When my daughter died she was eleven months old. It was time for her because her tiny body was no longer able to sustain itself, to breathe, to process food, to laugh or to cry. She was born with broken muscles and for a time, she appeared to be getting stronger, but then as we knew it would happen, her muscles degenerated, weakened until they could no longer do what they were meant to do. She died at home as we wanted her to, safe and loved.
Her death didn’t haunt me quite as much as the moment, that one single moment when I went from realizing that my harrowing pregnancy was over and knowing that there was something seriously wrong with my child. It was a period of time shorter than what takes me to blink or to take a single breath. But that piece of time, small and unnoticeable where I went from feeling joy to asking the question “Now what?” It was long enough.
I was defined by that moment, I obsessed about it for years after she died because I didn’t understand how everything could go so wrong. It made me angry, it made me cry. I poured everything I had into remembering that moment. It was torment.
Allowing myself to become a victim of that moment effected how I conducted my life. It weakened my resolve, it made me not want to experience life, because to live and experience opens you to hurt and sometimes to hell. I didn’t want to experience anything like that again. It took many years for me to realize that remembering and letting that single moment in, examining and reliving it, held me back. With time, I could see that it was a bad memory to cling to. I needed to let go.
Saturday night was the Yahrrzeit of my daughter’s death. We honor that memory every year, recounting her life, ensuring that her short time on Earth mattered. I think about her every year and for the longest time, I could only dwell on that single moment thinking that would be my memory to her. But she isn’t about that second of time and either am I. Now I chose to remember her.
But that’s the thing about defining moments. They will either define us or we will define them. You can either be a victim or you can take charge of that moment. I lived the last decade and a half as a victim of circumstance and let my circumstance rule me. I no longer let that happen.
I took the job that I did, this sales position that makes me uncomfortable, because the only way to battle fear is by simply overcoming it; making the phone call before you chicken out and find something else to do. I will no longer be defined by that single moment in my life. I’m far more than that moment. – Introvert to Sales Goddess
That comes from my book Introvert to Sales Goddess as I examine what I’m fearful. My fear, my lack of confidence, my inability to move forward was partially tied to that single moment and possibly other single moments in my past. We should never be defined by those moments. They are part of our make up but they aren’t wholly us. I don’t think about that moment the way I once did, it no longer fills several waking moments, it no longer haunts me in my sleep. I’ve moved on from the moment finding me in my waking life. Though it doesn’t haunt my dreams, it did affect how I went about the business of my day-to-day life.
I regret one thing. That I didn’t follow my dream in my thirties. Forget that I had children, watched a baby die, suffered from post-partum. Those things shouldn’t have stopped me from practicing and to be perfectly honest, writing about those experiences probably would have done me some good.
But I didn’t and it wasn’t those things that prevented me from writing and creating. It comes down to one reason fear as a result of the lack of self-confidence and not believing that I could do what I put my mind to. As a result of my regret I have an unrealistic time line in my head. At almost forty-six, I feel like time is running out.
To continue with my journey, I got myself a job which hindered my ability to write, because of time. As my time feels like it slips away, I feel as though I’m defeated, as if I’m giving up on my dream. Whether that’s realistic or not, it sits in the pit of my stomach and keeps me awake at night.
We’re hardest on ourselves, we expect perfection and when we don’t achieve it, it messes with our minds. It messes with mine as the clock ticks down another sliver of time.
As my emotional half struggles with age and time, my rational side of myself realizes that it all comes down to confidence and a belief in myself. When it wanes, I need to remember the people in my circle, those that believe in me and in my vision. Because if not for me, for them, I keep pressing forward because that’s how you push through the lack of self-confidence, let someone else carry you. For me it’s my editors. As a writer you have somewhat of an intimate relationship with your editors. They know your books as well as you do, they understand you as a writer because you write what you know, what you feel and they become intimate with your characters as they assist you in crafting your story. I put my complete faith and trust in their words, their thoughts and their support. Without them I may have quit a long time ago.
