love will go. That’s often the core fear.

My own version of this is about being seen, and that if I’m seen in all my ‘glory’, I’ll be rejected and abandoned, as I was at X days old when I was born (and physically seen for the first time ever), and then immediately given up for adoption by my birth mother.

Other fears about being seen, playing bigger include:

  • If I show up, I’ll be found wanting and everyone will see I’m not good enough.
  • I’m going to be found out soon (imposter syndrome!).
  • Everyone will think I’m boasting/arrogant/big-headed.
  • It’s safer to stay small.
  • I’ll show up/be ‘ok’ when I’m thinner/richer/prettier/healthier.

Do you know what your deeply held ‘being seen’ narratives are? Do you know where they came from? Are they still serving you well? What would serve you better?

To see your childhood patterns requires some radical self honesty and awareness; it requires you to look deeply in the mirror and hold the discomfort you may feel about what you see. It requires exploring your ‘shadow’ sides, and elements of who you are that perhaps you feel ashamed about, dislike and would prefer not to look at.

As difficult as this is – and believe me, sometimes it can feel hideous! – on the other side of this lies freedom, power, control…not in a “Mwahahaha, I can control you!” kind of way, but in the “Mawahahaha, I can finally control me” kind of way… 

Because when you understand why you behave in the way you do, why you react to things in the way you do, and where these patterns originate from, it gives you the power to choose a different way of behaving and reacting that might just serve you far better.

The 7 Most Useful Things I’ve Learned In The Pursuit of Growth

Working on oneself in the ongoing pursuit of personal growth and self development is tough; at times, it’s akin to climbing a mountain that appears to have no summit!

I’ve experienced and pursued many forms of growth over the years, beginning with various qualifications in fitness and holistic health and more recently regular sessions with a therapist. Plus the biggest container for growth: My relationship with my partner!

There are certain lessons I’ve learned that have stayed with me and endured throughout; some of these aren’t easy concepts to grasp but when you do, they can shift your entire perspective on life…

#1 Is your normal really ‘normal’?

Nowhere has this been more keenly illustrated to me than the reaction I’ve had from not one but two highly experienced and qualified therapists when I told them of my experiences of flying halfway across the world, aged 5, on my own with my younger brother as an unaccompanied minor to stay with my father, every single year.

To me, this was ‘normal’ – it’s just what happened. To others, it’s far from normal and the truth of that hit home when my therapist asked how I’d feel if I shipped my same-aged son off on a plane, accompanied by a stranger, to go and stay with a father he barely knew and only saw once or twice a year!

We each have our own versions of ‘normal’ in our pasts, and it can take an outside perspective to question these.

Sometimes, our version of ‘normal’ can be presented to us by others – parents, siblings, friends etc. – and repeated so that we never even think to question them. They have a vested interest to maintain the ‘normal’, while you may not.

It can be a really useful exercise – if you’re noticing that your typical MO is no longer really working for you – to look back at your ‘normal’ life and begin to question whether you’d consider it ‘normal’ and even ‘ok’ still.

Or another way to look at it is:

How would you feel if your ‘normal’ happened to someone you cared for deeply?

The purpose of exploring this is to begin to create your own truths and narratives, less influenced by those around you, especially if they’ve been holding you back with their versions.

Underneath those ‘normal truths’ may lie grief, loss, and other painful feelings that once they’re released, you will find yourself free to move forwards in a way that you’d previously been held back from.

#2 Can you hold more than one truth at the same time?

You’ve probably heard the one about different people witnessing the exact same event but recounting utterly different ‘facts’ when asked what they witnessed. This concept of there being many different versions of the truth has been a powerful one on my journey.

While the adoption narrative for most people is one of positive benefits only – ”Oh you were so lucky to have been adopted and given a much better life than you’d have had” – there is also the narrative of loss, grief and the totally unnatural event of a child being taken away from their birth mother. Both narratives are true about the same event at the same time, one is not more true than the other, nor does one negate the other.

On a related note, this is a similar concept to being able to hold conflicting feelings about something or someone simultaneously.

For example, when I’m talking to my kids about their emotions, we talk frequently about how they can be utterly furious and hurt that their father is planning to move 5 hours away from them, at the same time as still loving him and craving his attention. Both things are true and it can be a tough ask for them to hold both truths at the same time.

This is related, on a much deeper level, to the ability to hold the light and the shadow – firstly in ourselves and then in others.

It’s about being able to embrace and love ourselves, not just for the good and positive we see but also the ‘bad’ and ‘negative.

We are a complicated mix of many things and being able to integrate and hold the whole is the absolute foundation of self acceptance and self love.

#3 Respond, don’t react.

There’s a difference between the two – responding is a more conscious, considered action and reacting is typically an unconsciously-driven, knee-jerk action.

