In Which I Break the Rules & Go Cold Turkey

Nobody likes being sick. A few weeks ago, I faced a fourth case of shingles, my least-favorite and most-recurrent illness. And my body was in great shape compared with my thoughts, which surrounded perfectionism and blogging.

You see, I was struggling with a scarcity mindset regarding our readership here. I’d become overly attached to the goal of reaching 1,000 subscribers, so much so that I couldn’t feel the tremendous abundance that is already here.

To be fair, this 1,000-subscriber fixation didn’t come out of nowhere. It was fueled by the advice of myriad big-time bloggers, many of whom actually say, You’re a blogging nobody until you get 1,000 subscribers. If your number is below 1,000, don’t mention it anywhere on your site – smaller numbers scare people off.

The implied rule is, “Tuck your tail and be ashamed of your blog until you get the shred of legitimacy afforded by the number 1,000.”

So … this is me breaking that rule.

On Perfectionism and Blogging

perfectionism and blogging

I give thanks for each and EVERY one of you.

My friends, I am sorry to say that I listened to that garbage. And I’m thankful that an old friend helped me realize how messed-up my thinking had become.

When I told her about my subscriber number issues, she said, “What you’re describing sounds similar to an eating disorder – the fixation on a certain number, such as a goal weight, and how it dictates your sense of personal worth.” (My friend is getting her doctorate in clinical psychology, and it shows.)

“Wow,” I said. She was right. I’ve dealt with disordered eating in the past, and I recognized the never-good-enough mentality.

(That said, it’s certainly possible to check your weight or your site statistics without being unhealthy about it. Problems only start when you use those numbers as a measure of self-worth.)

In a flash, I could see my younger self stepping onto the scale, mentally calibrating her self-respect for the day. And I could see my older self checking subscriber numbers in the same way. In both cases, the number was never good enough. I never measured up.

The Perfectionist in Me

The perfectionist in me had a hard time accepting that 929 is a wonderful number, even if it’s not 1,000. I used to think that, if only 71 new readers would appear, then I could relax. It was the old arrival fallacy: if only I could be there instead of here, then surely I would be content.

Being sick with shingles gave me a new perspective. As my friend and mentor Glennon Melton of Momastery once wrote, “It’s funny, you want all of these things, and then you get sick and you realize that the only thing you really want is to be healthy.”

It’s true. Once I realized that I was sick with shingles (and subscriber greed), all I wanted was to be well. And in order to get well, I had to actually heed Glennon’s advice regarding blog growth.

Here it is, the big secret: “Don’t worry about marketing or gimmicks or self promotion, just write. Everyday, write. Show up for yourself. That’s where the magic is. Your people will find you.”

don’t worry about marketing or gimmicks or self promotion, just write. Everyday, write. Show up for yourself. That’s where the magic is. Your people will find you. – See more at:

The first time I heard G say that, I thought: Um … I wish that were true, but I’m not that naive. I’ve had to push and strive and guest post constantly just to grow this blog by a few hundred subscribers. If you build it, they will come? I wish!

The Wisdom of Giving Freely

But after three and a half years of writing here, guess what conclusion I’ve come to? Glennon was right. It’s as true in blogging as it is in the rest of life: give freely, and life will find a way to give back to you.

Given that, I’ve wondered, Should I have done things differently from the start? Was I off-base to do guest posts and outreach?

But then I remember this: everyone’s path is different, and everyone’s divine assignment is unique. Perhaps Glennon’s assignment with Momastery was to resist the temptation to promote it. I’d imagine that wasn’t always easy for her not to use her enthusiasm and vivacity to get the word out.

And perhaps my (initial) assignment with A Wish Come Clear was to resist my temptation to hide it under a bushel. Maybe I had get out there and do 75+ guest posts — to give blog growth my best effort — before I could surrender.

Going Cold Turkey

But surrender I have. In the last few weeks, I’ve done what addicts must do to recover: I’ve gone cold turkey.

I’ve let go of my ambitions for this blog. I am no longer pushing myself to hit the 1,000 subscriber benchmark, or any other benchmark for that matter. I believe that it will happen eventually, but I’m not striving for it.

Instead, I’ve re-committed to showing up here and offering stories of substance, trusting that you’ll share them if they speak to you.

In short, I’m redirecting energy from competition into creation. I’ve been working with my favorite designer to finish a new, free offering for you. I’ve begun work on a new book, and I received an exciting acceptance letter too. (Stay tuned for the story!)

