There is nothing that frightens me more than the concept of meeting and engaging with new people. Especially when I am in an environment where I feel inferior or frightened. I step into a room and instantly feel like everyone in the room is judging me. My anxiety begins to run at full speed, and it takes everything inside of me to make small talk. I hate small talk.
I have learned something though -- and that is that engaging with the people of your world is the single most important factor that comes into play if you want to succeed at anything. Hard work follows with a close second, but hard work never exposed and appreciated is dead in the water. In the last year I have worked my butt off to get to where I am, but it was the networking and expanding my social circle that has played the biggest role in my successes. When I stepped out of my comfort zone and engaged with the people around me, I was amazed at the reception I received. I was offered opportunities, friendships, connections, etc. This was a brand new concept to me. I began with engaging others, as opposed to slinking into the background and hoping things would turn out for me. Then I moved to expand my influence and worked to become a valuable asset to my community, friends, school and the career field I wanted. I volunteered for events, applied for jobs that seemed impossible and put myself out there in a way that I never in the past would have done. The doors that opened up shocked me. Volunteer positions led to mentorships, which led to jobs, which led to a new career path, which led to more financial stability than I have had in a long time. This had drastic results for my confidence levels, and gave me experience, connections, and opened a world of possibilities.
With volunteering I was exposing myself to even more people. I began to meet people of all different backgrounds, beliefs, cultures, etc. It was eye-opening, and incredibly rewarding. I was expanding my view of the world around me in a way that was radically changing the way I handled every day situations. I was becoming a new person -- an open-minded individual capable of free and honest thought. It's amazing what can happen when you release yourself from a narrow-minded view of things, and allow yourself to view people as simply people. You learn to respect their ways of life, and even begin to learn from them. It makes you a better person. You begin to become more compassionate, more informed, more understanding and can then take that knowledge and compassion and put it to creating a better world.
This leads to evolving -- I had to learn how to evolve and adapt. I wasn't suddenly free from my anxieties or fears. I still feared failure and judgment at every turn, but I learned coping mechanisms and allowed myself to evolve into a more confident person. I still had preconceived notions about the world. I was still narrow-minded in many ways. I had to continue to evolve. It's a process. I began to fight harder for myself. I began to fight harder for others. In today's world we are constantly being reminded how difficult it is to get ahead, or to make our dreams a reality or how to affect real social change. Opportunity is not found so freely as it once was, justice is not easily won. The economy rises and falls, and the future is unsure and incredibly unsteady. Politicians lie, social movements rise and fall. What we must do in these times is learn how to evolve and become more proactive while seeking opportunity at every turn. 70+ hour weeks are worth it if you are making your dream a reality, and if you are making your world a better place. Throw yourself out there! The universe rewards courage! Sing the song, go to the audition, apply for the job, introduce yourself to that imposing figure, tell your story, talk to the cute guy, volunteer somewhere, fight for a cause, stand up for something, learn a new language -- do something! When you do something, you get something in return, even if it doesn't come back to you -- you are giving good into the world. That is what being human means.
Engage the world around you, expand your way of thinking, evolve into the best person you can be, and then enjoy the reward of the life that the universe deems fit to give you.