The Shyness Project

The Path is Not a Straight One

As much as it makes for a simple, happy story, the road to battling social anxiety and shyness is not a straight one. Even when you’ve had many accomplishments in overcoming obstacles, there is no guarantee that you will never face hard times again when you don’t continue to face those fears and challenge yourself.

In my year in San Diego, I definitely found myself falling backwards several times. This caused me to feel a lot of shame, because I knew I’d been able to do a lot in the past that I was now finding myself struggling with again. I am not sure why, but my social anxiety really took a physiological toll on me this past semester in particular. Maybe it was because I was facing a lot of new situations, or maybe sometimes anxiety just decides to rear an uglier head at some times more than others. Whatever the reason, it was more intense than I had experienced before, and I suffered a lot despite having a lot of amazing times as well.

Luckily the story has a happy ending, as I managed to face my fears and come out stronger through it all. It took some scary lessons with my health, but it required me to face the fact that I needed to build better mental barriers to keep myself from getting in that state again. Stress and anxiety is serious business, and I’m still learning how to keep both at a lower level, but it is something that has to be worked at continuously. You may find yourself overwhelmed at times like I was, but know you’re not alone and that it can get better if you are determined to make things better. More to come soon on what happened during the year, and please hang in there if you are going through a rough time as well.

Guest Post: Jo of Twisted Sleeve

Hello readers, here is a thoughtful guest post by Jo Moore of the blog Twisted Sleeve! Check out what she has to say on the topic of shyness here and let her know what you think!

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jo_twisted_sleeveDo Shy Girls Want To Stay Shy? (And How To Change That)

I’ve always been shy and, like Brittany, I’ve decided to use my struggle with confidence to help other girls like me. Last month I launched a blog called Twisted Sleeve, where I help shy girls become confident.

Not long after I launched the site, I realised a lot of my readers were finding me through Tumblr. Of course – that’s where teenage girls hang out, right? So I thought I’d better get myself onto Tumblr to start sharing inspirational pictures, quotes, and memes about shyness, social anxiety, and confidence.

But I stumbled upon a problem. I couldn’t find many positive images. Whenever I ran a search for words like “shyness”, my screen would fill up with photos of cut wrists, gloomy comic strips, and little self-hate poems.

I was horrified.

There I was, looking to spread hope, tips, and positivity, and I was confronted with a world of misery. It’s one thing to feel down and to make and share art about how you feel but it seemed to me that lots of the girls on Tumblr were actively seeking out and creating negativity and self-loathing.

It got me thinking: I want to help shy girls become confident, but do shy girls actually want to be helped? Or do they want to stay shy?

“Shy” As A Label

When I was younger, I was desperate to find labels that fit me. I always loved the idea of being an emo or a skater but I just wasn’t any of those things. Embarrassingly, I once made up my own label, made out like it already existed, and tried to get it to catch on just so that I could feel like I belonged.

Labels make us feel like we know who we are. They make us feel defined. They make us feel like we fit in. So, once we’ve found one that fits us, we cling onto it.

But labels control you. If you realise a label applies to you and you start using it, you become it. Before I found out I was a multipotentialite (someone with a lot of interests), I had a tendency to become interested in a lot of different things. Once I discovered there was a word for that, I expected that behaviour of myself, and it started happening more often. Likewise, if you label yourself “shy”, you’re more likely to be shy.

Labels limit you. They give your identity boundaries. When you take on a label, you restrict yourself to being a certain way. If you decide you’re shy, you have to be shy. And you give yourself permission to use your now-defined identity as an excuse or justification for your behaviour: “I can’t read in church – I’m too shy.” We let it become a crutch. We become scared of being anything else.

What Happens When You Take A Label Away?

If you’re a shy person who’s clung onto the label “shy” and you stop being shy, what are you left with? Who are you? If the thing you’ve turned into your identity is gone, what’s left?

While we all say life would be so much easier if we were shy, maybe there’s a part of us that doesn’t actually want to give up the label. Maybe there’s a part of some of us that doesn’t want to change. Maybe there’s a part of us that’s scared of what will be left if the shyness disappears.