Most of all, I’m living in gratitude for the richness that is already here, for every single person who’s reading this today.

abundance, perfectionism and blogging

The glass slippers are already yours, Cinderella.

There have been some subtractions, too. For example, I’m letting go of The Listening Hour, the one-on-one coaching/consulting service I presented last month.

I appreciate you taking the time to read and share it, friends. But since I didn’t receive sign-ups, I know that it’s not what’s needed for our community right now.

I want to pause here and alert you to the miracle within this situation. See, the old me would have concluded: I blew it. Nobody signed up! It failed. I’m a failure. I’m going to curl up and stop offering things.

The miracle is this: I didn’t go there. This time, I thought: I tested the idea, and it didn’t take off. That stings a little – I mean, I re-wrote the copy three times and figured out how to do the HTML for a pretty button and everything! – but it’s OK. Wait … where’s the oppressive sense of self-condemnation? Wow, I don’t feel like a failure!

If your mind is anything like mine, you know that that represents real progress. When you have the courage to try, to fight for a dream, to think differently …

Now, that’s growth worth celebrating.


Tell me, friends: have you ever struggled with a scarcity mentality, with perfectionism and blogging (or anything else)? Join the conversation in the comments below!


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30 thoughts on “In Which I Break the Rules & Go Cold Turkey

  1. Caroline…it was so serendipitous to read your blog this am. I had just finished my morning pages in which I had come to a lot of the same answers.
    It was just so self-affirming to read of someone else finding that their passion is to create. Not to sell, not to publish, not to get a following!
    I have had the ability to go home all the time. Click those red heels and take it home!
    Blessings…monos en theos….Jim

    • Jim, I’m so glad to hear that this post came at the right time for you! Serendipitous, indeed. Your comment was the first one I saw after my morning pages today. 😉 And I love your reference to The Wizard of Oz … it’s so apt. Thank you!

  2. Patricia says:

    I offer you a line of poetry . . . from Mary Oliver

    Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed..

    Peace to you Caroline and have a blessed day.

  3. Nick Connell says:

    Much love to you. I appreciate your courage and directness and transparency. It is refreshing and emboldening.

  4. Kimberly Ball says:

    Letting go = healing. Healing is a continual process, since the old thoughts of “not enough” still creep into our minds. Way to go there, recognize the voice, and put it into it’s proper place… the garbage! Carry on… you are helping so many… maybe 1,000, maybe more… : )

    • So true, Kimberly – it IS a continual process. As my yoga teacher likes to remind me, “It’s called a yoga practice, not a yoga perfect!” 🙂 Thank you for your encouragement!

  5. Jean_E_Lane says:

    Caroline, I thank you for your transparency!
    When you talk about the numbers, I wonder what your reasons were for starting/continuing this blog. Jesus had 12 disciples and see how that has grown? It took his death, resurrection, and ascension to accomplish that. I admit I don’t understand blogging and earning a living from that venue. But I do understand wanting to express myself so others can understand, not just what I say, but who I am. Isn’t that what we all want? That may be why you started The Listening Hour. That was a marvelous concept! I thought of forwarding the info to my daughter. But the unemployed new mom does not have the wherewithal to do that. And neither does her fixed income mother to gift it to her!

    I am rambling. Getting my thoughts out to try to encourage you as you encourage me. Do you know that you have the ability to do that for someone old enough to be your mom (but isn’t)? In this electronic world, we need voices like yours. Don’t worry about the numbers. Worry about being the best voice for the message you want to get out. And know that people like me are paying attention even when we don’t respond to every article.

    • Jean, thank you for this – you really put things in perspective. When I first started the blog, I wanted to share stories, and also discover whether there might be a readership out there for me as an author. It is so encouraging to hear that this blog speaks to you! As you so aptly noted, I wanted to express myself so that others could understand, and it is always miraculous to me when that happens.

      And I really appreciate your thoughts on The Listening Hour … I will be turning the idea over in my mind to see if there’s a way to go forward with a similar concept that is more accessible. I promise to keep writing, and I thank you for reading!

  6. Julie says:

    Another beautiful post! Your people ARE finding you, but baby steps can be hard. Keep writing, your people are anxiously waiting for your eye, and heart, opening words. 🙂

  7. Brooke says:

    A lovely post, my dear. I am reading The Prosperous Heart, by our friend Julia Cameron, and she says, “The opposite of prosperity isn’t poverty. It’s anxiety.”

