The Shyness Project

Raising Hand in Class Fear and Shyness

I’ve never been one to actively participate in class.  I’ve always done all my work, but I’ve done it quietly and mostly keep to myself.  When the teacher asks a question, I hesitate to respond and feel uncomfortable even thinking about the possibility of being picked to answer or to raise my hand.

I knew it was bad, but these past few days when I’ve been attempting to raise my hand surprised me with how difficult it was for me to do it.  It was so hard that I couldn’t even bring myself to do it when I planned on doing it.

When the question was asked or there was time for comments, I thought carefully about what I could say in my head. But just the mere thought of answering the question and raising my hand made my sympathetic nervous system go out of control.  My heart started pounding, my arm went limp, and my hands felt a little sweaty.  I also had a lot of negative thoughts in my head that were urging me to keep my hand down, so I felt like I was frozen.

In my psych class last week I thought of questions I could ask in advance since I had already read the week’s reading.  But when the time came when I could ask questions, I found that I couldn’t bring myself to ask them before someone else said something that changed the topic or she moved on to the next subject.  I was actually going to answer the very first question she asked, but I only got to awkwardly raising my hand half way before someone else just yelled out the answer and she moved on.

And in Lit class, there was a question I could have easily answered but when he asked the question and the room got silent, I couldn’t raise my hand and break the silence.  But I guess maybe my teacher could tell that I was trying to answer because I kept eye contact with him, and he said my name.  I answered with ease then just fine when I had been called on, but for some reason answering without being specifically called on is a lot harder for me.

So March will be about participating in class.  I’m not sure how I’m going to do it or what my specific goal will be yet, but I’m going to do it.  Maybe if I just don’t think about what I’m doing like I did when I made phone calls to reconnect with friends it’ll be easier?  I’ll find out I guess.  If anyone has ever had a similar fear to mine or has any tips on how you overcame your fear, I’d love to hear from you.  And if you just want to make comments in general, I’d be happy to hear them.

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9 thoughts on “Raising Hand in Class Fear and Shyness

  1. I’ve never been very shy in a classroom, but I empathize with a lot of the rest of your anecdotes, especially about being shy calling people on the phone.

    Remember, the important thing is really learning the course material — after all, that’s why the teacher wants students to participate in the first place. So you shouldn’t ever feel bad about speaking up, even if it gets in the way of someone else’s comment, or makes the teacher backtrack. That’s just how things go, and probably everyone in the classroom will end up smarter than if you had been quiet!

    Here’s hoping your project works out well for you!

    • Thanks Cata! I’m glad you can empathize with some of my other posts.

      That is a good thing to keep in mind. I shouldn’t worry about making the teacher backtrack or going slightly off topic if the conversation has changed. I think I’ll have to start visualizing success more rather than let my imagination get wild with what could go wrong and what if I’m not able to raise my hand. I’ll also have to work on some relaxation techniques to calm down my body reactions.

      Thanks so much, and thanks for writing to me! 🙂

  2. Bleck…. Good luck…. I have no advice here… I hate participating in a class room environment unless I really really feel comfortable with a majority of the people (or maybe feel cooler, smarter, etc.).

    Definitely remember to breathe…

    • That’s good to know you don’t like participating in class much either, it’s always helpful to know that others feel the same way. I really don’t feel comfortable participating in my psych class because it’s kind of big, 50+ people I think, but I’m going to keep trying. This goal really does make me cringe though, if I thought talking to strangers was going to be hard this is going to be even harder…

  3. You’re definitely on your way to conquering your fears and insecurities. Keep it up!

  4. i dunno but i am going through the same phase.. I cry daily and then I decide to participate the next day but again I freeze in the class.. There are very few students in my class of 70 who study and tell the right things… and I study daily but never speak… I think I need to see a psychiatrist…and above all I am in 2nd year of my B-school

    • Yeah class participation isn’t always the easiest thing to do. I’ve even heard on the opposite side of people worrying about raising their hand because they have a really hard time not adding their thoughts to the discussions. A class of 70 would certainly be very intimidating, especially if you were seated near the back of the room. I still have those moments where I keep myself from raising my hand even though I know I could, but for the most part now I’ve come to participating daily. I try to say something at least once per class and the more I do it the more comfortable I get with it. Thanks for writing Wats!

  5. I just dropped all my courses today and decided to drop out of school for good. Im a liberal studies major, not by choice though. Im red-green colorblind and im horrible at math. There’s not much I can hope to do being put in a position like that. As a result, Im now thinking about working 2 jobs, save up some money, and just stay home at the age of 50. I hope you don’t make the same decision I did. You’ll regret it, but do what you got to do.

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