If that’s true, we’re going to cling onto the word “shy” more than ever. We’re not going to push ourselves to put our hands up in class, to speak in public, and to set ourselves confidence challenges. We’re never going to get the confidence to do the things we dream of doing.

How Can We Change That?

If we have a sneaky suspicion that a tiny part of us is holding us back, how can we change that, so that we can let ourselves become confident?

1)      Find out if you’re an introvert

Lots of shy girls are also introverts – people who get their energy from being by themselves, doing quiet things like reading, writing, and drawing. If you ask me, all shy girls should take a look at themselves and at their behaviour to work out which parts of them are due to shyness and which parts are due to introversion. See, whereas shyness holds us back, introversion is something positive (if you need convincing of that, watch Susan Cain’s TED talk, The power of introverts).

If you are an introvert, it’s possible that you’ve been clinging onto your shy identity because you’re scared of having to pretend to be something you’re not (an extrovert). But it is possible to be a confident introvert. Becoming confident doesn’t have to mean giving up your books and heaving out to parties every weekend. It just means being able to do what you want to do.

2)      Be about something

Be interesting. Do things. Have a passion. Start a project.

Getting fired up about an interest or hobby will give you another identity or area to associate yourself with. If you start having singing lessons, you become a singer. If you start writing a novel, you become a writer. If you join a rambling group, you become an outdoorsy person. Whatever you pick, you become both more interested and more interesting.

Oh, and the side effect of getting interested in stuff? You’ll distract yourself from your shyness. Who knows, maybe you’ll even get so caught up in your project that you’ll turn into a blabber mouth whenever you tell anyone about it!

What Do You Think?

Do you want to stay shy? Do you think it’s good to be shy? Of course there are plenty of positives to being a quiet person and you should never try to reject any part of yourself, so I would never want anyone to try and force themselves to become loud and outgoing. But shyness becomes a problem when it holds us back and stops us exploring ourselves, our interests, and the world. That’s when it’s time to let go of the label.

 

Bio

Battling her British social awkwardness, Joanna L K Moore (Jo) runs Twisted Sleeve, where she helps shy girls get the confidence they need to do whatever they dream of doing. A multipotentialite through and through, Jo’s also a content manager, a support worker, an illustrator at hey, there blogger, and a writer currently working on the second draft of a young adult novel. You can find out more about Jo here.

 

Picking up Friends- College Orientation Style

Six months have passed since I transferred to my new college. As you may recall, I was nervous to leave my small town and comfort zone of friends, family, and favorite dancing spots. Well, let me catch you up on how the first semester went. I’ll break this up into a few posts so I can touch on each area I wanted to address.

First off was orientation. I was nervous for the potential ice breakers, but luckily there were none. Nothing like the awkwardness of putting a bunch of strangers in a room and having them do a dance move for each letter of their name or throw a beach ball around asking them to name their favorite band or type of food. I admit they can sometimes be useful or even fun, but most of the time they deserve the groans they solicit. The orientation turned out to be mostly just listening to lectures, but I did manage to make two initial friends through it who I later took classes with.

The first time I tried to make a friend was in line waiting to get my orientation packet.  I picked out my victim, the girl in front of me, and made my move quickly. “Is this the line for transfers?” I asked, actually needing to verify that I was in the right place anyway. She said it was, and I thought soon enough we’d be schmoozing and conversing from there.  Didn’t turn out that way. I tried talking to her some more, but it was a real struggle because she didn’t seem very interested in talking and faced back ahead. Mission abort!

It took two minutes of arguing with myself in my head before I finally turned around and asked whoever it may be that was behind me if they were a transfer too. Well, duh, we’re in the transfer line. But the point is not to say something profound, just anything light that serves as a friendly little icebreaker and invitation to talk. She was pretty friendly and nice surprisingly, asking me several questions, unlike the other girl. She seemed like someone I’d be friends with. We ended up arranging to take the same Spanish class, and sat next to each other throughout the semester with two other people we got to know in class.

