“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” — Brené Brown
A couple years ago I ordered a Square card reader. It was free and I was eager and excited to start selling my crafty things. But, I couldn’t get the courage to actually plan it and do it. I couldn’t shake the negative thoughts that would pop into my head every time the opportunity to be a vendor would come up. I had a whole list of reasons for bailing:
People won’t like my stuff, which means I suck
Nobody will buy anything, and I’ll look like an idiot
Nobody will come up to my booth and talk to me, and I’ll look like an idiot
My pieces aren’t super original and anyone can just make it themselves, which means I’m basic
My art isn’t valuable enough to spend hard-earned dollars on, which again means I suck … and I’ll look like an idiot
I would make up excuses. Subconsciously not finish pieces so that I would never be ready enough. I was afraid of rejection. If how I express myself isn’t good enough, does that mean I’m not good enough? I’m lucky enough to have a gang of extremely supportive friends who continued to push me and encourage me to put myself out there. They speak highly of my crafts and art and talent, but what do they know? They’re obligated to say these things! Right?
Back in 2016, I reached a place in my life where I realized I could never get to where I want to be, have the relationships and connection that I want to have, and truly feel fulfilled unless something changed. There was something blocking my ability to get past this place — and that something was my inability to be vulnerable. Over the past couple of years, I’ve made an active effort to embrace and practice vulnerability — starting with some therapy and Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly. Here’s exactly what I realized was missing from the way I approach and interact with the world:
“Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. The power that connection holds in our lives was confirmed when the main concern about connection emerged as the fear of disconnection; the fear that something we have done or failed to do, something about who we are or where we come from, has made us unlovable and unworthy of connection.” — Brené Brown
I spend 40 hours a week helping build my clients’ brand, creating strategies and implementing activities to achieve their goals, and promoting their great public health work. I help them connect with the world. But, what was I doing for myself? I wasn’t allowing my full self to be seen. So, I started working on letting my full, imperfect, authentic self be seen. It has been an uncomfortable and painful road, and over the course of the past three years this exploration into vulnerability has led to some pretty messed up stuff (hint: I can relate enough to Beyonce’s Lemonade now). But, the rewards to my personal and professional life and growth far exceed the pain. I wouldn’t want to go back to the way I was before, even if it meant I could avoid some of the crappy things (but I do now own a bat).
“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
The thing is, you can make that coaster yourself. But, will you? And will it have my personal style? Probably not. And if you do make it yourself, great!
I finally took the plunge. I spent weeks building a collection of crafty things, and finally participated as a vendor for the very first time at the annual Upshur Street Arts & Crafts Fair organized by the Petworth Arts Collaborative. (Of course, it snowed.)
My booth was a hit! I made my first sale while setting up for the fair. And, much to my surprise, I sold most of my items. I had no idea how much people would appreciate and connect with the work that I do. Having my items sell was great, and it worked wonders in helping me overcome my doubt and fears. However, the most enjoyable part of this experience was meeting and talking to new people who connected with my craft. I discussed colors and mediums, and brainstormed with folks about different ways in which you can use the items. I also made new maker friends, and shared tricks and ideas with them.
Since then, I’ve participated in several other makers fairs in Baltimore with The Baltimore Vintage Flea alongside my friend Katrina of Timpla DC. Success in sales fluctuates from fair to fair–nothing is guaranteed. But one thing remains constant — I’m allowing myself to be seen and I get to engage with other likeminded people. That’s worth more than any amount of money I could take home.