We’re always hardest on ourselves, because we want and we work and we hope that it comes out well. I fight the slivers of time that make up my life not because I fear the future but because I fear the past and time that I didn’t allow myself to explore who I was and what I wanted to be. They tick down and I feel that pressure to accomplish something and do it soon.
It all comes down to confidence, finding it and keeping and letting that lead you forward.
My name is Sheryl Steines. I’m an introvert, I’m a mother, a wife, a friend. I’m also a survivor. I wasn’t always a survivor. I used to be a victim of my circumstances. As good as my life might seem on the outside, and I’m not saying that things haven’t been good, behind the scenes, well they’ve oftentimes been one bittersweet, emotionally devastating event after another. Failed job hunts, infertility, a hard pregnancy, caring for a terminally ill child, post-partum depression. They came at me in rapid succession. I couldn’t breathe. With each new experience I would ask myself now what and blindly wind my way to the solution. I didn’t survive those experiences. I merely passed from one to the other until I was an empty and all I could say was, I was a victim of my experiences.
When you feel as though you’re living in a whirlpool you can’t quite stop and take time to figure out what it is you really want to do with the rest of your life. Lost and confused, unable to keep a job in interior decorating, I had to look long and hard to figure out that what I really wanted was to write. From the time I was seven, that was my wish, my end goal and making that decision I made a change that changed everything.
Writing gave me a voice. Allowed me to express myself and explore what I buried deep inside. It gave me confidence, I lost weight, I straightened my hair. You get the picture. It was the single greatest decision I ever made for myself.
The writing’s been wrought with challenges. It hasn’t gone as I expected. But it saved me and thought I didn’t sell as many books as I hoped, I had to get a job to pay for the marketing, I’m so stressed out that I fail at work and at home and with my friends, I persevere. I’m no longer a victim of those bad experiences. They shape me but they don’t define me. I’m not just a mom who buried an eleven month old baby, I’m a woman who picked up the pieces and found a voice one that I can use to inspire, listen or help someone else get through their own hardships. Instead of hiding in fear of those experiences I’m choosing to grow stronger and redefine who I am. I’ve learned a lot about myself as I’ve taken on the challenge of writing a book series and I discovered that I’m so much more than I gave myself credit for. I fight and I defy odds and I move forward without apology. And I’m sharing myself, opening up and exposing everything. Because I do have a voice and I do have something to say.
That’s who I am and if someone else, just one other person finds strength or acceptance, than the pain and tears will be worth the effort. Look for my new book chronically my experience as an introverted sales person called Introvert To Sales Goddess, coming soon.
It’s funny that as an introverted writer, I find myself in a job that requires me to meet people and contact them on the phone call. As a result I worked on a short book of essays describing my fear, of phones, feeling like a fraud as I navigate outside my personal comfort zone.
I opened myself up completely. It’s the real me. I’ve come so far in such a short time that if my experience can help any either understand what it is to be an introvert or how to pull yourself out of the fear and anxiety that holds us back, than it was worth the trip down memory lane. Here’s the unedited excerpt of how far I’ve come and where I hope to be.
–Introvert to Sales Goddess
At my class reunion I met a former classmate who was also a published author. I was green with envy, the kind that made me regret everything that led me to that time in my life. When I couldn’t find a job, I remembered that feeling and decided it was time to do what I had always wanted to do when I was a kid, and that was to write for a living. I had started my career reaching for that goal, but kids and life got in the way and I put it aside. Again, I lacked the confidence to push forward and trust that I could write a book. But after my reunion, I had a goal. I would write that book. It was the best decision I ever made and for the first time in my life I gained real self-confidence. I was proud of myself and I woke a passion inside of me that I never had before.
When I finished the book and the edits and the attempts to find an agent, I self published. And while trying to sell my books amazing things began happening for me. First I went to my first Wizard World with my own booth and sold to strangers, meeting and talking to them. I met artists and writers, and had a community of people to discuss the ups and downs of this crazy venture. I attended my first book expo in New York and met marketers and came up with a plan on how to reach more people.
