So this week brings not a work-related confidence battle, but one we are all familiar with.
If your fridge is anything like mine, it's plastered with no less than 8 invitations to weddings, baby showers, bridal showers, graduation and engagement parties. At least a few of these are for friends or distant family members which you only see during major milestones. Showers are mostly single gender affairs meaning one must go it alone, and not with one's put-upon husband.
I had the good fortune to do this recently. My brother's best friend is getting married. Though she and I aren't super close, we I have a kinship that revolves mostly around our ridiculously good dance moves. Rare is the time that we have hung out sans-frère, but he wasn't invited to the shower, a ladies-only luncheon.
A new driver, I boldly got in my car and drove almost two hours to one of my many childhood homes near the Jersey Shore (holla!). I walked into her mom's house realizing I knew one person there: the bride. It didn't occur to me up to that point that I would literally be alone. Remembering my own bridal shower as a complete blur, and as awesome as she is, I knew I couldn't count on the bride to keep me company and introduce me to all of her friends and family. Also, as a new driver, I haven't perfected the alcohol x food / time equation to make sure I can get home safely, so that crutch was instantly eliminated. It was probably a good thing though, because I can't drink at work either (I don't work in advertising anymore).
So, I filled my pastel party cup with some ice water and joined a circle of pretty blonde women and introduced myself as "Nicole....Joe's sister." Luckily for me, everyone adores my charismatic, hilarious brother, and all of these good feelings seemed to be instantly applied to me. I wore heels which made me feel confident (one of the best parts about not living in NYC anymore), and a dress I knew made me look skinny-ish so I didn't feel as self-conscious as I usually would, surrounded by beautiful women who are probably judging me (am I right ladies?). I met the bride's mother who said "We love your brother, so we love you." and I felt instantly at home. The bride spent more time with me than I thought and was kind enough to introduce me to as many people as she could, which helped.
I connected with one woman over our mutual love of Boston and found out we once lived on the same street in Allston. Once I broke the ice with one person, it was easier to connect with the others, or at least not feel so much like an outsider.
I sat at a table with her and mostly listened to the group's conversation, chiming in every now and then. With no easel pad to put me in a "leadership role" I simply enjoyed not feeling awkward or lonely (a huge achievement for me).
Reflecting back on this experience, it taught me that it's no big deal to join a party of close family and friends as a total outsider. I just had to go with it and not worry about what people would think of me. People are generally accepting as long as you are nice, charming and funny like me, and I'm sure you are as well. No brainer!
Bringing it back to the work world, it also reminded me of a networking event. This is one of those situations that I dread. Making small talk, finding a non-awkward time to hand someone your business card. What helped was:
I now know I can walk into a room full of unknowns and leave, maybe not with friends, but with the feeling that I am no longer a stranger. I am now looking forward to the wedding. And the open bar. What? They have those at networking events! But even if there isn't one, I know I'll be just fine without it.
Nice to meet you!
I am a tech pro, blogger, DIY'er, reader, TV binger, music lover, nerd and semi-crunchy mom. I write about professional development, being crafty, motherhood and politics. Thanks for joining me and letting me share my thoughts with you!