I’m an introvert. I am an anxiety-ridden, socially awkward, please-let-me-hide-in-the-corner, I’d-rather-be-home-in-my-yoga-pants, don’t-make-me-talk-out-loud introvert. I avoid large, loud, party-like situations like the plague. If I’m ever forced to attend one, I’m the girl you’ll find sitting in the corner alone, taking it all in, observing it all with a nervous smile pasted on my face. It probably sounds like I don’t like people, but you might be shocked to discover that it’s really quite the opposite. You see, I love people. I love connecting with people. I love learning and understanding what makes folks tick. I love diving into deep, meaningful conversations with old friends or perfect strangers.

So why do social situations make my stomach turn? I dislike small talk. It makes me nervous. I never have any idea what to say. Crowds are intense for me. I can actually sense the feelings of those around me, and I’m drawn to understand the reason behind those feelings. I’m so distracted by the emotions of others that I can’t really focus on anything else. Social situations drain me, and it takes me days to recover.

The interesting thing about all of this is that people who know me would never guess that I feel this way. I’ve become quite good at hiding it over the years; I’m a highly-functioning introvert. Even many of my good friends would never believe the sky-rocketing anxiety level I hide on a daily basis. I think this is one of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed writing. It’s my safe place. I can say or do things in the worlds I create that I would never do in real life. Writing is my escape, and I’m happy that it’s also my career. I’m blessed to be able to do what I love every day.

But there’s a catch! The thing I never realized until I had my first book published is that there comes a time when an author has to leave the safe haven of her writing cave and venture out and mingle amongst the scary world. In my personal publishing journey, this has been the hardest part.

What I didn’t realize until my first book was published is that it doesn’t matter how fantastic my book is if no one knows it exists. Books don’t sell themselves- authors do. I quickly understood that my ability to handle my anxiety would be tested, and that was terrifying. You see, in order to let people know about my book, I was going to have to put myself out there. I was going to have to do things that made me horribly uncomfortable. I was going to have to step way outside of my comfort zone, and I was going to have to live there. So, I took a deep breath, told myself that I had no choice, and I did it.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve done things I never thought I could do. I’ve hosted book signings and author events. I’ve done radio and newspaper interviews. I’ve sat on author panels, and I’ve given talks at libraries and schools. I’ve even been on television.

Well-meaning people keep telling me that the more I do these things, the easier they will get, but I know this isn’t true. I’ve suffered from anxiety my entire life. I’ve always been an introvert pretending to be an extrovert. Standing in the spotlight never gets easier.

What I’ve discovered, though, is that as I push through the anxiety, I realize that I’m more capable than I ever gave myself credit for. You see, I’ve discovered that if I just keep trying, I can do anything I set my mind to. I might not do it perfectly, and I might completely fail. Even if I don’t, I’m still my own worst critic. But I’ve also learned that it’s important to give myself permission to fail. It’s important to be as gracious and forgiving of myself as I would be with my family and friends. None of us is perfect, no matter how hard we try. We’re all just muddling through life doing the best we can.

I’ve learned so much about myself since publishing my first book. I’ve learned how strong I really am. I’ve learned that I’m tenacious, and I refuse to give up. I’ve learned that fear can either paralyze you or propel you; I choose to be propelled. I’ve learned that I can do things, in spite of crippling anxiety that often tells me otherwise. I’ve learned that sometimes the very best thing that can happen is being forced outside of your comfort zone- because that’s where real growth takes place.

Originally published at wp.me