What people think

People think I am talented. I feel mediocre.
People think I have all the answers. I do not.
People think I don’t make mistakes. I do.
People think I am strong. I am not.
People think I am fearless. I am terrified.
People think I have direction. I am lost.
People think I am an amazing wife. I am just a wife.
People think I am a “Uber” mom. I am just a mom.

This past week I had the amazing opportunity to join a fabulous group of individuals at the #140 Conference Ontario in Kitchener. A group that although I speak with a fair number of them on twitter on a regular basis, I really don’t “know”.

People think I am confident. I am not.

For me, walking into this conference was petrifying. Although I knew I had one IRL friend in the room (@jackiyo) and many others I “know” on twitter, I felt like I should be turning around and heading back to my car. Then, when Jeff Pulver (@jeffpulver) opened the day by saying something about being in the room with 200+ of his best friends, I really felt like I was intruding on a private party. As much as I wanted to be a part of that amazing group of people, I felt like a fraud. A fraud who was desperate to sneak out a side door except there wasn’t one.

Then the stories started and I was transfixed. It was like a book you can’t put down or a movie you never want to end. It was life-changing. I could tell you how every speaker taught me something, because they did, but for me two speakers stood out.

The first was Brianne Jourdin (@touchbykenadie), a mom of a child with special needs. Yes, that fact alone connects us but it was two completely unrelated statements in her 10 min speech that flashed like a beacon to me. “I went to a tweet up and I got to the door and was so afraid, I turned around and left. I regret that now.” …..That was me!
Back in May, I went with @JackiYo to WomenInBiz Conference in Toronto and at the tweet up the night before; I arrived, I walked through the room and I left. I went back to my room, threw up (gross but true) and tried to DM my husband on twitter. He wasn’t around. Then after a thirty minute argument with myself, I went back to the party and ended up meeting a great group of girls (all named Jen, oddly enough) and had a great night. Yet here again, at this #140ConfOnt, I was feeling the same thing.

You see, I find the task of walking up to people and introducing myself nearly immobilizing. I NEED others to make the first move, to approach me, to start the conversation otherwise, I find myself sitting alone, feeling lost and wondering why I’m even there. I know that once I have that opening, I’m usually fine. I can fake the confidence after that but taking that first step is almost debilitating.

That brings me to my second ah ha moment of the conference. Lara Galloway (@mombizcoach) talked about the “Me Too!” phenomenon of the Social media world. When you feel like you’re all alone, or you’ve done something that you think people are going to judge you for, SM shows you that others have been there or are there with you right now.
…..”I just fed my kids peanut butter sandwiches for the third meal in a row. :/ ” ……”Me Too!”
…..”I just realized I didn’t shower or get dressed today. :S ” …….”Me Too!”.
…..”I don’t think I can walk into this room full of strangers.” …..”ME TOO!”

It was an outstanding day full of outstanding stories and everyone who left took with them the feeling that they had been a part of something sacred. There were numerous tales of heartbreak, loss, and pain mixed in with successes, lessons and encouragement. It was like a giant group hug and by the end, I did make the effort to introduce myself to four individuals… @tjzmommy, @touchedbykenadie, @optimom and @TheKarltopia.
I know what you’re thinking, but Jen…four?!?! There were well over 200 people there! Ya, but after four my stomach couldn’t handle any more. Four was an accomplishment.

People think I have it all together. I do not.

This conference showed me that I don’t need to feel alone.
That I don’t need to be all that people think I am.
That it’s ok for me to be me.

People think I am happy…. I think maybe I can be…
But please, if you see me at #BlissdomCanada, say hello. Help me break away from this fear and maybe, by the next #140Conference, I won’t be looking for the closest exit.


About Jen Black

Jennifer is a stay at home mom of three raising her family with her "agvocating" husband on a farm in Huron County, Ontario. She is a designer, photographer, Social Media junkie and blogger. Her former life included advertising, marketing, and life in the big city. You can follow her on twitter @jennileeblack

Posted on September 18, 2011, in Just my thoughts and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 38 Comments.

  1. Excellent capture of #140ConfONT as well as exactly how I have felt as well. I have felt like an outsider and an imposter getting involved with the SM groups – tweetups, conferences etc. The speakers all seem so much more polished than myself and – well younger, and yes friends. After all I am old enough to be their mother.

    I have no idea what other people think of me – I spend more time worrying about what they MIGHT think about me πŸ™‚ And feeling scared and yes that I should run and hide in the bathroom or just not enter that room.

