“When I first met you, I thought you hated me.”
“You’re pretty intimidating. I was scared to talk to you.”
“I always assumed you weren’t very nice.”
Welcome to the world of a shy introvert with resting bitch face.
In social situations — while you’re assuming that I’m wishing you to hell — I’m more worried about whether I’m about to say something stupid. Is it possible to say something so stupid that the person you’re talking to will never speak with you again? Would that be a good outcome? Or a bad one?
My main goal in a large group isn’t to make you feel the weight of my hatred through my stare, it’s to not make eye contact. EVER.
There’s a scene in Wayne’s World that exactly describes what it’s like to accidentally lock gazes with someone (anyone, literally) at a party or conference or other group function:
Shit. I’m committed to this interaction now.
You might be starting to wonder where someone like that, someone like me, gets off telling you that you need to find your crew. I can’t even make eye contact with a stranger without experiencing a miniature anxiety attack.
Which means that I’m used to going it alone.
WHY MY BEST WORK ISN’T DONE ALONE
As a once and future hermit, it’s a hard pill to swallow to admit that the best things I’ve ever created — the best things I’ve ever done, period — have been done with others.
- The roller derby league I started. Which I get to lay claim to as one of three co-founders but was actually built by an incredibly dedicated and hard-working group of individuals.
- The kid I popped out and have only slightly ruined. I certainly didn’t produce all of the ingredients myself, but the subsequent non-ruination of my progeny is due to the support of LOTS of other people: husband, in-laws, preschool teachers, anyone that provides cookies.
- Even this blog post isn’t an original. It was inspired by this one.
Articles that I’ve written. Skills that I’ve learned. Connections that I’ve made. Those have all been done with the help of others and standing on the shoulders of giants. Even if I prefer to do my work alone, the things I create are always informed by the people I’m surrounded by.
Even when you do your work alone, the things you create are always informed by the people you’re surrounded by.
THE IMPORTANCE OF A CREW
When I first started Iron Octopus Fitness, it was alone. I had access to resources that helped me figure out how to set-up a blog and work social media and be an actual human person on the internet. I DID NOT have access to other people that were doing what I was doing.
It didn’t really matter to me at the time. Who needs other people anyway?
But I got stuck.
Again and again and again.
With no one else to hash it out with, I just kept pushing against the wall in the same place. Getting nowhere and exhausting myself in the process. My husband was supportive, but there are only so many times I can explain a particular issue on my website with him before his eyes glaze over.
This is something that I’ve done repeatedly in my life. Embarked on something totally alone, worked on it totally alone, got stuck on it totally alone, only to realize that I needed new (experienced) eyes on the situation.
- It was 6 months — at least — before I even talked to another member of my roller derby team.
- I spent the first school year as a teacher sitting quietly in staff meetings doodling pictures of beakers and bunsen burners before it occurred to me that I should actually work with the rest of the science department.
- Whenever I got to a conference or event, I always regret that I didn’t actually meet anyone while I was there.
It wasn’t until I talked to my teammates, my fellow teachers, and drunken strangers at fitness conferences that I figured out what I had been missing.
Other people interested in the same things that you are interested in are a never-ending well of passion, inspiration, and ideas that you can turn to when your well runs dry.
You need someone else when you’ve been staring at a problem from the inside for so long that you just need someone on the outside to look at it. Someone whose eyes don’t glaze over when you start talking about your website again.
Your crew makes you want to work harder, build better things, and generally be more awesome. And on days that you’d rather not, your crew will help you get back there.
FINDING YOUR CREW (for shy introverts)
My son makes friends wherever he goes. Kids just do that, I guess. We’ll roll up to a playground and within 5 minutes he’s flocking around with 15 other kids in a wild stampede of tiny feet and sticky hands.
I’ve found it’s not that easy as an adult.
Although maybe it is. Those are probably the words of a shy introvert.
So how do you cultivate a crew without creepily sizing up every mom on the playground? Or every bored-looking individual at that business conference? Or every human being on the planet?
- Get outside your comfort zone. (Fuck. Is that always the answer!?) Chances are good that you’ve scoped out and met everyone that exists within your area of comfort. If they were going to be a part of your crew, they would be by now. Sit down and chat with that teammate you’ve never talked to before. Sidle up — non-creepily — to the harassed looking mom at the playground. Reach out to that mentor you’ve been eyeing.
- Put yourself where the crew is. Where do people that like what you like hang out? If you’re feeling alone in your business, go where the entrepreneurs are. If you want to build friendships, go where you want to hang out. (May I recommend the local skate rink?)
- Make the first move. YOU might have to make the first move. Actually, you probably will. It doesn’t have to be a big move. Try to rearrange your resting bitch face. (I know. Super hard.) Start the conversation even if you’re terrified that you won’t be able to keep it going.
- Stay in touch. Want an actual crew and not a string of one-night stands? Make sure that you keep in touch. Message those people occasionally. Make plans to hang out even if it kills you. Put some effort into it.
- Not everyone is crew material. Sometimes, you just won’t click with someone for whatever reason. Don’t try and jam that person into your crew. You can still be friendly with them and spend time with them. It’s okay if you’re not besties with everyone suddenly.
On a good day, I manage 1 out of the 5 of these. And it’s not always the same one. But the value of having a crew has made up for all of the work that it took to get one.
Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you; spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.