I've made an amazing discovery - talking to people is good!
That may seem obvious, but for someone shy and introverted, it's really not. It's so much more comfortable to simply focus on what I'm doing and avoid social situations at all costs. It's the constant irrational struggle between wanting to be seen and heard and terrified that someone will actually see or hear me. It's exhausting. And it feels shameful. Other people seem to enjoy social gatherings and converse easily with others, so what's wrong with me? And there's guilt, too, when I don't attend friends' parties or art receptions or only show my face for a few minutes, and then leave. People who know me might be surprised by this admission. I put on a pretty good act, but being out in public feels like a performance and the eyes of others weigh heavily upon me.
This being the case, why would I choose to pursue a career as an artist, a career that is dependent on me putting myself out there? And why would my husband and I choose to move to a place with no connections whatsoever? Honestly, it was by design. I believe God wants me to use my talents and if I put myself in a situation where I don't have a choice, I will have to make it work.
Part of the reason we chose to move to Chattanooga is that it is a growing city. Lots of tech businesses are moving into the area because of the phenomenal 1 gigabit per second internet speed - earning it the nickname "Gig City" - and many online entrepreneurs work from their laptops in shared workspaces or coffee shops. This has resulted in a multitude networking groups and meet & greet events. Every few days I attend a different one and make myself talk to people. To my amazement, it's been absolutely wonderful! People have welcomed me into their spheres of influence. I've met many interesting people and stumbled into opportunities that I would NEVER have found otherwise.
I've also received an unbelievable amount of support online from both old friends and new. It's thrilling and touching at the same time. For years I've told myself that I can't talk to people and don't know how to present myself. It's not that I couldn't, I just didn't. Necessity breeds courage. I'm still a shy introvert and may always feel uncomfortable around people, but every day I'm learning what is possible and that the reward of connection far outweighs the fear.
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