    I wish now I had spoken to more people at #140ConfONT – as in most things in life (mine anyway) – I only start to enjoy the party when it is ending. Also the fact that of the 250 people there, I have now discovered that there was a large percentage that felt like us. It is really not much different to anything new in our life – it is scary. So give ourselves a break.

    I am on a mission to LIVE LOUD since #140ConfONT – and as soon as I put together Monday, exactly what that means for ME – I will blog about it, and shout it out loud.

    I do know that number 1 is to face my fears head on, and that means speaking up more and saying hello to others, as they just might be feeling as uncomfortable as me.

    Hoping to get to #BlissdomCanada and will be sure to seek you out.

    • Darleen,
      Finding out we are not alone is huge. Knowing that others are in your shoes makes the world a little less intimidating. Thank you for sharing and I’m so glad you found a connection with the post.
      I look forward to meeting you at Blissdom ….maybe they should have a room set aside…. “If you’re scared out of your mind to be here, this is the room for you!” We might be surprised how many people find their way there. πŸ™‚

  2. Jen, this is a beautiful post and I know it took incredible courage to write it. You and I have never shook hands or hugged, but just reading this makes me so proud of you!

    I’m sorry we didn’t get to meet at 140, but I’m so glad you came and that you met some people who are very dear to me.

    And just so you know, I’ll be at Blissdom and will seek you out like a heat-seeking missile. I can’t wait to see you and wrap you up in a big hug and tell you a secret – we are all scared….

    Thanks for writing this and for being you!

    • Thanks so much Julia! You were a busy lady on Thursday, there was no way you could have got to everyone!
      I look forward to seeing you at Blissdom and I’ll do my best to try to find you BEFORE you find me. πŸ™‚

  3. Thank-you so much for your honest recount of the day. When people tell me they are shy, I tell them, come find me because I’m not. I’ll be easier to spot at Blissdom as my business card is actually a tiara! I can’t wait to hang out with you there, as it will be my first time attending Blissdom.

    • Well, even without your tiara, everyone knew how to find you on Thursday. πŸ™‚ But honestly, for someone so tiny you have a huge presence (one of the celebraties on my twitter feed) and I felt like I would be an annoying fan bothering you. ….of course, now that I have your permission I will hunt you down at #Blissdom!
      Thanks so much for the support.

  4. Made me cry. You expressed your feelings perfectly. And I didn’t know that about going back to your room and throwing up!! Where was I? Bad friend and roomie. Oy!

    Believe it or not, I feel the same way. I’m just getting better at the “act like you belong” part and smacking down my inner bitch, in these situations anyway. And I’ve been doing tweet-ups and such for longer, so I now know many, many of these fantastic people offline and count them as true friends. That makes these situations easier and easier.

    Keep telling yourself you belong in ANY room you’re in and you will start believing it.

    I felt so nervous going up to the Blissdom crew at Women In Biz. I felt like a tool. Talking a mile a minute so I wouldn’t waste their time on me…

    Knowing we all have those moments helps push through the fear and doubt.

    I’m so glad Twitter has brought us back together and I’m getting to know you more and more all the time.

    • Never a bad friend. You seemed to be “doing your thing”, and I didn’t want to be that friend that clung to your side the whole night.
      I’ve spent my whole life fighting these fears. Sometimes I can hide them well and other times they engulf me. Maybe a conference on “smacking down your inner bitch” is required. πŸ˜‰
      Last night when I wrote it, I regretted pushing the “publish” button immediately but the response today has been overwhelming. I’m glad I wrote it now.

      I’m glad twitter brought us back together too.

      • Never feel bad about clinging. I feel bad I was oblivious. It’s just I’ve spent more time with many of the people that were there. You’ll get there the more you get out to “IRL”.

      • You weren’t oblivious. That’s just part of it, I strive to make sure no body knows how afraid I am! That would just be embarrassing.

  5. People don’t believe this of me either, but leading up to a event, I try to talk myself out of going. Once I’m in the room, I’m OK but that journey to get there can be torture. I’ve missed many tweet-ups and conferences because I doubted I could do it and have only gone to ones where I’ll know someone for sure or drag someone with me.

    I’ll be at Blissdom Canada. I’ll look for you!! πŸ™‚

    • “More alike than different” – it’s a saying I use to encourage people to look at my daughter differently. (she has Down Syndrome) After today, I think it applies to more situations then I every realized!
      Starting to really look forward to Blissdom Canada and I will look for you too!

