Momma Told Me: #BlogPawsOrBust #Entry- Curing Social Anxiety One Crazy Cat Lady Photo At A Time

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Friday, March 4, 2016

#BlogPawsOrBust #Entry- Curing Social Anxiety One Crazy Cat Lady Photo At A Time

 For the sake of disclosure this is a blog post written as an entry in the 2016 #BlogPawsOrBust content. All thoughts and photos contained below are authentic and property of Momma Told Me Blog 2016.
#BlogPawsOrBust #BlogPaws2016 in #Arizona at the #SheratonWildHorsePass Resort under the beautiful sun, surrounded by mountains! #entry

 This is a post that has been 2 weeks 3 years in the making.

3 years ago I went to my very first blogging conference. I was terrified. I really knew what felt like nobody online or off- I simply hadn't broken into the inner circle of the blogging world. And I am going to tell you in all candidness now that I have pretty strong anxiety in face to face social situations. I guess that's why I have a blog, right?

Nobody online ever believes me, but ask any of my friends in 'the real world' and they'll tell you that I was the most quiet, mouse of a person, before they finally broke me out of my shell. It's part of the reason I do so many social activities I honestly would rather not be doing (bowling in a league, for example) because they build a sense of community that gives me the confidence to slowly conquer my fears and anxieties.

So, back to my first blog conference- I am sure I was a wreck and I am certain I missed more than half of the amazing events and opportunities because I was freaking out in my hotel room. My roommate, who had been ever so kind and understanding (as bloggers tend to be) had promised she would try and buddy up with my throughout the conference so I'd at least have one familiar face by my side as much as possible. But I couldn't very well ruin her conference experience stalking her all day, so there I was in our room staring at the back of our door nervously wrenching my laptop bag's shoulder strap, taking a deep breath.
#BlogPawsOrBust #BlogPaws2016 in #Arizona at the #SheratonWildHorsePass Resort under the beautiful sun, surrounded by mountains! #entry
The moment I walked outside I felt immediate panic. I gripped the key card tightly, it wasn't too late to turn back around. Surely I could jut go inside and casually work on a blog post until my roommate wandered back in and offered to save me? But my brain was stronger than the bunch of knots in my stomach and I continued onto the elevator, into the packed lobby and a sea of strangers' faces. It appeared to be a break time and people sat at clusters of tables enjoying a sponsor provided snack. At a conference there is no such thing as sitting solo- With a big gulp, I sat down.

I tried to pretend there were no other people at that table, but I felt as though 4 pairs of eyes were staring at me, analyzing my every move. I could not eat my bagel slow enough if just to pretend I had a strong enough focus to ignore them. My phone buzzed, and I scrambled to pick it up, hoping I hadn't drawn any attention. In a room so alive and buzzing with chatter and noise I felt as though I were the only one anyone saw, that I was the main attraction, a freak show. It might sound narcissistic, but that's what social anxiety does to a person. It's the feeling of being uncomfortable in your own skin.

After answering a brief text I looked desperately for more 'busy work' I could engage in on my phone. The break had to be ending soon. Please let it end soon. But what happened next was nothing short of a lifesaver for me. The tall woman with the red pixie cut hair to my right happened to catch a glance of my smartphone background before the screensaver kicked in wiping it blank. In a behavior some might find rude, she scooped up my phone and began pressing buttons in an attempt to make the image reappear. This should have thrown me into a full blown panic but the following words from her mouth immediately pulled me from whatever dark place the anxiety drags me into.
#BlogPawsOrBust #BlogPaws2016 in #Arizona at the #SheratonWildHorsePass Resort under the beautiful sun, surrounded by mountains! #entry

"Oh my gawd! Is that your cat! That has to be one of the cutest photos I have ever seen, and I have 3 babies of my own! Human children of course, but I bet this princess is just like your baby!"

Truffles. My cat. She'd found my connector. A topic so overwhelmingly passionate for me that even the strongest of social anxieties wouldn't forbid me from engaging. Immediately, I was a different me. The real me. The me my family and friends know. In a crowded lobby packed with thousands of strangers I looked up from my bagel and began talking to several women I didn't know just seconds before. Not an ounce of nerves.

