Freak out. Meltdown. Keyed up. Pick a label. Doesn’t matter. It’s here–the pre-event emotional mixing bowl of jitters, doubt and insecurity, with just a pinch of dread. Holy synopsis, it’s the night before school starts all over again.
Seems any time I’m heading for a writing event—a conference, retreat, class, workshop or seminar, all of my irrational thoughts tap into their stash of steroids and pump themselves up to Library of Congress sized proportions. They tell me lie after lie about myself and my abilities (or lack thereof) until I am left feeling unworthy, talentless and ill-equipped. Maybe even a little gassy.
Why am I telling you all of this? You never feel this way. You approach every new opportunity with the confidence of a peacock.
Um, don’t you?
If there is a sliver of a chance you can relate, allow me to share how I fill the holes in my perforated confidence (aside from the obligatory (and liberal) doses of chocolate).
Phone a friend (email works too). I have some dear, patient friends who know how to bolster my saggy self-confidence. Having writers for friends can be especially beneficial at low points like these—they not only know what to say—they say it so well!
Be prepared. Doing my homework or polishing my manuscript till it sparkles (with the help of my clean-up crew, aka, critique group) helps me know I’ll be sharing my best.
Remind myself I’m in a big boat. Chances are, at any given event, there are lots of other people battling the same feelings I am (more or less on the 1 to 10 freak out scale). Feeling nervous isn’t a crime. Feelings ain’t good or bad. They just is.
Practice what I push. When my teenage daughter is reluctant to do something because she’s scared, I tell her to be brave. Being brave doesn’t mean you’re not afraid. Being brave is being afraid, but doing it anyway.
Reconnect to purpose. Why the heck am I putting myself through this anyway? Reflecting on the exceptional, encouraging experiences I’ve had at past conferences, and the amazing people I’ve met along the way helps me to remember it’s going to be worthwhile.
Shift my focus. Instead of thinking about myself, I will intentionally focus on the others and how I can make them feel at ease.
Impress less. Sometimes I forget to remind myself to remember this one. As I shared in an earlier blog post, I still cringe when I think about some of my behavior at my very first conference. I was so intent on fitting in and making sure people knew that I knew what they knew, that I know I must have been a pain in the bookend. Since then I’ve found that I learn a lot more when I relax and come ready to absorb not impress.
Next weekend I’ll be putting my tactics to the test. Be watching for a progress report!
I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me. ~ Stuart Smalley, SNL 2010
You is good. You is kind. You is important. ~ Aibileen from The Help by Kathryn Stockett