Trying to fall asleep last Thursday night, I felt like a school-age girl on the eve of a new school year. Intimidated. Excited. Fearful. Hopeful. Insecure. Anxious. The cause of my tossing-and-turning? A three-day conference starting the next morning where I knew no one.
On the one hand, its kinda silly to feel that pressure. I mean, it wasn't like I was the keynote presenter or anything! All I had to do was show up, sit in workshops and learn. Nonetheless, I felt the anxiety of possibly feeling left out because I didn't know anyone.
On the other hand, those insecurities make perfect sense. Walking into any group, crowd or community where you're not sure you'll fit in is the perfect backdrop for our greatest fear: rejection. We all want to feel chosen, to feel likable, to feel known and to feel like we belong. To not know if those needs will be fulfilled, it's normal to feel hesitation.
And you've got to know that I am a confident extrovert who likes people. And more often than not, they like me back. Nevertheless, I felt nervous. So I can only imagine what it must feel like for those who are shy, who aren't practiced in meaningful conversations, who are drained by interaction, or have felt previous rejection or ostracism. It's safe to say, we all know the insecurity when we don't yet know if we belong.
Why the Fear is Important
I jokingly said to my husband "Do I have to go?"
To which he replied "No, you don't. But is it important to you to go?"
And I knew it was. I wouldn't have signed up otherwise.
In fact, I'd argue that we feel nervous because it does matter to us. The fact that you feel the fear is a sign that you want something. The fear serves to remind us that we want what is on the other side. The fear inspires us to recognize that what we're stepping into is indeed significant.
- We feel fear before a date because we value the possibility of love.
- We feel fear before a job interview because we value the possibility of finding a place to contribute our skills.
- We feel fear before a business risk because we value the possibility of success.
- And, in our cases, it would be natural to feel fear before meeting new friends because we value the possibility of participating in consequential friendships.
An Invitation to Push Through the Nerves
Many of you, my readers, are currently trying to foster more friendships which means there will be quite a few strangers and awkward conversations on the road ahead.
I invite you to not allow fear to prevent you from stepping into what you crave. We can't wait until the fear subsides to move forward, as it never will. Courage isn't the absence of fear but the awareness that something else matters more than the fear. And friendship should be one of those things.
I'm not saying it's easy. I'm little Ms. Outgoing who frequently feels shy and uncertain about walking into groups of strangers. Fear aside, I made a new friend and looked forward to seeing her the following morning for Day Two.
May you feel inspired knowing that the following night when I went to bed, there was no tossing and turning. Only excitement to get to know her more....