Animals have provided an anchor, a safe place, for me and my nerves through countless events in my life. I am far from an expert, maybe it's the endorphines they release, maybe it's just the unconditional love they give- but I have always been able to open up to anyone, anywhere, about animals. I wish I could say it's because I have a heart of gold, but that's the main reason I served as a regular volunteer at our local animal shelter. So, it's easy to understand how the emergence of modern technology and mobile sharing has helped me connect beyond my anxiety with the most unlikely of people in the most unlikely of places.
As a blogger who integrates her pets so heavily into her everyday content, and social media, I am never without a plethora of talking points so long as I have my smartphone on me. And, believe it or not, multiple times a week I am stopped by a stranger in what would otherwise have been a stressful situation, and asked about Nora or Truffles. I don't keep my credit cards in my smartphone (card holder) case just for convenience- they're there so my phone is visible. So I am constantly pushed beyond my comfort zone to ultimately conquer my anxiety.

I have made real life friends over a simple compliment of my screensaver or wallpaper on my phone. It always begins simple enough- "Aww your dog/cat is so cute!" or "Your dog/cat looks just like my baby!" Which is followed by me whipping out as many photos as possible, regardless of the location or convenience of the encounter- and of course, me handing over a business card asking the individual to connect or get in touch some time. All this without an ounce of panic.

Why? Because my pets are my kids. And nothing comes more natural or effortless than sharing one's pride and love for the people they love most. But it's not just sharing- the energy and enthusiasm others exude when talking about their furbabies is just as infectious. I could talk or listen for hours. And that is a huge grounding point for me on my role to conquer anxiety. As silly as it sounds my pets not only bring me comfort in times of stress or sorrow, but also serve as a point of strength in freeing me from the mental chains that have held me back in 'the real world' for so long.
#BlogPawsOrBust #BlogPaws2016 in #Arizona at the #SheratonWildHorsePass Resort under the beautiful sun, surrounded by mountains! #entry
Why am I telling you all of this?

I was going to share with everyone a 'Jenna explosion;' a video, a stop motion, a craft project, a recipe for dog treats. But the simple fact is that, after an awful week I will not drag into this post, I realized something. I am known for being a colorful, creative, over-the-top, entertaining and heartfelt blogger. Those who read my blog know I turn cat litter discussions into posh cat scratcher tutorials, and make grooming day fun by throwing a pretend pet salon on the lawn for the kids. That no matter what. I keep pushing. I do everything 110% with as much of myself as I can give, and I never give up.

They know this.

But what I've shared here. Most of them do not. And this post might not have been full of funny anecdotes about my adorable pets, or really anything I've spent the past 2 weeks putting together. But 2 years ago Patty Woodland of Broken Teepee shared every step of her Blog Paws Conference journey on social media and blog and my heart skipped with joy. That, that looked like a conference I NEEDED to be at. So much joy, and such a passion for pets and animals among like-minded individuals that just so happened to also blog. The following year she shared her journey again, and I longed to be there with my online friend, meeting other online friends, and making new real-life friends. But the location was simply too far and the only events I've managed to budget are ones I volunteer at. It's a great way to get to an event, but in honesty one doesn't quite get to have the full experience.

When Blog Paws 2016 was announced, just a state over, I dropped ALL plans to go to ANY other event this year and began saving and planning to go. As I'd told Patty the year before, this year I was going to make Blog Paws my top priority. Which I've done in so many ways.
www.instagram.com/mommatoldme
My enthusiasm had me wanting to share so many of those ways with you- but it turns out what I have today, in my possession as far as visual aids is simply that which I have been sharing in my #BlogPawsOrBust series on Instagram. (Thank goodness for DropBox uploads.) I apologize if the photos don't line up with the text- sometimes life doesn't quite 'line up.' I wish I could share with you all of the creativity I tried to inject into my submission, but a quick search on Instagram for #BlogPawsOrBust will hopefully supplement that.

