Have you ever felt so out of place at a party, you hid in the bathroom for a while just to avoid it all?
This question was asked to us recently at a leadership development event. We were about to embark on a ‘networking’ exercise, and it was setting the stage to help those in our group who find it more difficult to network, think and recall those moments.
The question was asked. And I got a flashback which took me out of the classroom for a minute or two.
Picture a 20-year-old at an event at a bar. She’s dressed conservatively because she really didn’t know what to wear — she’s never been to a bar before, but no one knows that. Everyone wants to dance but she REALLY doesn’t, tries to make conversations last as long as possible with whomever is sitting with her on the couches, just to avoid the question of ‘do you want to dance?’. Eventually, the inevitable suggestion comes along, and she chooses to stand on the sidelines. Eventually, she detracts herself and hides in the bathroom for a bit of time, texting a friend about plans for the next weekend.
In summary, not a fun night.
In a different world, picture a 24-year-old in the office — a cool office, of course. She is presenting at an event of 100+ strangers in the room, clearly comfortable doing so. She steps down from the podium and easily engages in conversation with the executives in the room. She is loud, energetic, confident, and comfortable in big groups. In summary, what would be described as textbook-presenting-extrovert.
Both are the same person. Both genuine in each environment. Both me.
If you met me today, you would not believe the 20-year-old was me. It was, in every sense of the word. I was the kid in middle school whose name no one knew, I was the shyest quietest person in class. I was the awkward girl no one knew how to engage with. I was the one who didn’t like anyone in school and counted the minutes all day to go home. All true.
For anyone who ever thought that confidence, energy, and all their equivalents are innate — I challenge all of it. I will not question the potential existence of a genetic factor to every situation, but I am proof that the 20 year old above, can turn to the 24 year old, and who I am…