Am I Brave, or Just in Need of a Mute Button?


Yesterday, CNN sent a camera crew to my house so that they could interview me for a segment on compulsive shopping. They had seen an old article of mine on Tango, and thought I would be the perfect interview subject. I experienced sweaty palms and extreme dry mouth as I attempted to sound coherent in front of the lights, camera, and crew. I worried that I was shouting in my attempt to be vivacious, but I couldn’t stop myself. I was oddly perky as I gave the guys a tour of my condo, pointing out frivolous purchases in a voice that didn’t exactly express my regret. I was an anxious mess.

Later on, a friend commented that I was incredibly brave to be revealing so much of myself. I responded that I was used to mass humiliation and frank honesty because of my sex writing. But then I had time to think: When this segment aired, a huge portion of the population — much huger than the one  reach with my blog — would see me. And what would they see? A woman who didn’t feel guilty for dragging her husband down into debt with her (and believe me, I do feel guilty). A woman who was disgustingly materialistic. A woman who could make them feel better about themselves.

Suddenly, I’m an anxious mess again.

As a writer, I’m always vulnerable to the judgments of others. But I value honesty with my readers, even as I shrink from their criticism. I like to feel as if I’m having a conversation with readers. How can I truly do that without being open?

But do I want to be the poster child for compulsive shopping, a year or so after I already learned the error of my ways? Does something like this adversely affect the brand I’m trying to build…the image of myself I’m so desperately trying to project? Or should I remain open in every aspect of my life?

Does someone need to put me on mute for my own good? 😉

p.s. I’ll be sure to let y’all know when the segment is slated to air, in order to ensure maximum humiliation levels.

Related: The Vulnerability of Writers


  1. I’ve been neglecting my RSS feeds, so I’m weighing in late. But I say “Good for you, Steph!” A lot of successful career experts have been transparent about their vulnerabilities and succeeded (perhaps because of this, not in spite of it). People love how honest and candid Penelope Trunk is about her marital and career issues. You should also Google Diane Darling, who became a very successful author and expert on networking all while struggling with debt. I think your willingness to bare your soul will be a real asset as you work on selling more essays and books in the future. Congrats on the TV appearance!

  2. Good points, Susan. Maybe my real question should be: Am I brave enough to deal with the negative things people will think and say about me? Eek!

    Now that we’re both television stars, I think they should give us a talk show about freelance writing.


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