With the new confidence, I found I was able to finally lose the baby weight; I bought more fun clothes and changed my outlook on myself and on my life. I straightened my hair, which I could write a whole other essay on because; man did that change everything for me. But I was finally off of that treadmill and really moving forward.
There’s twenty pages of books on Amazon about living as an introvert, marketing as an introvert, how to succeed as an introvert, public speaking for introverts, you get it, there’s a lot of books on how to live as an introvert. I’m not one for self-help books. I find them redundant because I really know what it is I need to do in order to change the circumstances of my life. At my age I’m also aware of who I am and what I can change. Having someone else spell it out for me, seems like a waste of time and money.
When I needed to lose weight I knew I needed to exercise and reduce my caloric intake. I did that. When I decided it was time to check #7 off of my bucket list, I sat down and wrote that book. For me there’s no more thinking about the things that need to be done. There can only be doing. So says Yoda from Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back.
“No! Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”
Self help books, videos or people, I don’t subscribe to them. I realize that people are looking for answers and are looking for a way to make changes for the better and that’s their option. Those books for me are a crutch. A way to feel like I’m accomplishing something without accomplishing anything besides finishing a book. The books themselves can lead you to water, lead you to the change, but only you can make a change. I know what I need to do in order to get to where I want to go. It doesn’t mean that I will get there, all it means is that I have to just do it, I just have to drink that water. If I’m lucky it will happen, if I’m not at least I…
I set the goal for myself, I will write everyday and I will complete my second book. Whether or not I become a successful writer, time will tell, but at least someday I’ll be able to look back and know that I did everything that I could to try to get there. My own self-help.
I don’t give myself enough credit. I dwell on the failures rather than the successes. When my books didn’t sell I assumed it was poorly written, maybe it wasn’t that bad, maybe it was as simple as my inability to market via social media. Or maybe it was a lack of confidence in myself and my work. Without thinking it was any good, was I really going to sell it or myself?
When you’re shy and an introvert, it’s hard to bring attention to yourself anyway, and if you lack confidence, it’s even that much harder. Do you really want the attention and what if the book really sucks, can you in good consciousness sell it?
When I finished my book the first time around, I really believed in it. And when the second book was published I was far more confident in that one having learned something about writing and editing. But I received three bad reviews in a row. They were so bad that I couldn’t speak for a week. Every time I did, I’d burst into tears. The honest truth is I was set to quit. Throw it all away. If it wasn’t for two people who encouraged me to continue because they believed I had something there, I would have.
The reviews for She Wulf nearly destroyed me and what little confidence I had in myself was gone. I tried to put it aside and work on the third book, move the stories forward and hope that those who were fans, would continue to like the series. I started three different books and couldn’t focus on which would be the next in the series. I took time off, I rethought what it was that I wanted to do. And when it came down to it, I knew I wanted to write. I still believed in the characters and I didn’t know what else I would do with myself.
I made changes. I completely re-wrote The Day of First Sun. I can’t wait to share it because out of all the versions, this is most definitely the book that I want to release and that I’m proud of and confident in. I restructured the series and I’m still having trouble with the second book because I want it to be fun and exciting and what I had written, was that. But it will be.
After changing my social media, I was discussing with my team my frustration at the entire process. I told her some of my future projects and we talked. And she said to me, “You have a lot to say and you should say it.”
As I work on the final edition of The Day of First Sun, as I write the first draft of Black Market, I’m working on my voice. Finding it and sharing it. And in the process of sharing my experience, my ups and downs, my lack of confidence, I learned a few things about myself. I’m capable of great things and I have a great support system around me who believe in me. When they tell me, so I realize that I have something valuable to say and to share and if it inspires others or helps them through something, than it is all worth it.
I claim to be a shy introvert. I hate being center of attention, I have a hard time coming up with things to say. But I’m really good at observing and I have an understanding of what people are thinking and what they’re going to do. I’m not weird, I can’t be fixed, I am who I am. So how did I end up with a job in which I have to sell? It’s one of those things that just sort of fall into your lap and you have to either continue moving forward or melt into a puddle of nerves.