    I fixate on the “magic number” in the bank account. I wrote this morning: Hint: it’s always MORE. Thankfully God is dealing with my financial anxiety on a daily basis. As Andy Stanley says, “I will not put my hope in riches, but in Him who richly provides.”

    • Ooh, so true! I love that you shared this here, because about a day after I let go of obsessing about subscriber numbers, I found myself fretting about my monthly income total instead. I had to laugh when I realized I’d just transferred the anxiety to a different number! So thankful to have a friend like you, with whom I can laugh, learn, and practice faith. xo

  8. Dorothy copps says:

    hey Caroline! love your self disclosure. i blamed your shingles on larche before. ha! you are such a hard and passionate worker, we are all blessed by your gifts which are wrapped in love. hope to hugga bugga in the near future.

    • Dorothy, you are a gem – thank you! And yes, it appears that the shingles can occur outside the L’Arche context; fortunately, I am on the mend and feeling much better. Hugga bugga right back atcha. 😉

  9. You probably have more followers than you know. I don’t “subscribe” to your blog through email, but it comes into my RSS feed regularly, and I read it then. Maybe your blog counter counts “RSS subscriptions” but mine doesn’t. And it doesn’t matter to me, because there are lots of folks who read it, even if I don’t know who they are.

  10. So glad you are getting to that place of self-acceptance, but very sorry you had to experience another case of shingles! I think it’s worth nothing that it is not the speed it takes to get us to wisdom, but the miracle we arrive there at all. You’re doing great, Caroline! (And love that picture of you!)

    • Thank you, my dear Jen! Your guidance has been so helpful in these last few weeks (not to mention the last few years!) … I cannot thank you enough for your coaching, wisdom, and encouragement. I hope that you are enjoying your new home – I loved the shot you posted of your ‘fierce editor’! 😉

  11. Liane says:

    Caroline, thank you. I needed to read this today. Please know that even if I don’t comment, I am reading, as are so many others.

    • You are most welcome, Liane – that warms my heart. Thank you for letting me know – I feel the same way about your writing, and can’t wait to read your forthcoming book!

  12. Renee says:

    This was a very brave post, Caroline, and I applaud your coming forward about your recent and now past obsession with blog post subscriber numbers. It is so easy to do, especially when you are also trying to earn a living with your services through the blog. I am glad you have realized that the numbers will come in time and pulled back from worrying about the number of subscribers you have.

    I don’t think you are off the mark at all to guest post on other blogs. Your posts are always thought-provoking and touching, and little by little, word will get around about the sharp cookie over at A Wish Come Clear and you’ll have more raving fans than you will know what to do with.

    In the meantime, please know that you are very much appreciated by your current subscribers, and I, for one, appreciate that you take the time to reply to as many comments as you can. That is sadly lacking on some of the larger blogs.

    Much love.

    • Renee, I’m honored! I can’t tell you how encouraging it is to hear your words, today and always – you’ve given me such a boost. With all my heart, thank you.

  13. Caroline –
    Those outward marks will never be good enough so I’m glad you discovered that now. If you had reached 1,000 you would’ve celebrated for a day (maybe) and then thought, “well, now I have to get to 1,500.”
    Then your “output” would become more geared toward what will “get” people instead of the pondering and truth-finding of your heart.
    Thanks, as always, for sharing this truth, so that we can learn something about ourselves too.

    • Lisa, it’s so good to ‘see’ you here! And you are right on about the outward indicators of success – “there’s always gonna be another mountain” springs to mind. 😉 I’m glad to be able to share with you today.

  14. Caroline, I am so sorry about your illness. I pray you feel better soon. I am thrilled to read about your revelation! I just wrote a chapter in my new book that is about taking the pressure off ourselves and the beautiful results of this action. This did not happen in my life until I was almost 40. I love that you have decided to let go and let things be. This is exactly how I approached my blog. I decided to be an obedient writer. This was something I had control over. I did not have control over who read it or how they felt about what I wrote. I would write from my heart and I would let it go. This approach has blessed me in more ways than I could ever describe. I look forward to hearing how you are impacted by this surrender. Much love to you! Thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you so much, dear Rachel! And what a lovely synchronicity – I can’t wait to read that chapter (and the rest of your next book, of course). And I love how you describe your approach to Hands Free Mama – I’ve pasted your words at the top of my (digital) to-do list as a reminder of what is and isn’t in my control. Thank you again, my friend … you are such an inspiration to me. Xoxoxo

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