Why do I want to go to Blog Paws? Aside from Nora's rocking new threads, it's the perfect venue for me to grow as a blogger AND individual with my four-legged child by my side. The prospect of going not only excites em for what I might learn, but for that which I might be able to share; new connections, photography techniques, creative storytelling- I have just as many skills to offer within networking as I have to gain. And that makes me a solid investment! (Of course I think Truffles has just been campaigning for me so she can get 4 nights off from the dog!)
#BlogPawsOrBust #BlogPaws2016 in #Arizona at the #SheratonWildHorsePass Resort under the beautiful sun, surrounded by mountains! #entry#BlogPawsOrBust #BlogPaws2016 in #Arizona at the #SheratonWildHorsePass Resort under the beautiful sun, surrounded by mountains! #entry
All of this is a round about way of saying that someone with admitted social anxiety might not be the first pick on your list for a contest in which the winner is sent to a bustling social event. However, my pets are my connector, and I know this is the conference for me. Sure, I've volunteered at events since, and every time I build my social skills and I fight those anxious demons- but there has never been an event like this I wanted to go to so much, which I feel I will have so much to offer, in addition to so much to gain. Blog Paws Conference was made for me. (Still don't believe me? Ask me how many times the past 2 weeks I've been stopped and asked about #BlogPaws after someone read the side of my car. And THEN tell me #BlogPaws16 isn't already helping me to grow!) Lastly, the fact I'd be networking in the beautiful Arizona outdoors among the trees, mountains, and horses at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort would honestly just be a cherry on top. If you don't take my word, maybe these guys will convince you?


12 comments:

  1. You NEED to go to Blog Paws! You are a perfect fit! And from meeting you at a conference, I can tell you that you rock at conference!

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  2. This conference is perfect for you. you better get there!

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  3. Good luck, I hope you get to go! I do know what you mean - I get a little shy when there are SO many people around, like at the few BlogHer's I've been to - but you just have to remember that mostly everyone there is a blogger :) so that's another common interest too.

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  4. You can't know how disappointed I am that I won't be there this year. I would so love to meet you. I could about cry now. They changed the timing to June and my niece is graduating high school - guess when the ceremony is? I could spit! In fact when they announced it at last year's conference I actually exclaimed out loud and had to cover my mouth. I was really upset 'cause I love this conference - but family is family. And I haven't been home in three years.

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    1. I know, when you told me you couldn't make it this year I was so, so sad! I've done quite the variety of conferences, but this is one I really feel fits my niche. I always get lost in the marketing and technical aspects of blogger conferences so I think I could connect more ove the topics themselves with pets involved. Maybe they'll host the next one somewhere between us and we can meet up next year!

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  5. Best of luck! I hope you get the chance to go!

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  6. This is exactly where you need to be!

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  7. You were the whole reason I was able to attend my first "big" conference. If it weren't for your kindness and generosity in hosting my five kids in your hotel room while I enjoyed my first conference, I never would have been able to attend. To this day, I still get opportunities from that conference, and I'm so grateful. As your friend, it's an honor to know you. As your colleague, you are an inspiration! I know that #BlogPawsorBust is your destiny for this year, and I can't wait to read all about your experience. You've got this. You deserve this!

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  8. Excellent post! I've been a public speaker since a teenager in high school, and not shy to talk to strangers I never realized how frightening the first time could be for some attendees. Once I did learn about their fear and anxiety, I encouraged first-timers to meet up with me at the conference and I would assure them they would feel included! I hope to meet you soon!

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    1. Hi Riverfront! I'd love to meet you as well, it sounds like you are JUST the individual to inspire me to be more open and comfortable in a public situation. It's funny, my friends are often very positive, even loud, people who I've found I gravitate to because their confidence in public situations helps inspire me, myself!

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  9. I never even knew there was something like this for pet bloggers! I bet it was a lot of fun!

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  10. I'm so sorry to hear about your social anxiety experience! Just keep working at it and hopefully it'll get better!

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