I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again…if you met me six years ago, you’d never catch me dead somewhere by myself. Even walking down the street in a populated area alone made me nervous. I moved back to Petaluma relatively against my will at 25. After a gnarly break up I didn’t leave the house besides for work for months. The thought of facing anyone seemed devastating. I had actually had forgotten how to smile. Alright it is coming, I am posting a photo of my ex…that wasn’t a bad photo, it was my inability to smile even during one of the most amazing experiences of my life…
Luckily before that break up I ventured out to the first Petaluma Young Professionals Event, invited by my now highly successful high school colleague Nicole Smartt. That day I met several people who would forever change my life including one of my inspirations, Wayne Ingraham who took me in no matter how frail and awkward I was from the beginning.
This wasn’t the answer however after years of my scared and introverted self. I was able to speak in front of crowds and internalize all my fear, but TO THIS DAY, I have to give myself a pep talk to even enter a conference and borderline barf before a talk even though I’ve spoken in front of 500 people before. By forcing myself out of my comfort zone I would then meet Michael Regan, Mike Harris, and Kyle Restad whom I have to give a shout out to for forever impacting my career. I’ll never forget dinner after an event at Brixx with Regan and Restad. When I was discussing my title after the re-branded of my company, I said I was uncomfortable calling myself a CEO until advancement of the company. Restad would proceed to look at me and say, “you have to call yourself the CEO so little girls know it’s possible.” Regan would continue to confirm this point as that time a father of just a little girl. Well so I did it…and at that moment I felt the push to be a "public figure."
Not only was I bullied my entire life, but I was up against the male dominated business world and male dominated ability to venture out by oneself. I will also never forget that first moment I went to restaurant by myself without the excuse of being buried in my laptop. I had attended events alone, but never sat in the solitude solely with my own mind. Starting my business in fact was the first factor to push my limits, but in the begging only helped me in groups. Back to the point…My head was down reading a book in Seared when they started a deal for dinner and a martini for $25 on Mondays. I had been before, but never by myself. I ate without interacting with the bartender besides making my order. I have always been “outspoken,” but yet scared to actually speak. This would open me up to the future of alone time in public.
In the interim I learned how to smile again, genuinely. I am not saying this to brag, but I have now been features in photos, commercials, and have been recruited by agents… simply because I learned to smile with confidence. Unfortunately negativity and unhappiness is tangible and not desirable. I've found that people are less likely to want to interact with you if you are in this world, especially consistently. I have my ups and downs, but am generally positive.Another key aspect was learning how to tell my story.
So why do I now love to sit alone? The experience. It is by far one of the best ways to meet new people. I have met most my friends, clients, and fascinating people by sitting alone. Airports warmed me up, but I never thought it was an intentional individual experience. Sometimes I sit with a book or in my own space. Sometimes I will be chatty with everyone around me. I have found “safe” places where my anxiety is reduced and have become my regular spots to sit by myself. It is truly amazing the relationships can develop while also taking alone time. My true self started to be shown and the many layers started to be stripped away like an onion ready to be cooked. I learned to not only go out alone, but also started to travel alone!
Learning to sit alone has been one of the most valuable things I have learned to do. It allowed me to discover myself, how I communicate, and how I relate to people. I learned to enjoy the sights, the smells, and the taste of my moments. I learned to listen to people’s story’s way more intensely. I learned to listen. I learned to speak my truth. I started going to bars by myself at night on the weekend which was noted as different for a woman many times. I didn’t need a companion; all I needed was the experience around me. I also remember meeting a couple girls at Seared who I would continue to monitor for the rest of the night including helping a girl turn around her inside out dress. Sometimes we have to provide our service and in general they were fun.
Sometimes when we are in groups we are shut down. Our body language become turned in and focused on the group. It isn’t friendly, inviting, or the like. We put on blinders. We burry our heads in our phones instead experiencing the people around us. Sure, we will all meet people we wish we didn’t, but that is all a part of learning experience.
So what is my advice? Start small. Attend events, any event that pushes you out of your comfort zone. Start by showing up early when you know just one person and then work toward attending those events where you know no one. I usually recommend those in the professional arena as they are the easiest to start conversation at. Honestly, if you drink, b-line it to the bar to grab a refreshment where easy icebreakers can occur. You will for sure have to converse with a sales person, but in the end it will help. Slowly but surely you’ll find yourself ready to venture out. Start with a book or distraction on your first venture out alone, as this will help with the initial anxiety. Always sit the bar. Then move toward interacting with the bartender and then with the people next to you. Suddenly you will slowly move toward a more open self. You will have developed relationships with bartenders, servers, and business owners which ease the initial anxiety. Before you know it you will love the alone time. You will be like me now looking forward to those moments weekly.
I always look to helping others so please let me know if you’d like to hear further information or tips. This will forever change your life, especially as an introvert. I guarantee that.