When I started my web design business ten years ago, I was living in a big city – actually, “the” big city – NYC. And as a complete introvert, I enjoyed having a handful of close friends, but I felt I needed to expand my network if I wanted to get my new business off the ground. I’d heard about Meetup.com so I checked out their website and sure enough, found oodles of networking events that I could attend.
The problem was, I was absolutely terrified to go.
After all, in a city of 8 million people, I most certainly would not know a single soul. I envisioned myself entering awkwardly, having a painful flashback to the first day of middle school walking into the cafeteria at lunch, my eyes desperately scanning the room for any face of familiarity to rescue me from my self-imposed humiliation.
Anyone who’s experienced something akin to the above scenario knows that fears like this one are very real – gripping even. But you know what else? They also in many cases prevent us from doing things which we actually might end up enjoying in the end!
Is there something you think you might *want* or *need* to do in your personal or professional life, but you’re feeling terrified to do it? Just as I was eventually able to conquer my fear of attending events alone (spoiler alert: my happy ending is at the end of this post), you can conquer your fear too. Below are three of my favorite ways of moving from “I just can’t!” to “I did it!”
Ask Yourself: “What could be gained?”
When we’re feeling terrified, we tend to focus on all the terrible what-ifs. What if I don’t know anyone? What if I feel uncomfortable? What if I sound stupid? What if I make a fool of myself? And so on. One way to turn your fear on its head is to explore the opposite end of these what-ifs. What great things might happen if you face your fear? New opportunities? New relationships? A change in your circumstances? Chances are, a lot of great things could (and will) happen – most of all you feeling empowered and ready to conquer your next fear.
Look at the evidence.
Sometimes when I’m feeling fearful (or worried or upset for that matter), I like to put on my “scientist” hat and see if I can look at things completely objectively for a change. How many people before me have failed at what I’m afraid of? How many have succeeded? What are the mathematical chances that I’ll come away having had a miserable time versus an ok one? “Surveying the evidence” in this way can help pull us up out of our emotional weeds, and shed some light on what’s real and what’s most likely to happen.
Set up 10 small steps
For me, heading out to a 200-person networking event in NYC was simply not a realistic first step. It would have felt a bit like jumping off a cliff. So what did I do instead? I created for myself a 10-step plan to getting there. Step 1: Bring a friend to an event with me, and set the goal of meeting one new person. Step 2: Attend an event alone, but a small one – ten people or less. And so on and so forth.
Ok, so ready for that happy ending? Fast forward ten years later, and I’ve attended so many events on my own that I’ve honestly lost count. Sure, sometimes I feel a little awkward when I walk into an event and realize I don’t know anyone, but that feeling only lasts as long as it takes me to walk up to someone, smile, and say “Hi, I’m Janelle.”