Handling groups of people, speaking in front of even the smallest group sometimes leaves me anxious. It depends on the importance of what I have to say, the relevance to the conversation that determines how uncomfortable I’m going to be. The reason for me is, I have an inability to think quickly enough to move a conversation forward. That makes me a much more effective writer, because I can take my time to craft my message, think it through and re-edit until my fingers read. I’m a much better writer. Go figure. Which leads me to prefer sending emails to making phone calls. So why in the world would I accept a position that requires me to sell, to talk to strangers on the phone and ask them to join our newest program?
Because I realized that if I were to move forward as a writer, I needed to interact with people I don’t know. To learn to be comfortable in situations that leave me anxious, you need to throw yourself at them rather than run from them. For me that is all about making phone calls. I’m the type of person who feels like I should always have a reason to contact someone by phone. And if there’s no reason, I make no call. And yes that means I very rarely call someone just to chat. Though if they call me just to talk, I’m open and a little chatty. Approach me fine, but don’t make me approach you. Yeah, it might be the whole fear of reject or maybe it’s just the fear of I don’t know what to say. But whatever the reason, placing myself in uncomfortable situations is my way of becoming stronger. Getting familiar with something rather than run from it should then increase the size of my comfort zone.
That’s why I took a job that seems so out of my ability and skill level. You can’t change your basic personality, but you can learn to work around the traits that hinder your success, you can adapt and quite possibly grow out of some of the more difficult ones to live with. I may never dump the shyness, I may always be terrified by the sheer act of calling strangers to sell a product, but maybe not. Maybe with practice, I’ll get comfortable and my zone will be wider. And maybe then I can sell myself and my books and live the dream I keep dreaming.
Sometimes I think I send my daughters mixed messages. As parents we desperately try to convince our children to accept themselves as they are, to be proud of their tiny quirks or the shapes their bodies. In theory I agree with that. I want my children to view themselves with respect and be proud of who they are and what they are able to accomplish. But I think that message is a little short-sighted in some ways. Of course I don’t want my daughters to feel they are fat and become anorexic, but I also don’t want them to settle. I don’t want them to accept grades they receive because they’re good enough. I don’t want good to limit them. What I mean is this, I want them to think beyond good and reach for something beyond their reach.
It’s about passion, finding that one thing that gives them purpose and not accepting failure or half a job as good enough. For me that were several three star and worst reviews. They made me think long and hard about trying to be a writer. Self doubt set in and I thought that maybe I wasn’t good enough. Maybe it was time to quit and simply enjoy my life and new job. I could learn to accept this revelation and start living my life again if I were willing to accept that as the end.
What I want for my daughters is this, the desire to want something, the discipline to obtain it and the knowledge to know when to adjust and even stop if it truly is something that can’t be obtained. I desire for my daughters to look at my struggles as I try to reach my dream and use it as inspiration to make it through their difficulties.
For my youngest, it’s the desire to play basketball as a starter. She isn’t and has obstacles in front of her that make it difficult to get there. For her I want her to keep practicing, to make the most of her limited playing time and to remember her goals. And for my oldest I want her to practice talking to others, to get out in the world and meet people and gain comfort in social situations so that she can live her life not in fear but in joy.
I can have them both accept their lives as they are and have them adjust to their personal circumstances or I can push them just a little to keep at their dreams. It doesn’t always happen the way we want it to and some times we have to accept that it won’t ever happen. That’s life, but if we accept the bad reviews as certainty and give in to them we most certainly won’t get farther or closer to our desires.
My biggest regret is that I put my dreams away and let life happen, rolling with the punches rather than fighting and pushing forward. Had I always remembered what that dream was and worked toward it everyday, even if I only wrote one paragraph a day, this goal might not be so frustratingly difficult to obtain.
Accepting ourselves is good and pushing ourselves beyond what we accept can even be better.