I’m going to let you in on a little secret that a lot of people don’t know about me. I am shy. Not just occasionally shy but painfully shy. It started in elementary school when I realized that I was the only mixed girl in school with hair that reached Don King heights and it continued as I learned how much kinder books can be than your peers.
The problem with this shyness though, is that it really doesn’t serve me when I want to share my story to help others. Whether it is through words or photos, I feel honored to share parts of my life with others and I have met some of the most amazing people by doing this. Putting myself and my story out there however, doesn’t make me any less shy.
Being shy in my line of work is still something that I struggle with often. Opportunities to meet and network with people who I can learn from, be inspired by, or even inspire are normally met with excitement followed by immediate nervousness. I often will try to talk myself out of going to an event three minutes after I first hear about it. It’s not because I don’t want to have a chance to meet incredibly amazing people but it’s because the thought of being in a room with tons of people I don’t know makes my hands shake and my stomach hurt. My body and mind immediately reject the idea of meeting tons of people at once even though there is a part of me that wants to that is just lacking the confidence to do so.
Not everyone needs to worry about putting himself or herself out there. Many jobs in the world do not require a large amount of networking and there is definitely nothing wrong with that. My career however requires a lot of networking and even more importantly than that, I want to share my story and my life experiences in hopes that they will help someone else.
The struggle with shyness is a daily thing but I have found a successful way to overcome it. I’m sure the best way varies from person to person but for me, it is as simple as traveling to a place that makes me feel confident. For me, that place is normally New York City. I spend a lot of time there for both work and play and I never return home from the city without a new sense of confidence. In New York City, I am a teeny tiny tadpole in a vast, enormous ocean yet the possibilities of what could happen while I am there seem endless. So many people talk to me about everything under the sun that it is impossible to stay shy for long. It is not uncommon to meet a CEO, a famous artist, and a journalist all in the same day and meeting so many different people from so many different backgrounds makes me feel like there is no limit to what I can achieve. The passionate energy in the city is contagious and every time I go, I try to store enough away in my pocket until the next time I am able to return.
Maybe New York City isn’t the place that makes you feel confident but there is something out there that does. Maybe there is a song that you can blast in the car and sing along to before arriving at a networking event. Perhaps a long talk with your best friend can clear your head and make you feel confident before you head off to teach a workshop. It’s possible that painting for pleasure in your down time can give you the confidence to stand up in front of a large group of people and lead a meeting every morning. Whatever it is that gives you the confidence to put yourself out there, find it and do it! As for me, I will spend the next week reaching out to people that intimidate me and marking yes to those RSVP’s to all those networking events that made me nervous just last week.