The Shyness Project

The One-Year is Up: How I Got Here and What I Learned

Now that you’ve read the stories of some of the wonderful people I’ve met along this blogging journey, I thought I should disclose my own story here as well.  I have some new readers now who may not know my story and why I felt a need to start this blog in the first place.

In school, I’ve often been labeled as the shy or quiet one.  I would hear this from other students, teachers- sometimes even strangers.  I heard it so much that I felt like it was something that was forever going to be engrained in my identity.  But I didn’t believe the shy or quiet label was right for me.  I knew there was so much more to me than most people could see.

My worst year was in 6th grade, when I was bullied.  My carpool group turned on me midyear and I became their daily target. They made me feel inferior to them, like a loser.  They disliked me for being quiet and too good-natured.  I had food thrown at me, was often ditched, was told I was a follower, was shut out from their conversations, was prank called, and was even the subject of a cyber bullying forum that I discovered near the end of the year.  I was devastated and deeply hurt.

By 8th grade, however, I found my place and made a good group of friends who accepted and loved me for who I was.  I was finally happy and had found my niche.

Fast forward to my senior year of high school.  The first semester had just ended, and I realized that very soon I would be graduating high school and entering college.

I had a little bit of a breakdown.  I couldn’t believe I really was going to be leaving high school. I was going to be an adult soon.  I would have to get serious about deciding on a major and a career, and I would have to have some sort of plan for college.

But what would my life be like after high school?  Would I find the courage to do the things I’d always wanted to do in life?  Or would I be doomed to live a safe, but limited life ruled by fears?

I wanted to travel to different countries, and maybe even teach abroad.  I had always felt like there was so much to learn from other cultures and I wanted to learn more about the world. Also, I wanted to write a book.  I’d read several one-year project books and felt very inspired by them.  I wanted to do a one-year project of my own.

But I doubted that I would ever be able to do either of these things.  I figured the interviewer for the teaching job would think I was too shy or quiet and wouldn’t want me to be a teacher.  And even if I passed the interview, I didn’t see how I was going to be able to muster up the courage to stand in front of the room and teach each day.  And for the one-year project and book, I doubted that would ever happen.  I didn’t think I would have the tenacity to stick with one goal and see through it all the way to the end of the year.

My future looked bleak.  Others knew me to be a high-achieving, confident, model student, but underneath it all I feared I wasn’t going to have the courage to live the life I wanted to live.  I was going to end up playing it safe and compromising my dreams for safety and security.  I was going to live a “shy” life.

So when New Years Day came, I sat down and really thought.  I told myself, if I could only choose one goal to focus on this year to improve my life, what would it be?

I realized that shyness had held me down the most.  I felt like it was something I would never be rid of, and it would forever define me and control my life.  What if I spent the whole year focusing on my shyness?  Could I be rid of it?  Would it free up my future?

And what if I shared my journey on a blog and then wrote a book about it?  Then I could finally write a one-year project book, and it would be on a subject I know very well.

But I realized that this was probably just some idealistic idea that I would never follow through with.  I’d never even talked about shyness before.  I avoided all conversations about it and would never mention when I felt shy or nervous.  I knew people would be surprised to know about the simple things that I struggled with.

I decided to develop a plan anyway.  I checked out several books on shyness and read many internet posts on the subject.  I brainstormed ideas of what I could do for the year and what fears I had that I could confront.  The mere thought of confronting any of them made me feel nauseous, but I kept researching and writing.

Then it was New Years Eve, and I had my initial plan ready.  I was scared to start the project because I feared failure, but I knew that I shouldn’t let the fear of failure keep me from trying.  I decided to take a chance and dedicate 2011 to overcoming my shyness.

And I’m very glad I did.  I’ve learned an incredible amount of lessons in a relatively short amount of time from doing this project.  I started with talking to strangers, then focused on improving my friendships, then I started actively participating in class, then I began dressing outside of my comfort zone, then I shared vulnerabilities with friends and increased my energy all the while with exercise, then I joined Toastmasters and practiced public speaking (as well as took a college speech class), then I made an effort to make new friends in community college, then I tried some new things, then I faced my fear of the phone, and then I shared the stories of several of the people I’ve met along the way.

I’ve gained a tremendous amount of confidence from taking myself out of my comfort zone this year.  On the last day of my career/life planning class this semester, we were asked to go around and write a compliment or something about the person that you’ve learned this year.  This activity made me nervous because I feared the “Q” or “S” word would dominate my list like it once had in the past in a similar activity. But in fact, there was no sign of either of those words from my peers.  The words they used to describe me were confident (which appeared twice), driven, changing the world, poised, great smile, nice, dependable, responsible, kind, patient, passionate, so sweet, honest, and respectful.  It felt great to know that I finally was allowing others to see the real, complex me.

From sharing my experiences with shyness and social anxiety, I’ve realized how incredibly common these experiences are.  I know it doesn’t seem like it- it didn’t seem like it to me before either.  But let me tell you why we think that.  We think that because people don’t talk about this.  It’s seen as embarrassing or shameful to have these experiences and by admitting to having them you make yourself vulnerable to criticism to get over it, or for someone to feel sorry for you or try to give you advice that you may not want to hear from them.  Others may not be very understanding or able to relate.  This is why I’ve never talked about shyness or anxiety.  But now I’ve written a whole blog on this, I’ve talked to friends and family about this, I’ve talked to strangers about this, and I’ve even given a speech on it.  And do you know what I’ve found?  Almost everyone I’ve talked to about this could relate in some way.  People I would have never in my wildest dreams thought of as shy or quiet have told me tales from their youth, or even tales from their present.  But I never would have been told or trusted with this information if I had never shared my experiences with them first.