When we react, it’s usually a sign that we’ve been triggered – that one or more of our painful buttons has been pushed and an existing ‘wound’ has been poked and prodded. We then act (out) from this hurt and wounded place, often unaware that this is what’s going on.

If we want to respond instead – to be able to act in a way that’s more in alignment with who we are beneath our shields, defences and existing wounds – it means getting out of a triggered space.

It means taking a breath (or several), and if it helps, write out what you want to say, in all its steaming, ranting glory first. Then take another breath.

Then ask yourself the question below – is it more important for you to be right or connected? – then delete what you’ve written (or burn it, safely), and RESPOND instead of reacting.

If you need to, wait until the next day and use the space of a night’s sleep to get yourself back on a more even keel.

#4 Is it more important to you to be right or be connected?

This is something I’ve learned most from my partner who has frequently challenged me with the question: “Lea, would you rather be right or be connected?” – when we’re in the middle of an argument and it gets to a stage where it seems pointless to continue!

We use this with the children too, when they’re adamant that they’ve done nothing wrong, the other party is to blame and they can’t move past it.

While it feels good to blame – to shift the responsibility as far away from you as possible and onto the nearest easy target – it usually gets you nowhere fast, except perhaps a temporary feeling of relief.

Fundamentally, blame is divisive. You can stay wronged and be right, and alienate those around you – revelling in your ‘rightness’.

But most of the time, we want to be connected. And to do that, you may have to not be right for a change!

(Note that isn’t necessarily the same as being wrong – let’s not go that far, shall we?!).

It’s ultimately your choice in a situation: Stay right or get (re) connected?

#5 Fault is not the same as responsibility.

It’s really easy to blame others for our woes and for us not being where/how/who we want to be. Maybe you had a difficult childhood, you’ve had a traumatic past, you’ve been the victim of some awful events – and while it may indeed have been at the hands of others and their fault, it is not their responsibility to heal you.

Whatever your trauma, past or emotional wounds, nobody but you can do your work to heal those wounds and help you recover from past trauma. Nobody but you can learn how to change your patterns, behaviours and responses that are no longer working for you and are rooted in past defences.

You may feel like you’re ‘owed’ something, that it’s someone else’s job to help you but it’s not. And if you don’t do the work to help yourself, no-one else can or will.

While the cause may be someone else’s fault, the responsibility to move on with your life and heal those wounds is yours and yours alone.

#6 What’s the story you’re telling yourself?

If you watch Brené Brown on The Call To Courage, she illustrates this concept brilliantly.

Most of the time, underneath the surface we are all constructing a narrative; we decide upon the story and then we filter everything through that story.

So if the story you sometimes tell yourself is “Well, I’m really stupid and ugly and I’m never going to amount to much” – if someone close to you says something that hits this nerve, you’re going to easily go into this narrative and behave as if this is the only truth (when as we already know it isn’t!). That may mean lashing out, or being defensive (or offensive), or it may mean going into a cave of isolation and not wanting to come out.

Understanding the stories you tell yourself is the first step in being able to change the ones that aren’t currently serving you well and are keeping you stuck.

You likely have all sorts of stories around many aspects of your life – relationships, families, money, career and more. Do you know what they are?

The other useful aspect of this is knowing that other people in your life have their own stories.

When you’re in the middle of an argument or someone appears to be behaving irrationally or blowing something out of all proportion (in your opinion), try asking them: “What’s the story you’re telling yourself right now?“. Or if that’s too hard, ask yourself: “What’s the story they could be telling themselves right now?

#7 Own your own stuff. Wholly.

When faced with difficult truths about ourselves, it is far, far easier to shift the blame, shift the responsibility and shift the truth onto someone else. But this is not the path to growth.

When we find ourselves in repeating patterns, destructive relationships and situations we find difficult, there’s one truth and one truth only…we cannot control anything or anyone but ourselves.

This is powerful to understand; when we give up trying to control the things we can’t control (other people) and focus instead on controlling ourselves – our responses, our reactions, our behaviour and our choices – we begin to fully own our selves, and look at the part we play in creating what we’re experiencing.

All the time, YOU are fully responsible for creating your own reality.

Even when others are involved too, how you respond and behave is still your responsibility and no-one else’s. No-one can ‘make’ you feel anything.

(Think about it: How on earth could I ‘make’ you feel happy if you didn’t choose to feel happy yourself?).

No-one else can control your emotions or the feelings you experience, but you.

No matter how someone else behaves or what they do to you, how YOU respond is YOUR responsibility.

This is quite a shocking concept for most people, so reluctant are we to fully own our selves, including the ‘dodgy’ bits!

Growth and self development work is tough and is not for the faint of heart but the concepts above have been fundamental to my growth and absolutely vital in the quest for radical self honesty and awareness…and as a wise man once said:

“Awareness is the greatest agent for change” – Eckhart Tolle