I met another girl when we had to sit down for a lecture once we got our orientation packets. She just so happened to be a Sociology major too. I started talking to her by asking if orientation was supposed to go until 5 or 6 because I had heard 5 but the program said 6. We continued talking every now and then from there, and sat out and had lunch together during the break. She was actually getting married in two weeks and is 26. We each told each other more about ourselves and it was nice to already have someone to spend the lunch break with. We ended up taking the same Research Methods class.

Developing this habit of picking up friends and devising little ice breakers I’d say was one of the biggest take-aways from my project. I find myself doing this often, and I do feel like I have a good strategy for it even though I do often get nervous to make the initial move. I think anyone who wants to develop a similar habit will find comfort in knowing that the more you do it the easier and more routine it becomes. Most of the time it is a positive response and people are glad you reached out to them, so if you’re thinking about it remember that!  If it isn’t, like with the first girl I mentioned who I attempted to befriend, that is perfectly okay and you just have to try again. Some people you just won’t click with right away. It’s kind of like a game, and the more you play the more familiar it becomes, and the more chances you have at finding some people you really connect with. Happy friending! It’s worth the effort!

Blogging Connections & Meeting in Person

Hey all. I know it’s been a few months since I’ve written. I could tell you that I’ve been very busy with school and adjusting to a new city. Or, I could instead let you imagine that I’ve been on an epic mission to Mars teaching Martians to dance and do an array of moves that may or may not stoop as low as the funky chicken. Up to you. But in all seriousness, I hope this post finds you all healthy and happy. And that you’ve had a wonderful holiday and are enthusiastic for the New Year.

Thankfully I’ve had some more time recently on my Christmas break to read some of the blog posts of blogging friends and those who I take inspiration from. This has rejuvenated my spirits and made me grateful for this creative outlet and source of interconnectivity. I’ve said it before, but blogging truly can bring you in touch with some great people and be a source of motivation. I smile when reading a lot of your posts and feel a real connection to you. Even though I haven’t been posting as much, I’m happy to have been receiving several emails from readers and to have you continue to share and confide in me. I’m always honored, even if I can’t get back to you as quickly as I used to.

To go further into the topic of connections, I’ve been meaning to write that I was able to meet my very first blogging friend, Doug, and his wife Micaela, in the flesh this past summer. I was in the Midwest visiting family and wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make it work to meet up with him, but I decided to send him a message anyway. It had been a long while since we had talked, but Doug was delighted to hear from me and excited at the idea of meeting. So I pulled out the charm to convince my parents that this would be a rare opportunity, and thankfully they went out of their way so it could happen.

Meeting him in person was wonderful. I was nervous at first, but once he and Micaela came out front and greeted us with hugs I immediately felt at ease. My family felt comfortable with them quickly too, especially upon seeing their apple orchard, chickens, and adorable dog. Doug and I both said it felt like we had met before or were family. We chatted for a little while, explored their back yard, and snapped a picture before heading off on our journey to Illinois with one last hug and a nice card from them both. I left smiling, happy for the chance to meet and to strengthen a connection made through the blogging sphere. It’s truly a unique opportunity.

If you have any thoughts on the value of the blogging sphere or about blogging friends you’ve been able to form a real connection to or have met up with even, please share below! I’d love to hear your stories. More to come soon!

Reading an E-Book Manuscript from a Reader

About a month ago, I received a lovely email from Andrew Landis in which he described an e-book he had written with his co-author Julia Swift, called Bold. In his own words, “Bold is about two 15-year olds, one shy girl who almost died in a car accident, and one boy who struggles with the loss of his journalist father, as they try to learn the difference between being bold and being stupid.” He told me he thought my project was wonderful and was wondering if I would be open to reading their book. I told him I’d be happy to read it, so he printed out the manuscript and sent it to me when I had just gotten to San Diego State for school orientation.

To my surprise, I was able to read through it fairly quickly, taking in pieces over the course of the two to three days I was there. The beginning didn’t grab me too much at first, but as I got further into the story, I felt the writing improved and I found myself wanting to know more.

