The Weird Thing About Being Shy
Posted on October 02 2015
"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
- Nelson Mandela
Yesterday, I said my social anxiety was another post for another day. Well, it's another day, and this is another post.
I went to a big ol' event in San Francisco City Hall last night.
Lots of people who had either raised funds (me) or were in the process of fundraising were there in booths/tables, and a lot of professional humans (all kinds) were wandering around having conversations with the "makers."
We were not allowed to sell anything, which was a huge relief. No matter what I'm doing or where I am, it seems horrible in theory. The reality of it is actually great -- I love talking to people -- but showing up and worrying about how I look and what I should say... well, it's terrifying.
Here's the photo I posted on social media:
Meanwhile, this is what I sent my friend Beth in text at basically the exact same time:
(side note: Beth, thank you. I was clearly freaking right the fuck out.)
The truth is, I was in Hell.
I was sweating profusely, I set up two hours early (when I'm nervous, I'm either hours early or horribly late), and I couldn't get comfortable in my clothes.
But I did it anyway.
This is how it is for 80% of events I attend, whether it's Renegade Craft Fair or a local market. But it's worth it. It's always worth it.
I was very unpopular in school. Other kids made fun of me ruthlessly and I spent most of my childhood alone. That's ok. It is what it is and it made me who I am.
It made me seek out other misfits, and, honestly, they're better people anyways.
But it also made me afraid of people, because I know people can be very mean. And that made me very shy. And that made me struggle with even the most basic human interactions, like going to the grocery store or ordering at Chipotle (what monster designed that high-stakes social obstacle course to delicious food?).
It's one of the reasons I love the internet.
Yes, yes, I know that people on the internet are trolls and mean and awful and predatory, but they can't actually hurt me. I can walk away from anyone on the internet, so it's zero risk.
So I know that I can protect myself online, but in real life? OMG please don't make me do that. People are horrible.
But meeting people at events shows me that people are not horrible at all.
People are wonderful.
It's true. Almost every person I meet is delightful, kind, accepting, interested and interesting, and compassionate.
Very few have been cruel to my face.
Last night was really great.
I met so many wonderful people. My neighbor to my left was giving out cheesecake samples. My neighbor to my right was doing made-to-order laser cut stuff. At the end of the row was a guy who went to JAIL and made a product called Prison Bars (you better believe we're going to be including those in our "Break Out of Jail" Scoutlaws subscription box). I even met a bookkeeper who was awesome and we're going to be friends because AWESOME!
I even met a reporter from The Chronicle... which... well, he might not write about us, but he probably will never forget meeting me. (Connor, I still have faith that you're the next Hunter S. Thompson. Trust me on this one. We need you.)
I met the CEO of Kiva and didn't fall into a panic. I met investment professionals. I met people from the city and the SBA. I met housewives. I met a homeless veteran. I met caterers (thank you for the couple glasses of wine). I met a guy who wanted to start over and get an entry level marketing job (and I was able to help him with advice about how to do that). I met a guy bringing Chinese medicine to corporate offices.
I met dozens of people, and I didn't die.
But that's how it is. Every time.
I don't think I'll ever show up to an event with the confidence of the person in the photo of me outside of City Hall.
But I have to do it anyway. Because I'm a professional.
And thank God people are so good. Thank you for being so good.