  6. Wow. When I went to the first tweetup in Kitchener for #140Conf, I felt exactly the same way.

    I stood by the bar and pretended to be completely and utterly transfixed by the straw in my orange juice, and “is it maybe broken? Should I get another one? Is that ice melting on the side of the glass? No, this must be juice, there is something clearly unacceptable happening here with my straw. Maybe I should check my phone and pretend I have to take an emergency phone call but really, I’m doing a google search on the nearest Starbucks bathroom I can run to and die in.”

    I was planning on being consumed by those issuesall the way back to the parking lot, into the car, and back home under the covers. Thank god @Foodieinyou and @those2girls approached me and said hello.

    Thank you for writing this. It has given me a ton of courage to introduce myself to people, instead of feeling like I’m walking in on a giant private party.

    • LMAO! Exactly, only I couldn’t find a straw to obsess over!
      On one hand I’m thrilled that so many people are connecting with this post but on the other, it sad to hear how many people feel as uncomfortable. Thank goodness for those few who don’t!

  7. I find it very hard to go into new situations. I have to force myself a bit. But I also have to accept my limits and know when to stop pushing.

    I’ll say hello to you at Blissdom Canada.

  8. I’m with ya Jen- my anxiety levels go absolutely through the roof before most social gatherings… especially big ones like Blissdom Canada.

    I hate walking up to people I don’t know and starting a conversation.

    I hate that when I walk into a room I immediately forget everyone’s name and want to run away as fast as I can.

    I too can usually fake it after I get started… but those first steps. Yeesh.

    I will see you at Blissdom Canada. We can do it!!

  9. sounds like you’ve met your share of Jen’s but maybe we will get to meet at Bliss and you can add to your friends named Jen list! lol why are there so many of us in the blogging world! lol great post, I am right there with ya!

  10. Fannnnntastic post Jen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. WOW, I have so been there, I actually did leave that same tweet-up after about 15 minutes with the full on sweats and major anxiety! I ran out of the room and onto the GO Train and cried all the way to Pickering! What the heck, that is so not me and I was ashamed of myself! I know that I get anxious in these situations and I cannot just go up to anyone and introduce myself, but come on, taking off like that and missing out on so much, I was very disappointed! I’ve been to a couple since and although I still cannot approach anyone, at least I stayed and that is a big step!
    Looking forward to BlissdomCanada and hopefully reaching out and meeting all of you!
    Thanks Jen for writing this piece, made me feel so much better!!

    • Oh, I feel terrible for you! Completely relate but nobody should feel that way.
      Glad to hear you’ve been able to stay at a couple since. Hopefully Blissdom Canada will be a chance for us all to open a new door and meet some fantastic people!

  12. I am thinking that rather than the organizers taking care of those of thus that suffer this type of anxiety, that we need to be put in pairs to welcome others and ensure everyone comfortable. I must admit the hugging at first was something for me to adjust to – and I am a huggie person – but I have been suppressed in the corporate world πŸ™‚
    I am usually ok at meeting new people in a party situation, but there is something different about meeting people IRL that we have connected to online only, and in our eyes are Rockstars and have accomplished so much more than ourselves.

    Over the day we did learn that the majority of people speaking are very much like us, and accomplished due to pushing themselves or finding a solution to a problem.

  13. Dear Jen…wow! If I did not know any better I would think we are living in the same mind! I honour your courage to speak your truth…it takes great courage which I am still struggling with doing myself. The fear of what others will think of me has me paralysed!

    I had that same internal discussion many times which in this case resulted in me NOT going to the #140conf even if I did have a ticket! 😦

    A great post a gift to many…for being so transparent!! Perhaps one day our path will cross (wondering the halls of the next big conference our minds filled with doubts)



    • All day I have been amazed at how many people are in the same shoes. We need to find a way for everybody to feel comfortable.
      You missed a wonderful conference last week. I was grateful that I allowed myself to experience it. Next time I hope to see you there too. …we can shake in our boots together!

  14. Yes if like me, you feel like intruding. For me it is only at these type of events, as at parties I am fine.
    I think partly I feel inadequate with the inspirational messages, as feel I should have accomplished more.
    I will be writing a blog post tomorrow with my #140 experience.

    • For me it’s when I’m in a situation that I feel like I’m not going to measure up to people’s expectations.
      I’m looking forward to reading your interpretation of the day.

  15. So glad you had the courage to write this post – we all feel this way at one time or another – we don’t have the courage to say it. Thank you.
    We are all afraid we do not measure up…
    I will definitely look for you at Blissdom! :~)

  16. Great post, Jen! You’ve articulated, beautifully, what so many of us feel all too often.
    Thank you.


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