The two main characters are Sasha and Will. In the beginning of the story Sasha describes herself as invisible and insignificant as a shy person, which I couldn’t personally relate to as much, but I’m sure others have felt that way. (Personally, I felt more frustration with others and myself, but I still felt that I was important.) Later on after the car accident, Sasha begins trying to live her life fully and boldly, something she didn’t feel that she did before. As for Will, he is a character who seems to have it all on the surface, but underneath he experiences his own pain. The story is about how the two influence each other as they come to terms with their own struggles.

I thought overall the story had a good inspirational message on living life fully and openly, and I encourage you to check out the piece if you would like a fairly quick, enjoyable read. There are some great quotes in the book that I found myself writing down and reflecting on, particularly near the end. For the next 5 days, Wednesday, September 4, 2013, through Sunday, September 8, 2013, the e-book will be free for download for the kindle on Amazon.com. If you don’t have a kindle, you can read it online by downloading a kindle app for your computer I believe. After then I believe it costs $2.99. From the emails I can tell that Drew and I’m sure his writing partner Julia as well are wonderful people and  they use their own experiences with shyness to share an uplifting message. They have always believed in telling stories that can change peoples’ lives somehow, “even if it’s just one person,” so I hope if this book sounds interesting to you that you’ll give it a chance!  I’m sincerely glad I did.

Here’s the link to the book, Bold. Enjoy! : http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DSRJHHY

San Diego State, Here I Come!

After months of waiting, I found out recently that I got accepted to San Diego State.  That means that my two years of Community College will at last be coming to an end, and in the Fall I will get to experience going to a four-year college.  Not only that, but I will get to experience being 10 hours away from home and away from the people I’ve grown close and accustomed to.

Thinking of leaving to San Diego brings up mixed feelings for me.  I am sad thinking of the people I will have to say goodbye to and the distance that will be between us.  I’ve really enjoyed living in the city an hour north of my parents’ this year because I love the people, the dancing, and the general area.  I could see myself spending more time here, and feel the year went by quickly.  But at the same time, I know that San Diego State has a lot of interesting Sociology classes that I want to take, has a lot of cool areas to explore and activities to get involved in, and that I would really regret not going.  I’m likely to feel out of my comfort zone and a little lonely at first, but deep down I know that my fear makes it all the more important that I go.  I think I will enjoy living in San Diego as long as I can get involved on campus and in the community.  And I know I will still be in touch with the friends and family I am apart from.

Have you ever had to move away on your own from loved ones and start anew in a different city?  How did your experience turn out?

Peer vs Self-Validation

wreck it ralphI watched “Wreck-It Ralph” for the first time on Wednesday. The story is about a “bad guy” (Wreck-It Ralph) who deserts his arcade game to prove that he’s not so bad after all and has what it takes to be a good guy.  Throughout the movie he searches for a hero’s medal, which he believes will help him be accepted by his peers in the arcade community.

I liked the messages in the film about how we should not let others’ labels or views define or hold power over us. We are all too complex and multidimensional to be simplified or put in a box.  Ralph may play the role of a “bad guy” for his video game, but there is more to him than that and he shouldn’t be restricted to this role.  What he believes about himself and how he personally identifies is much more important than what others believe or think about him.

Of course, I can relate to this message because this story has a lot of parallel elements with how my Project came about.  I didn’t like how the “shy” label was imposed on me and how restricted I felt in my actions and pursuits. This project was my journey in shedding this label and allowing myself to discover who I really am and what I am capable of when I put my mind to it. In the end, I learned that I was much more capable than I believed, and that although I may continue to feel shy in certain situations, it doesn’t have to define me or hold me back.  Sharing these experiences made me feel very vulnerable, but the benefits were enormous and allowed me to connect with others on a much deeper and meaningful level than I had ever been able to before.  Since I could relate to Wreck-It Ralph, I especially enjoyed this story of self-discovery and breaking free of labels.  What did you think of the film and what messages did you get out of it?

