Attending this kind of stuff was something I wouldn’t have even dreamed of doing a few years ago. I wanted to do some kind of a round up of them, but what ended up spilling out of my brain was the lessons I’ve learned from making the decision to be the type of person who goes to events; the type of person who strides over to people I’ve never met and confidently strikes up conversation. Because it is as simple as deciding who you need to be to do the things you say you want to do.
Historically, I considered myself shy. Actually I’d have said “I have an overdeveloped sense of shame” because that sounds more dramatic. Alcohol was my constant friend in social situations. But having kids did something to me.
It was great and sucked in equal measure. I say “great” with hindsight. If I’m brutally honest – and I like to be – I am not and never was a “natural” mother (whatever the hell that is); I spent more of the baby years internally screaming “aaaargghhh I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing, this is fucking awful and I can’t fucking do it” than anything else. What can I say, I’m dramatic.
The point is, two kids down and by the time I’d managed to keep us all going till the littlest was one and I was going back to a job which was killing my soul, I knew I had to change things. The first thing I did was start going to events with no real goal except to talk to at least one person at each one I went to.
Putting yourself out there and slowly gathering evidence that you won’t die from feeling a little bit anxious is incredibly liberating.
I’d say one piece of evidence which tells you you’re capable of talking to strangers without feeling like a total dick trumps five pieces of evidence you’ve stored up from the past to the contrary. The key is to set yourself an achievable goal – maybe just talking to one person initially – and building up from there. Also, be sure to allow yourself to really bask in the glory of the fact you did the thing you were scared of, no matter how small a step it might seem. You took a risk, you created your own opportunity, got out of your own way and did it. Celebrate.
Be open and honest. When you pretend you have it all together, you’re doing yourself and everyone around you a disservice. Keeping it real is so important. Being willing to say you’re not quite sure what you’re doing, but you’re having a stab anyway gives others permission to reveal the same to you. And they do.
No one feels ready; or like “Done! Finished! That’s it! I’m a success now!”
This gives all of us permission to start before we’re ready because NO ONE FEELS READY. Ever. To use a slightly vom-inducing term: it’s a journey. Or – like little-acknowledged oracle of our times – Ronan says, “life is a rollercoaster, you’ve just gotta roide it”.
When doing your own thing, being willing to get it all wrong and look like a twat is non-negotiable. Take it from someone who has spent a lifetime being so frightened of looking like a twat that I’ve effectively been stood still up until having kids pushed me – kicking and screaming – waaaaay out of my very well-loved comfort zone.
Working things out as you go is the only way.
Holding out till you have money to pay for branding, money for a website, or have time to work out how to make a decent one yourself or any other lame excuse you pull out of your arse as to why you can’t start the thing you say you want to do is just time wasted. Your time IS your life. You’re wasting your life! Stop that.
Whilst #womensupportingwomen along with #yourvibeattractsyourtribe are somewhat nauseating cliches – and the cynical side of me would previously have listed both very firmly under the heading of more vom-inducing claptrap – I’ve experienced both hard this past year. People absolutely want to help, support, advise, promote, recommend, motivate, encourage and all the other good verbs. I don’t think anyone I’ve reached out to and asked for help this past year has said no. If they have, I don’t remember because they’ve been so lovely about it, it didn’t feel anything like rejection.
We all know comparison is the thief of joy, but here’s the thing. If you’re looking around comparing yourself to everyone else and feeling shit about it, it’s a massive bloody distraction from getting to where you want to go. You’re wasting your sweet time. Take the energy you’re using eyeing up what everyone else around you is doing and instead make use of it to actually dooooooo things that move you forward and benefit you! Ok? Good.
Suddenly social media stops being a drain on your time and energy – a sucky neggy little void of comparison, jealousy and bad times – and instead, becomes a genuinely lovely supportive village right at the end of your fingertips, whenever you need it.
Working alone is hard. It makes you prone to imposter syndrome, crippling self doubt, fear etc, but get thee to a real life event, a workshop or just grab a coffee with someone else in the same boat and all is well again because everyone feels the same, from time to time at the very least.
We all need human connection. And it’s there for the taking because social media is awash with people doing their own thing; with similar hopes, dreams, struggles and challenges as you. It doesn’t matter if you don’t click with everyone. You won’t. That’s life and as it should be.
You have to have integrity, be who you really are and not some pretend version of yourself. If you’re trying to be someone you’re not, you’re not gonna connect with anyone at all, or – if you do – they won’t be genuine connections. What’s the point in those? They’ll just make you feel bad.
When you are, real connections will come and when they do and you’ve put the time in – building rapport; paying genuine compliments (for the love of GOD, don’t pay fake ones); giving guidance, support and encouragement, as much as you’ve received – they are bloody GOLD. Kudos to the many absolute wonders I had the good fortune to meet/chat to/learn from/work with/be encouraged/inspired by/hang out with in 2019 – Ruth Hoskins, Sara Dalrymple, Lara Sheldrake, Fleur Emery, Julia Wetzel, Rebecca McKay Miller, Jess Lewis, Annie Ridout, Keri Jarvis, Holly Wadsworth-Hill, Sarah Tucker, Cleo Walters, Cat Bateman, Sarah Birchall, Emily Hodges, Lucy Werner, Toni Din, Franky De Barr, Susannah Lee – to name just a few. You’re all utter legends and amazing humans and I’m glad to know you.
More of the same in 2020 please. The end.
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*credit to the awesome Junie Poonie for this wise gem of imagery