When I was a child, I didn’t know what it meant to be shy.
As the first child (and grandchild), I was used to all eyes on me – and I played up to it. Inventing dance routines to my favourite Wet Wet Wet songs, volunteering for every school play, and channeling my inner Baby Spice – nothing was off limits.
But that confidence didn’t last so long. Just after I turned 12, we emigrated to Spain – away from my friends, away from my family, away from my language. I quite literally lost my voice, which, as a verbose (precocious) child, hit me quite hard.
Almost overnight, I seemed to develop this crippling fear of speaking in front of people. I’d lie awake at night, terrified that one of my teachers might ask me a question in front of other people. Oh, the dread.
After leaving school, it didn’t get any easier. But as I started ascending through the ranks at various workplaces, I kept hearing that same piece of advice – fake it ‘til you make it.
So I did. I took that on board. I became an old pro at doing all the cringy things you’re expected to do at networking events (and as the marketing person in our office, there were a LOT of those events). I may have looked like a happy, carefree, suck-up, but on the inside, I felt like I was being strangled.
Do you know how exhausting it is to act confident and bubbly for eight hours a day when you feel anything but?
(The answer is very)
For me, hanging up my corporate cap and going full-time freelance offered me the opportunity to return to my comfort zone. I carved out a nice little cubby hole for myself, ghostwriting for a bunch of business owners that I already knew. I got to be where I wanted to be, behind-the-scenes, far away from the battlefield. Safe from judgment. Perfect. Right?
Not quite. I’d let myself get a little complacent, and that was keeping me small. Also, what if one day I needed new clients? I’d be screwed.
But if you think an in-person networking event is scary, try doing it online. You’re faced with stream after stream of perfectly curated business personas. Stories of seventy figure launches, and biz breakfasts in Bali, and general world domination.
Even so, I knew that I needed to start looking for ways to be a little bit braver online.
The first was a fairly easy one for me, being a writer and all. I committed to writing more articles, both for my site and for a range of different online publications. And this wasn’t just about getting featured, by the way, it was about getting featured as me, with my distinct, kind of wacky voice.
My aim here was to get more comfortable being in the spotlight, so I started with the medium that felt most natural – words.
So few people share raw, honest opinions in the internet marketing world. They jump on trends, they piggyback the discussions already taking place, they stay neutral and inoffensive… they don’t take a stand. They don’t bring the perks and quirks of their personality into their stuff. And that’s what helped me stand out a little – I found a way to make my writing sparkle that little bit more.
You might think that simply writing more is a wuss’s way to be more brave, especially for someone like me, and you’re kind of right. I thought so too, so I took on another (much, much more terrifying) challenge.
One of my clients dared me to live stream from my Facebook page – daily. Live video is a far cry from writing, and quite frankly, the whole idea filled me with blood-curdling dread. But I did it anyway.
Was my face wonky on camera? Did my eyes dart around like disco lights? Did I yammer on incessantly and pause for awkward silences in equal measure?
Yes, yes, and yes.
But the point is, I was doing it. I was doing something that genuinely made me feel brave. And I’m still going. Some days I’m bordering on manic, and some days I have nothing to say, but none of that matters. I’ve committed to facing that fear, and I intend to see it through.
Does it still horrify me? Yes, but not quite so much.
After only a few weeks, I have seen a real transformation in my confidence levels. I’ve finally booked the photo shoot I’ve been putting off for months. I can talk about my business without apologising. I’ve even filmed a couple of video testimonials. Am I fixed? Probably not, but I’m working on it.
So… I promised you a “how to” on this whole bravery thing – here goes:
Know who you are and what you stand for
Having confidence in your own thoughts and ideas is the very necessary foundation for making any kind of impact online.
Pick a platform that feels comfortable – ish. Baby steps are allowed – you’re the only person there to judge your progress.
Harness peer pressure for good
Accountability can be a rather powerful motivator. This could come in the form of a supportive friend or colleague, or by announcing your intentions to the anonymous masses. That’s up to you.
Do more of that thing that scares you
For me, that was being on camera. For you, that might be writing, or public speaking, or teaching… Regardless, flooding yourself with those experiences is the only way you’ll ever vanquish your demons.
Review and renew.
Set a time limit to this personal challenge of yours – I’d say 30 days is a nice, extensive-enough period. When you hit that limit, analyse your progress. If the fear is still lingering, keep at it. If the fear is gone, but you still don’t enjoy it, stop.
Keeping up with something you hate, just for the sake of it, isn’t brave. @DaireCharlotte (Click to Tweet!)
I hope this snippet of my story has helped you see that ordinary people can overcome their ordinary concerns, with nothing more than a little grit and a little determination.
Now tell me – what’s the bravest move you’ve made online?
Daire Paddy (pronounced Dara) is a writer and editor. She helps businesses create killer online content and stay on the ball in the hectic world of digital media. She is a true word-weaving genius and knows just how to takes her clients’ thoughts and turn them into brilliant stories.
Image courtesy of Snapwire.