First Debut in Interviewing

Although I’ve had several jobs before, I’ve never had to actually interview for a position.  I’ve always known someone who was leaving a job or have been a part of a program that led to a job. Last Friday, however, I had my first job interview.

I applied for a job at my community college as a basic skills tutor for students with intellectual disabilities.  I loved the mission of the program to help these students on their path to a fulfilling career.  As a loving sister to a brother with learning disabilities and epilepsy, I thought the work would be very rewarding and meaningful to me.  So I edited the resume and cover letter I had made for a general tutoring position in my previous Career & Life Planning class, and showed up to the junior college to fill out an application.

Soon enough, I received an email saying my application had been received and that I would be contacted at the end of the week.  Well, a week went by and I had heard nothing, so naturally I began to worry a little.  I wasn’t quite sure what I should do, but I sent a reply to check-in to make sure nothing else was needed from me and that everything I had submitted was complete.  Shortly after that, my phone rang.

I recognized that it was the tutoring program calling me, and I tried to compose myself and get my head together before answering.  After getting rear-ended and having to take my car in for a week, I wasn’t sure of my schedule until I got my car back and didn’t have a clear picture in my mind of what days I’d be free to interview.  Luckily, however, the woman asked if I could come in for an interview on Friday at 9am (a day I didn’t have class), which kept me from having to think through my school schedule. I enthusiastically agreed and thanked her for calling.

In preparation for the interview, I wrote out possible questions I thought I would be asked and detailed responses.  I made flash cards and looked them over and practiced several times.  I even had my friend Hayley do a mock interview with me 2 or 3 times, and although it was a little hard to get into at first and get over my embarrassment, it was very helpful.  She caught that I was ending some sentences without inflection, so I worked on that until I ended my sentences on a firm note.  She noted when I was looking away, and I worked on making better eye contact.  So by the time Friday came around, I felt more than ready.  That didn’t keep me from getting nervous the night before, but at least the actual day of the interview I felt fairly calm and confident.

The interview went well.  The questions weren’t what I had expected, but I was able to use the answers I had formed in my mind about similar questions in response to these questions.  I wish I had been asked some questions that had allowed me to talk about some of my accomplishments or personal traits, but the interview was very skill-focused as it came to tutoring.  I left feeling good about the interview, and relieved that it was over.  Hayley and I each got a donut to celebrate.

On Monday, I found out that I didn’t get the job.  I was disappointed, but considering it was my first interview, I didn’t feel too discouraged.  My head did begin to spin as to what had gone wrong though, making me wonder if I hadn’t appeared confident enough, if my voice had come off too soft, or if I hadn’t done a good enough job with the mock tutoring portion.  I thanked the woman for letting me know, and asked if she could give me some feedback on how I could improve for the future.  Surprisingly, it had nothing to do with my interview, as she said I interviewed wonderfully.  She said they had a great pool of applicants but ultimately decided to go with someone with a little more experience with this population and a little more teaching experience.  I thanked her for letting me know that, and felt better knowing why I hadn’t gotten the position.  It does seem like a bit of an oxymoron to me that to get experience we have to have experience, especially people around my age who are still very much in the learning of skills stage, but that is how it seems to go.  I plan on checking out some other possible work and volunteer opportunities, as I would like to go through some more interviews again and gain more experience in this area.

If any of you have any thoughts on interviewing or any experiences you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them!  As some of you may know, I just started a Facebook page here if you would like to follow me.  Also, I just got an article published on Susan Cain’s Power of Introverts website here that you may like to read as well. Thanks again for reading my blog and making this an interactive space.

Collisions and Phone Calls

My first day of school started with a bang.

Literally.

For the first time, I was rear-ended on the freeway.  I was alone in the car and was on my way to my apartment before school started.  In my rearview mirror I noticed the silver car speed behind me, accelerating too fast to slow for the traffic, getting too close to me, and I thought please don’t hit me. Brakelights. Then, WHAM!

My mind shut down for a moment.  What just happened?  Did I really just get hit?  Yeah.  What do I do now? 

