"No, thank you." Imagine that this is instinctively the first reaction you have to vlogging, posting on social, going to an (online) event, or even talking with your neighbors. The very thought of aiming a camera at your own scared dear face and pressing "record" has you breaking out in sweats. When you think of pouring out your heart and soul unedited and pressing "post now" you immediately want to slam the laptop shut and grab a book so you can vicariously live through someone else's fantasy - slowly-
This is how I've gone through most of my life. I had social media, just not so much of a presence... Yes, I dabbled in it from time to time: You know, a mention here or a share there. But - on social as in real life - my natural tendency is to stay firmly in the background. Behind a tree. So, I've never had a strong desire to be in the spotlight or to attend any events (Now, organizing the event so that the host can do their thing: That's my jam! 😉)
Then, mid 2020, I started my new business. But almost immediately, all these questions crept into my mind: Can I be a successful entrepreneur in the 21st century when I have no social media presence? How do I navigate my desire to promote my business and to connect with my audience in an unprecedented lockdown reality with my natural tendency as an introvert to stay under the radar? And frankly, do you even exist these days if you're not tweeting or v/blogging on the daily?
Social media was the rude, ever-present friend that I never really wanted to have.
To me, social media was the rude, ever-present friend that I never wanted to have. It is so easy to get distracted online and, in my case, spending too much time online would deplete my energy. But I felt this enormous pressure to "put myself out there" if I wanted to be taken seriously. Like it or not, everyone is drowning in information these days. The fact that we have more choices today than ever before in human history is so mundane by now that it is becoming trivial. As a new entrepreneur (again), I felt that I had to stand out. And my secret wish to stay in the background didn't seem to match up with that.
It turned into a big internal struggle that I've slowly been working through over the past months. I'm well into the woods now and every day brings with it new moments of "How do I navigate this now?" But I've found an approach that both keeps me moving and feels okay to my introverted self.
Here are the 3 things that have made the most difference for me.
I give myself permission to feel good about the things I do (and to do things that feel good). Outrageous isn't it? I've always been used to stepping out of my comfort zone. It's really good to stretch yourself, and I definitely do, but constantly feeling like you're in a cage fight really isn't healthy in the long run. Everyday interactions can feel really intense to me (like running into my neighbors unexpectedly, no matter how much I actually do like them), so giving myself space to do things in my business that feel good to me has been really liberating. This sometimes means that I'm not growing my audience as fast as maybe I should be. It may mean that I take a couple of days off every month and I don't produce as much as I would like. Or that instead of writing a whole article, I only write the first sentence today. The point is I'm moving and I'm doing it in a way that I can consistently keep going. And ultimately, it's consistency that gets results.
I reconnect with my mission. There are moments when it all gets a bit too much. I feel overwhelmed and I get anxious about being so visible. On a particularly bad evening, I had an epiphany while I was hiding under my dining room table to escape from it all: Who. Who am I doing it for? I knew at that moment that if it were just for me, I would quit immediately. In the background remember? Behind a tree, remember? But when I think about who I serve: Innies like me who have felt like something is wrong with them. Innies with great capabilities hide themselves away or force themselves to do things in a way that doesn't feel quite right so they go through most of their life feeling uncomfortable and exhausted. All those innies who I know can choose to live by their own rules and design their lives so they can thrive! Once I reminded myself of this, the anxiety fell away. It freed me and I remind myself of this wish often.
I also give myself space to experiment. I used to be so afraid of putting anything out there until I was sure it would work. My perfectionism at its best. I realize now that I'm asking too much of myself to hypothesize when something will work without having any data to make that calculation! So, I'm being kind to myself by letting that go and to actually start collecting the data so give myself a fighting chance. A lot of the time it means that I have to start before I feel completely ready. It means that I have to yell out loud "Nobody cares!!" to get myself to press post sometimes. It also means that I have an old YouTube channel somewhere with a handful of embarrassing videos about small renovations we did in our home (don't look for them please, I've hidden them away 😉). The idea was to try it out in a safe environment with only my close family and friends and, if I liked it, I could use it for my business as well. After a few video's it was clear that this was not my future. It was the most awkward and unnatural thing for me to do (and to watch I'm sure). Great! Now that I know that, I can move on to something else. There were many experiments like this and what feels like failures at the time. But bit by bit, it's giving me the information I need to discover what does match.
What does work for me? Firstly, writing. I've always loved to write. A culmination of my reflective nature and my need to work in silence. So, I write. I write a weekly email to my mailing list, a monthly article on LinkedIn, and I write storytelling posts for social media. A year ago, I wouldn't have dreamed that I could do this. The sheer number of articles I write these days is mind-blowing compared to where I was.
Secondly, I started a Facebook group. Although I thought I wouldn't like it at all (and I spent 2 months in there by myself to get used to the idea 😂), I actually enjoy it more than I thought I would. The group is slowly blossoming into a curious and supportive space for introverts (even pointing a camera at my own scared deer face and pressing record every single week to share with my audience isn't nearly as daunting in this group 🙂)
I have committed to myself to share. In a way that suits me best.
I still have a love-hate relationship with social media sometimes. But I no longer experience it as a burden. Like any tool, social media is meant to support us and we can choose how to use this amazing tool. Although it's still a bit scary to share things about myself, there is real connection to be found online. Almost all of my teachers are online mentors and I find great inspiration in their stories. I know that someone out there is experiencing what I have experienced and that I can help them by sharing my journey as well.
So, I have finally committed myself to share. But I do it in a way that suits me best and I can navigate being a 21st-century introverted entrepreneur my own way. I'll figure out the details along the way 😉 and, if this story resonates with you, perhaps we can figure it out along the way together.
Wishing you a lovely flow today,