In my younger years, I was shy about much. I was shy about my appearance because I had crazy hair and was little. I was shy about my butt because it was muscular and different than everyone else’s. I was shy about my voice as I did not like the way I sounded even though I had a lot to say on paper. I was shy about my ability as I was classified as a show off because I was good at many things, but only showed those things when requested. There was not much about me of which I was proud.
It was a steep learning curve to gain confidence in myself and ask for what I needed. I grew up in a family where if anything was expressed emotionally, it was ridiculed or downplayed. It was difficult to want to put my heart on the line as it was so easily crushed. This carried into my relationships with others as well. I was afraid to tell my friends or those I dated what I was feeling. I had to be on the brink of imploding to get myself to let things out. Often, I would be crying and in angst for days trying to get the courage to speak up about something concerning to me.
I was lucky to have met a wonderful friend in university who was an outstanding communicator. She was blunt and if there was a boundary crossed with her, she would surely let you know. Sometimes she was considered to be too forward with her opinions. I was just in awe of her for it. There was no anxiety in her for speaking her mind. There was no apology for having a supportable opinion. She was amazing and she is still someone I model myself after today.
In doing so, I have learned to let my needs and desires be known. This is in all my relationships – personal and professional. It opens me up to rejection of course. Asking if someone would be interested to have me work on a project with them and them telling me no can be hard to take. However, I do believe that the more I can express myself verbally, the more work I will get and the better all my relationships will be.
It has allowed me to reach out to other professionals to be able to trade skills. It goes something like this. Here is what I have in my tool kit to offer. That is what I see in your tool kit that I want. Can we make a trade of our missing but complementary tools? The first few times I did this, I was a wreck. I was back to being that child who could not communicate until I was ready to burst. I would be so anxious and upset at the thought of expressing myself. Once you get used to it though, it’s easy.
What I suggest is that you set a list of goals in communicating what you want to get out of your career. List in order of best to worst of who you could learn from to achieve those goals. Set out to make those connections. Those who you think are untouchable and unapproachable in their ivory towers are usually the ones who are the best skilled. In such, they are also frequently the people who will want to help an up and coming artist grow and survive if they see you have the work ethic. You will get rejected and it can be hard to predict by whom. Keeping putting yourself out there and eventually you will make that life changing connection. If you do not ask for what you want, most often you will not get what you want. Just ask. The worst thing they could say is no.