How do you handle those moments of social discomfort?
Meeting someone for the first time, a networking event of 5 people or 500 people, these kind of situations can be hugely intimidating and the stakes are even higher if you’re looking to build lasting relationships that could turn into potential clients, creative collaborations or valuable connections. You don’t want to mess that up.
My shyness keeps me safe as I warm up to my environment. When I’m shy, I don’t use big words that make people feel stupid, I don’t have ‘full-on’ energy that make others feel uncomfortable. I’m not a bother.
At least, that’s what I used to tell myself.
It’s not surprising, but I was never a star at networking or meeting new people. Without some level of expertise or status to hide behind, I hid behind my shyness instead.
As I build my business, though, this is a problem. I need to meet people. I need to generate leads and outreach. Without other people – customers, champions, mentors, co-strivers, challengers – there really is no business.
I had a pattern:
- Show up shy, attract no-one or other insecure people
- About half-way through I would pluck up my courage and let my authentic self out
- Sense the other insecure people scoping me out and becoming intimidated and weirded out
- Just about everyone else doesn’t notice, they have already settled in to the valuable connections they’ve begun to make.
One of my mentors confirmed this after facilitating a course I attended. He said it was like watching someone through a hologram – 2 identities battling it out to see who would win until finally the true version emerged.
I imagine that experience must be very confusing for the people around me. That’s when I realised my shyness was toxic. It doesn’t protect me, it keeps me caged. It’s a prison that keeps great people out and my authentic self in.
Shyness stops me having the self-confidence to teach something I’m good at because I’m worried no one will find me capable, credible.
As I worked through this new finding with my coach, another aspect emerged. I have been approaching life through the lens of a dominant question: “Who do you need me to be?”
I ask this every time I’m in a new situation (especially with people). When I don’t know the people, I don’t know who to show up as – who they need me to be. I default to the quiet little girl, the blank canvas waiting for enough information to answer that question. Then, I will do my best to show up as her – who I perceive you need me to be.
That is to say, not myself.
This belief is keeping me stuck in confusion. Every time I open a door of possibility, I close it again because I don’t know who to show up as.
The cool thing about beliefs is, we’re allowed to change them. Remember, beliefs are not truths.
When I stop asking this question of others and start asking it of myself, that’s when I can truely be of service and ironically, when I become who they really need me to be.
Who do I need me to be?
- Be brave and curious,
- Crack dark jokes,
- Talk about ideas,
- Rediscover play,
- Wear sparkles and colour often,
- Ask for help even if there’s a chance I don’t need it,
- Indulge in witch-craft/wizardry and a little bit of magic,
- Be inclusive and be included.
I am worthy of belonging.
And so are you.