What do you do when you are terribly shy, but in order to be successful in your job, you have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and pretend to be social? That is what I am living through right now and to say it is challenging is an understatement.
Being social in an environment where the majority of people do not know me on a personal level is as painful to me as stabbing myself in the leg with a fork (which I am sometimes tempted to do so that I can have a legitimate excuse to exit said environment). I am horrible at making causal conversation, so I end up forcing myself to try and engage with a few basic questions, and then the conversation dies… and there you stand… in awkward silence. Every shy person knows what I am talking about. Even worse then casual conversation is public speaking. Tell me that I have to give a presentation next week and I will have an upset stomach and migraine headache everyday up until the presentation is done.
I’ve tried everything you can imagine to overcome this dreadful feeling. I was a cheerleader in high school (in hopes that would make me feel more comfortable having attention placed on me), I took dance classes, public speaking courses and have read more books on “Being an Introvert” than I care to admit. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is so shy you cannot speak and 10 being one of those fortunate outgoing people that can strike a conversation with a perfect stranger in a grocery store check-out line, I would say I’ve grown from a 3 to maybe a 6 in all the years of trying. Which sounds good, I mean, improvement is improvement right? Yet, it is not helping me in my current career development.
Tonight there is a company team building dinner that I will be attending. I have been sitting at my desk most of the day thinking of ways that I can make conversation with a variety of people that will be attending. I’m drawing a blank. I understand the importance of “networking”, but what good is trying to network if I cannot even hold up my end of a conversation?
I believe part of my problem is that I do not feel I’m smart enough or interesting enough to be worthy of talking about myself. I am terrified of saying something that I deem to be unintelligent (even if others do not see it that way). So I sit in silence. I often think that people mistake my shyness for my being a snob, which pushes people to not want to engage with me. When in reality, if you get to know me and I feel a sense of comfort, I will talk your ear off!
So now here I sit. Trying to figure out how to get through tonight with a positive attitude and a big smile. I guess the best I can hope for is that I do not suffer one of my famous panic attacks before the night has ended.