You have a new opportunity ahead of you. You are excited and nervous. But then, the self doubt creeps in and suddenly you do not want to take advantage of this new opportunity. It comes in the form of negative self-talk, excuses not to go, and in the paralyzing fear that you want to just stay home and curl up on your couch. How does one overcome this fear of a new experience? How can you change your thinking to embrace it and enjoy it?
Recently my daughter started Middle School. And of course, as a parent I gave her all of the great advice, knowing she would be just fine. I had confidence that after she started it would all be fine. She of course was very skeptical.
I am about to embark on a new adventure of my own, completely alone. I will be attending a conference, FinCon, for the first time. For four days, I will be attending a conference, where I know absolutely NO ONE.
I can’t help but think how similar these two situations are. The question is, Can I take my own advice that I so confidently gave my daughter? Will I survive FinCon, like she will survive Middle School?
It Might Suck at First
How often do we tell people, “Everything will be OK. You will be fine.” And of course, it probably will. But not at first. You need to accept that at first, new things are uncomfortable. They do not always feel good, and in fact, you will not be an expert and will struggle through. It takes everyone different amount of times to find their comfort level.
You can anticipate and plan for as many variables as possible, but there is sure to be something that you didn’t plan. So the best thing is to prepare for the fact, that you can’t be prepared for everything, and something is going to happen that will throw you off and possibly send you into a mini panic attack.
Kids should not expect to go out on the baseball field and hit a homer immediately. It isn’t going to happen, yet in their mind, that is success. They need to know that they are going to go out there and royally screw up. And that is fine. It is how they handle these mistakes or failures that will help guide them to success.
So at my conference next week, I know that I won’t know exactly where to store my luggage until I check in, and I won’t know exactly where to go, so yes it will not be perfect. I will need to find my comfort level and go with the flow.
You Are Not the Center of Attention
What if no one likes me, or sits by me? What if everyone notices I don’t know what I am doing? What if I don’t say the right thing? What If I don’t know where I am going and I look like an idiot? What if I trip in the hallway and and I am known as “Clutz Girl”?
These are real concerns. But the fact of the matter is that no one is looking at you. You are not the center of attention. You probably aren’t the only one experiencing this for the first time either. People will not be paying attention to you. You will be fine, and no one will notice, or if they do, they will be much more likely to lend a helping hand than put you down. We have all been the “new one”.
Reach Out to Others
We have all been there, when you feel like you are the only person without a friend. As I am about to embark on my trip to FinCon, I realize that I have only met 1 of the 2000 people who will be attending. I do not know anyone else. Who am I going to eat lunch with? Who will walk with me in between sessions? Who am I going to talk to, because I can’t go 4 days without talking????
Similar to my daughter when she started Middle School, she was concerned about who she would have class with and talk to. There are always those people who flock together right away and are social. The quote “popular” crowd. You see them together, laughing, having fun, with no effort at all and always in a pack. I had to remind my daughter that when I said, go talk with people, I meant for her to find others like her. Find someone else who looks like they are alone. Find the other quiet kids. It was amazing to see the relief on her face, because for some reason, those quiet loners felt more approachable than those already in groups.
How to start? A smile! It makes you more approachable and helps you start a conversation. You can also start by complimenting someone on something. Who doesn’t like compliments? Tell a speaker how great they sounded, or tell someone how cute their shoes are. In middle school, my daughter has found this as a great opening to a conversation with others in her class. It also is something she can build on in future discussions.
Some of us are introverts, and it is intimidating to find others, but even one other person can help make this new experience more bearable.
The hardest part is to stay as positive as possible. All the fears and feelings of discomfort are normal. You just need to reframe your experiences as an opportunity and not a threat. This is your chance to expand your comfort zone. All of the mistakes you might perceive are moments to learn from and grow. If you don’t try new things, you will find yourself missing out and staying stagnant. You have the capability to make anything happen!
Visualize yourself being successful. The world is full of new opportunities, and you don’t want to miss out on any of them.
If you find yourself in a new situation, prepare to be uncomfortable, know that no one is paying attention to you, try to find a buddy, and always stay positive. My daughter has found that she likes Middle School and has found many new people to befriend. She would not trade her experiences for anything.
If she can do this, then I can for surely survive FinCon. I am hoping this conference opens new doors and connects me with other people. I am visualizing a wonderful experience!