I saw the driver behind me switch lanes and edge toward the shoulder.  Dazed, I tried to follow her, but as I tried to get over to the right lane, an impatient driver sped through that lane around me, causing me to swerve back to the left to stay in my lane.  Soon enough, a bus in the right lane slowed for me so I could get over, and I did, pulling to the shoulder.

We got out of our cars slowly, nervous to approach one another.  She immediately admitted fault saying it was all her.  I said I was a little shaken up and had never been in an accident like this before.  We exchanged all the necessary info, noted the damage to my bumper, and then returned to our respective cars and went on our business.  I felt very wary behind the wheel afterward, and stayed in the right lane until I got back to my apartment to call my mom.  She advised me to call the insurance company right away and report the claim, and even though I wasn’t eager to get on the phone with them, I did.  No one answered though so I left a message and headed out to my first day of class this semester.

At school, I managed to talk to and introduce myself to one person next to me, one of the few females in the Criminal Justice class.  I told her about my morning with the accident and she said that her friend got hit on her 21st birthday before.  We talked about our majors and career ideas; she wants to be a police officer.  I thought of asking her if she wanted to exchange contact info, but I was afraid of asking too soon so I didn’t.  I don’t truly feel like I’ve made a friend in class until we’ve switched numbers and emails, and I usually do that right away, but there are times when I have a harder time asking.  I’m planning to do that soon though. That was my only class for the day, so I headed home after that.

One of the main reasons I’ve always had some fears with driving is because I’ve feared getting in an accident.  Well, that finally happened, but luckily this experience wasn’t too terrifying and I didn’t get hurt.  What I’ve realized though, is that the number of phone calls you have to make afterward is one of the worst parts.  I had to make and receive a lot of calls throughout the week and the week after with the insurance company and the estimate place.  I found this to be very draining, and I got quite stressed some days from being on the phone so much all day, relaying what happened.  But when I had to call people, I did it in front of one of my close friends, and I did it right away, which is something I’d learned to be helpful from my 2011 Phone Phobia experiment in my Shyness Project.  I wouldn’t allow myself the time to think or worry about what I was doing, which made it easier to call even though I still dislike doing it.  The people I talked to were very nice though and seemed genuinely concerned that I was ok after the accident.  After I finished calling the insurance company for the last time at the end of the week, one of my close friends helped de-stress me by doing a silly thing with a cookie. She tried to inch the cookie down her forehead and into her mouth, which was quite amusing to watch, even more so when my other close friend tried doing it too.  I laughed and felt more relaxed, grateful that the accident wasn’t fatal and my life hadn’t been changed for the worse that morning.

Making Friends In Class Again

Last semester, I didn’t make a whole lot of new friends.  I did, however, become closer friends to the people I had met before in this area, thanks to the fact that I now live a matter of minutes away from them versus an hour and a half.  I got to know one dance friend whom I’d always thought was really nice much better, and we spend a lot more time hanging out now.  I also started carpooling with another dance friend, and we shared a lot about ourselves during our car rides and became much closer than I expected.  I hope we remain good friends even though we can’t carpool this semester.  I also became very close to the person I dated, and we’ve remained close since.  I did manage to make one friend in my Accounting class as well, which was really nice because he was very helpful throughout the school year and made the class much more enjoyable.

This semester I would like to do a better job of making friends through my classes though.  My mom suggested I try and have at least a 3 minute conversation with one new person per day, but I think that would be too much for me.  I do have the mindset that I will try to talk to and get to know at least two people every time I’m at an event or social setting though.  And I do want to try and make at least one, preferably two, friends in each of my classes.  I’ve noticed that I enjoy a class much more when I have a friendly face to talk to each class period.  It’s hard to make the initial “move” to talk to someone new, but almost every time I’ve done it, I’ve been glad I did and the other person is appreciative and receptive.  I just need to remind myself of this when the nerves overwhelm me and keep me from getting someone’s attention to introduce myself.  I’ve been through this many times before though, so I know I am capable and know it just requires saying something, no matter if it’s a question about the homework, the textbook, or the class in general.  As the picture says, I will put myself out there this school semester!

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