You probably walked right past me when you came into the room.
You see I’m skilled at making myself appear insignificant, small, invisible.
In fact, I’m an expert lurker.
Not in a creepy manner, it’s just that in a group situation, I suffer from extreme shyness. When I get invited to a party, I have to spend at least half an hour talking myself into going. On arrival I limpet on to someone I know or sit in a corner alone, pretending to be busy with my phone, or better yet, help the host in the kitchen.
Office parties, large conferences and networking events fill me with dread.
I even find social media challenging.
I have lurked on Facebook for years. Honestly, I’m not all that interested in the daily routine of people’s lives – you may be my much loved friend, but I really don’t care what you had for supper or that you like videos of soppy cats or people falling over and hurting themselves. I hardly ever visited the site for the first five years. Now I’ve ramped up my security settings to the point that my family and friends have to ask me to friend them as my profile is so well buried in deep cover.
A few months ago I joined the twitterverse. Yay! My 70 year old mother, a voluble twitterati, quickly followed me along with my husband and some long-suffering friends. And faced only with this friendly, loyal group of followers, I still couldn’t think of anything to say. I mean, am I really that interesting? In desperation I sent a few weak tweets (let’s call them “witterings”) about a journey I was taking to meet an inspiring business leader and mentor I’ve wanted to meet for a while (Ali Brown, for the insatiably curious among you).
And then I shut up.
I realised that I had thought of my trip as a hero’s journey when in fact it was just two back-to-back 12 hour flights in the second to last row of a cramped plane, and a 9 hour time change. Hardly glamorous or exciting. Not likely to make waves in the media or amount to anything much, other than jetlag and embarrassing myself in front of a whole new group of hip Californians. I plaintively wittered a request for the airline to upgrade me, since they had to believe in my cause: I’m going to change the world. I really am, but when it comes to twitter, I’m pretty pathetic.
I could regale you with endless tales of how I’ve embarrassed myself in professional or work situations through being shy and nervous, from throwing a bottle of water across the check in desk of a swanky LA hotel (and spraying the person I was hoping to meet and impress who was checking in next to me), to boldly walking to the front of the room at a conference, plonking myself down in an available seat and brashly introducing myself to two people who turned out to be the (Honourable) Minister of Industry and her (very indignant) aide. The seat I had taken was – of course – being saved for Someone of Consequence.
Or there’s the time I met a hero of mine when I was collecting business cards and gabbled that it was such a thrill to meet them, I’d read their stories in the New Scientist and Guardian and what an honour this was, etc – all this in the middle of a press conference that I was organising and the poor sod was supposed to be covering.
Clearly, I need help. (And a portable large rock to crawl behind, in case of emergency.)
So I have decided enough is enough. I have a dream – a big dream – and a plan to change the world, and I’ll tell you about that in another posting. Suffice to say, I’ve realised I can’t change the world until I change myself.
I need to stop hiding, stop the crippling, self-sabotaging shyness, and just woman up and lead.
Eek! Did I say that out loud?!
Yes I did. And so I shall.
You – the lucky few readers who stumble across this site – may witness my journey – to leadership, more confidence and embracing visibility. I hope you’ll find my story entertaining, witty and with a modicum of inspiration to help you step out with confidence too. You may laugh. Aloud, if you insist. You may cringe. You may share it to a selected few others, if you must. Please do comment. And please do share your stories too.
And if you are really, really lucky, I might even tell you my name in the next post. Meantime, what’s yours? How do you get over being shy in a group situation – whether virtual or real? Speak up please, I’d really love to hear from you.
Oh didn’t you know? Lurkers make great listeners.