When you live online, there are things you know about. Like a conference for bloggers that is the largest in the world. It's called BlogHer and its attendance reaches numbers of 5,000. It's big. San Jose is the city host this year, and it happens this Thursday. This conference is the largest social media conference for women and provides the chance to meet face to face with bloggers you follow, have met, or can't wait to meet.
These conferences are a terrific opportunity to connect, but what if the thought of being with so many people starts your heart racing and your armpits sweating? No matter how much you want to go, you know you just can't. Crowds are terrifying. But you hate to miss out, so the question is, how do you attend a conference, when large numbers of people aren't your thing?
What if you've bought your BlogHer ticket, but your stomach can't take the stress of greeting and meeting new people. With a personality type that's easily overwhelmed at the thought of a small city of people and that await you, do you talk yourself into it and go anyway? You want to go and be there, and more than anything, you are tired of missing out on things just because you don't know if you can handle this. What if you say the wrong thing when you're there? What if you never open your mouth and no one gets to hear you say the right thing once you are there?
My advice, is go anyway. Go.
My first BlogHer was in 2011, in San Diego. It got off to a rocky start, with my fight or flight kicking in when I saw the number of people in the hotel lobby, but the first person I saw when I walked to the registration desk, was Polly Pagenhart, who blogs at LesbianDad. I had talked to her via conference call and knew her face well.
I had tears of relief when I saw her familiar face, because I wasn't even at BlogHer two minutes, and I had a friend. My mental dialogue switched from chastising myself for paying all that money to get there and making all those plans for child care for five days away, just to end up hiding in my hotel room, with one kind gesture of welcome from Polly. I had gone from the self talk of You shouldn't have come! and promising myself to never try such a grand plan again, to smiling, giddy, at finally meeting a blogger friend in real life.
Those of you with any last minute or pre-minute BlogHer jitters, I'm with you. I hear you. And I feel the same way, BUT, I promise you this, you'll love it once you get there. I loved my first BlogHer conference so much, I haven't missed one since.
I have my plane ticket to San Jose this year, and I'll be at BlogHer '14 in less than a week. Because it will be four nights and four days of getting the rare chance to say Thank you! and I love your blog! to all the writers that make me smile and feel less alone. I'll be with my people and I won't have to pretend to fit in anywhere for FOUR DAYS.
ohmygosh poor Ree, could I be any more obnoxious. I love her.
It's work to bring myself out of my shell, but I do it. It doesn't feel any more natural now than it did when I first went to BlogHer three years ago, but I'm there, because missing out on things from fear or panic is not something I'm going to do anymore. And I'm not saying it's easy to just buck up and do it. I know it's hard.
But the risk, to climb over the perceived threat to our being, the fear that makes us want to lock the hotel door behind us while we dive under the covers, is not going to win. I've examined what brings out the adrenaline in me, wondering what it is that tells my body to run and hide, and I'm going to press over-ride on these emotions and fight that urge.
Years ago, a wise therapist told me that the best defense we have against any attack is knowledge. Information; finding out what causes what and therein you can start to re-work the puzzle to create a different picture.
What you find inside when you ask yourself these questions, is uniquely your story. For me, my answer is the fear of past pain, being hurt by rejection. It's this that I want to avoid and what sends me racing to the elevator bank, pushing the button over and over thinking it will get the elevator here faster to take me to my room.
I know what else is behind my fear; it's the What if I say something wrong? Or act the wrong way? What if I'm too friendly or not friendly? Boring or obnoxious?
I fear all of these things because they've each happened to me. And I wince at the memory. I have said the wrong thing and called someone the wrong name in front of her friends, I have hugged someone who was very very hands off, I have appeared unfriendly when I was actually overwhelmed at meeting so many people at once (so interesting how overwhelmed more often than not gets translated as unapproachable), I have met someone I really liked and just about jumped in their lap -- when the feelings were not equally returned. I have stood quiet, not saying anything, while surrounded by so many faces at once. I have not always been able to think of something clever to say, even though expectations are high for a humor writer. I've also blurted out funny things that leave me laughing, but no one else.
But, every single that time I've taken a chance and gone beyond what is comfortable to me, it's been good. Really good.
How do you attend a 5,000 people big conference when you're an introvert? By knowing that you'll come home being hugged back as hard as you hugged, having spent time talking with the special people who are part of your daily online life, by feeling that there were people just as grateful to meet you as you were to meet them.
You attend a conference the size of BlogHer because you really want to, and you are not going to miss something again because of your imagination running wild. You will be there, among friends not yet met, and deepening relationships already begun.
And when BlogHer announces the location for next year's conference, you'll go home and order your ticket for 2015. And you'll be so glad you'll be back again, next year.
* * *
If you'll be at BlogHer and see me, please say hello - I'll be easy to spot. I'm the one with the deer frozen in the headlights look-- but if you get closer, you'll see that there's a smile there, I just have one of those faces that spells terrified.