Psst, hello, I’m the quiet one in the corner..

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.

Soon. …ish.

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.

9 thoughts on “Psst, hello, I’m the quiet one in the corner..”

  1. I do find you inspiring, and I do wish you luck. 🙂 Oh, and I’m happy to serve as your large portable emergency rock, although I don’t think you’re going to need it for much longer!

    1. Thanks Sarah! I can always count on you. I suspect I’ll need my security rock for some time to come! (not that that’s you of course – you set the bar!) It’s good that we can encourage each other along, innit?! 🙂

  2. Maybe you could just write everything you want to say 🙂 This was a beautiful piece and I felt you on so many levels.

    I think you’ve got more guts then you give yourself credit for.

    I’m intrigued and will definitely be paying attention as you step up to leadership. I can’t wait to get the real scoop on how you do it.

  3. Melodye,

    Thanks for your very kind comments! I love, love, love the idea of writing everything I want to say, but I’m going to have to actually speak up and become much more visible in order to actually make the kind of impact I want. So, I need to step out more – and become a speaker, an advocate and a role model. I will get there – because what I lack in courage I can make up in sheer determination and will power, most of the time. But the idea of becoming a leader is still pretty terrifying at this point!

    Thanks for your support and I will definitely keep updating the blog to spur people on – if I can make this transition – from wallflower to Wonderwoman (of sorts) – anyone can!

    1. Thanks! I appreciate your support and feedback. I’ll get another post up by Wednesday. Let me know if there’s any particular issue or topic you’d like me to cover and I’ll see if I can address in a forthcoming post.

  4. Juliet I loved this post. You, my dear, have a smile and sense of humour that could smooth over any feathers you could ever imagine that you ruffled.
    I do believe that you can change the world. And as someone who stood in front of the mirror in her LA hotel room, willing herself to step up and take her own place at Ali Brown’s event-I look forward to following your journey, as I work on my own

    1. Gwen, thanks for your lovely feedback. It feels good to know I’m not the only person who has to take a deep breath and give herself a pep talk before facing a room full of strangers – but we did it! And what’s more we are chasing our dreams and every step is win along the way! It would be an honour to witness your journey too and I’m sure we can help each other go from strength to the strength, with the rewards being more confidence, more impact, greater success, and hopefully some great friendships built in the process – yay!

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