As a child, I was blessed with an ability to never feel insecure in any situation. This caused my mother endless amounts of grief as I bounced around stores, loudly singing, loudly talking, and loudly asking her to buy me things. The teenage me gave her the same amount of grief, but with an awareness after social situations that I probably looked like a complete idiot during them.
As an adult, I have a keen awareness before social situations of what an idiot I will potentially make myself out to be. Not very long ago, this was such a crippling can’t-breathe-get-me-outta-here awareness that I tried not to venture into social situations unless I had no other option. I’m slowly working (and forcing) myself out of my self induced shell.
As a blogger, I often see events going on that I would so love to attend, but the anxiety is too overwhelming to consider. As I come out of my shell, such events seem slightly less terrifying. One such event is the Breathing Space Retreat in Daybreak, Utah.
This beautiful retreat has a few things that appealed to me: first, affordability, at only $75 for a weekend ticket! Second, location, as it’s within Salt Lake valley. Third, it offers fun classes like beginning knitting and photography!
Lastly, it offers the taste of a blog conference, without the sheer overwhelming numbers of a big-time blog conference: it’s excluded to 75 people! The size of the conference is perfect for me. It will get me out of my comfort zone (75 people! wow, that is a lot of people I don’t know!), without plunking me down in the middle of 500+ attendees. I can do 75 people. Right? Right??
As I work my way out of my “shell,” I’m starting to realize… I’m not the only one ready to pee their pants in a social situation. I’ve pulled together some tips from other bloggers ready to hit their anxiety head on at a conference.
1. Be Recognizeable! Kristi, from The Daily Dribbles, posted a real-life picture of herself, admitting,
The thing is, I’m naturally a shy person. If you know me in real life, you’re probably laughing at that statement. Once you get to know me, I’m not shy at all. In fact, I’m quite outgoing. But if you don’t know me, and I don’t know you, and there are lots of people involved (like at a blog conference), I feel overwhelmed and oftentimes, just go and sit by myself and wait for someone else to come up to me. That is not me being a bitch. That is me retreating and hoping that someone will take pity on me and start a conversation with me.
2. Don’t Compare. One cool thing about the Breathing Space Retreat is that while it’s for “bloggers,” blogger is pretty loosely defined by anyone who happens to have a blog. If you’re coming, and your blog has a follower, singular, (hi, Mom!), enjoy what you’re learning from more established bloggers. Dianne, of Will Write for Food, offers this advice:
Someone is always going to have a better book deal, more readers, more speaking opportunities, more ad revenue, nicer clothes, more prestigious freelancing gigs, better writing skills, and more hangers-on. I’ll never win, playing that game.
3. Shut Up, Listen Up - Awkward with conversation? Then leave the conversation to others. Debrorah, from American Christian Fiction Writers, offers this valuable insight:
Listen five times more than you talk, and when you do talk, make at least 50% of your words QUESTIONS to others about themselves, instead of talking about yourself. I know when I’m nervous I have a tendency to talk WAY too much. I’m learning that if I make a conscious effort to shut my mouth and just LISTEN, I get far more out of any encounter or meeting.
4. Make New Friends… First – If at all possible, attend the Twitter chats, Facebook convo, and real-life meet ups before the event. Suddenly the strangers that you’re about to spend an entire weekend with won’t seem to strange! A tip from socialanxietydisorder.about.com:
If you will be attending an event where you do not know anyone, make a point of trying to get to know at least one other fellow attendee prior to going. Although it may be awkward to try and get to know someone in advance, you will be glad to see a friendly face when you arrive. Make plans to meet up for coffee or a meal during the event and you will feel less like an outsider amongst an unfriendly crowd.
Whether you suffer from blog conference anxiety or not, I hope you’ll venture out of your comfort zone to join me at the Breathing Space Retreat! If nothing else, you know you’re not the only one there who is taking deep breaths, trying not to be horribly awkward, and making a concentrated effort not to pee their pants and run.