I’ll admit—as a creative type who was an only child for most of my life—I have a tendency to be an introvert. Generally speaking, designers spend a lot of time in their heads and sketchbooks as they daydream, concept and create, which is really great for your craft; not so much for selling your work, building business or networking.
AGHH, is anyone else breaking out into hives after reading that last part?
Though I consider myself quite the character amongst friends and family, I recognized early in my career that I had the opposite reaction in a professional setting. At one time, speaking my mind in meetings somehow seemed unacceptable amongst my seasoned colleagues. Attending a client presentation to talk about my ideas and possibly face rejection was absolutely cringe-worthy. Yet I was envious of those who lived without these fears—those who exuded confidence and leadership. I knew that in order to become the well-rounded designer I wanted to be, I would need to face my fears.
During this time, I noticed that many of my colleagues had joined the board for the local Acadiana chapter of the American Advertising Federation (AAF). Collectively, the club stands to act as the unifying voice of advertising in our area. My co-workers were always discussing their latest challenges and successes, and I found myself drawn to their internal debates. They were passionate, funny and confident in their ideas. And I knew I wanted in on it. I quickly volunteered as their membership chair for the next year in hopes that I could join this quirky group of professionals.
What I actually got from my time with the AAF is much more than I ever expected. About two years ago, I was presented with the opportunity to lead the club as president. My inner introvert squirmed at the thought. You mean a board of people are going to be looking at me for direction and advice? You mean I’d have to publically speak in front of a room full of professionals on a monthly basis? No, no—that’s way out of my comfort zone. But there was another part of me that recognized that this was my opportunity to be the person I always desired to be. I am smart, passionate and care about this organization—why should I let anything else stop me? So with this mindset (and a lot of convincing from my peers), I accepted the position. As it turns out, it’s been the most invaluable two years of my professional career.
Once I started prepping myself to speak at our monthly luncheons, I simultaneously found my voice to express my ideas back at work. After stumbling over my words and blanking out a few times at our AAF luncheons, it felt much easier to present to a conference room of ten people. My board members started to trust my ideas and feedback, and I started to trust myself as a result. I began to finally see the confidence I always desired shine through in my professional life.
I’ve learned that your hopes and dreams are too important to jeopardize with fear. I may never be fully comfortable speaking in front of strangers or being the person to start a conversation with a stranger, but I’ll never let it stand in the way of my goals again.
Long story short—don’t be afraid to put yourself in uncomfortable situations in hopes that you come out stronger.
Wait—did I just describe the premise behind Fear Factor?