I do have a few other excuses: a busy schedule, three children, and a husband that works away from home quite a bit, to name a few. I can't really let them take the blame, however. Anytime I ever want to attend a conference, my husband and kids are always happy to rearrange their schedules to make it possible. So the real reason goes back to the shyness and self-esteem. I'm a work-at-home Mom, and I guess I just feel out of practice and uncomfortable in social situations such as this. Who will I talk to? What will I say? What will people think of me? Many people at the national and regional conferences attend in groups, or know each other through society or other genealogical commitments. At least that's the way it often seems - that everyone at the conference knows someone else. I am not the only one who attends conferences solo by a long shot, however, so why do I let it make me so nervous? How do I move past it?
Genealogy conferences have so much to offer, that it is a shame for anyone to avoid them due to shyness or social anxiety. It's thought that shyness may affect as much as 40% of the population, so I can't be the only one out there feeling this way. The good news is that experts say there are ways to overcome shyness. There are some good books on the topic as well, including Living Fully with Shyness and Social Anxiety: A Comprehensive Guide to Gaining Social Confidence by Erika B. Hilliard.
If this blog describes you, then the next time a genealogy conference that interests you rolls around, please remind yourself that everyone is there to learn, share knowledge, and have a good time - not to judge or criticize you. Even the biggest names in the field are usually excited about meeting new people, and sharing their love and knowledge of genealogy with those who will carry it into the future. The many benefits of a genealogy conference vastly outweigh a little bit of initial discomfort, and once you get there it's hard not to have fun!