And because I’ve made myself vulnerable and shared my experiences, I’ve felt more connected and closer to people than I have in my whole life.  I’ve gotten closer with my friends and made new friends even, I’ve become a better writer and speaker, and I’ve gained a lot of confidence.  I truly believe that I am not a person defined by labels anymore.  I believe I can do anything, and that nothing is holding me back.

So you may be wondering, did this project “cure” my shyness and social anxiety?  Well, that is not a simple question to answer.  I don’t believe it’s something that can be cured, nor does it need to be completely cured.  I’ve come to learn about all the benefits of having these experiences and all the positives and not just the negatives.  These experiences have allowed me to genuinely connect with people, to be more understanding and empathetic to others, to be a better listener, to be humble, and to find inner courage when experiencing fear.  I am confident, passionate, and driven, though there will always be a part of me that can relate to those considered shy or quiet.  There will always be things that I can improve upon and will have to keep working on to maintain my progress.  But I am in control of my life now, and I no longer doubt my future.  I’m excited and ready to truly live the life I’ve always dreamed of- free spirited and out to make a difference in the world.

I know that for many people, a year might not be enough time to experience the results I did.  But just because it was a success for me does not mean that I won’t get nervous for a speech, that I won’t get nervous for making certain phone calls, or that I won’t feel somewhat uncomfortable in certain situations.  For me, the biggest success was not in completely overcoming my fears, but in proving to myself that I could overcome them when needed.  This belief was strengthened throughout a year of building confidence and gaining positive experiences in situations that I once had very little confidence or experience in.

In 2012 I will be writing The Shyness Project book. I’ve never written a book before and I’m excited for the chance to get to share this story with more people. There were several things that I didn’t have time to post and elaborate on and I’m eager to share those additional experiences there.  I’ll keep up this blog along the way to share more of what I learned to try and help others.  I want to build a support network and community for all those struggling with things I and many others have struggled with.  Because I think what would have helped me most growing up was realizing that I wasn’t alone. Thank you for reading and supporting my journey of personal growth.  I can’t express how great it was to meet and truly connect with several of you who I would have never gotten a chance to meet before.  I feel like I’ve made real and meaningful friendships.  And I want to emphasize that this project would NOT have been possible without you and your support.  This project was bigger than me and by supporting and interacting with me through this blog, we made this site a valuable resource for many people to come.  I look forward to sharing what we’ve created here in a book so more people can be a part of this experience.

I hope you all have a Happy New Year and that you take a chance in 2012 and aspire to do something you’ve always dreamed of doing.  We are all capable of accomplishing great things if we dedicate ourselves to something we are passionate about.

“The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.”  ~Sarah Ban Breathnach


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65 thoughts on “The One-Year is Up: How I Got Here and What I Learned

  1. Love the last quote at the end… brilliant

  2. I think you are a very special person. I’m so glad you’re now ready to go and fulfil your dreams. Well done!

    • Aww thank you Miriam! I’m very glad too, it’s about time I started living life to the fullest! I look forward to reading more of your posts and following your journey as well! Here’s to a new year of daring to live the lives we want to live!

  3. Foremost, as a new reader, I am very grateful for this introduction. I think your project is fantastic and I am glad you will be writing a book about what you have learned. Many people will gladly pore through your book, especially since ‘shyness’ has become a taboo topic.

    • Thank you Murﺗﻀﯽ ! I figured the introduction might be important as I am gathering new readers here. Thank you for your encouragement with the book! I am nervous to start but excited too. The trickiest thing will be finding a publisher when you’re new to writing like I am. Thanks for your support!

  4. Wow, I’m inspired and motivated, I myself too am shy, but its a bit different from others. Reading this has got me thinking about getting out of my shell!

    • Thanks for reading and writing! I think there’s healthy shyness and then there’s unhealthy shyness, and the unhealthy is the debilitating shyness that you feel keeps you from doing what you want to do. That is the part to target if you feel a desire to! 🙂 Good luck!

  5. What I find most inspiring about your story is that you found your own way to change. I don’t think there are many people in the world with that kind of courage, wisdom and self-awareness. You write extremely well, and I look forward to hearing more. There are so many integral experiences that have become taboo that I like to think it is becoming less so, by sheer numbers, by people like all of us bloggers who are daring to share, and those who are taking the time to “listen”. Love, from Underground.

    • Thank you Underground! I know for a lot of people it takes outside help to change though for me I was determined to do things on my own. Either way works and will depend on the individual. But thank you for your very kind words! They mean a lot to me. And thank you, I’m glad that I write well! I know this post was lengthy but I had a lot to say so I couldn’t really shorten it much. I think it’s great how much people are sharing through blogging too especially about deeply personal matters that most would rather keep private. The power of vulnerability and sharing your story is incredible in connecting people and bringing more understanding. Thank you for reading and leaving this comment!

  6. Congrats to your one year. It’s so exciting to write a book. Hope your success.Happy New Year. 🙂

  7. You better buy some decent shades, Brittany; your future looks VERY bright!

  8. Hey Brittany!
    Just stumbled upon your blog and I am truly impressed. You truly are a remarkable person for undertaking such a daunting personal journey and coming out with flying colors :). Wishing you all the best for all your future endeavors particularly the book!

    P.S. The pink dress – totally FAB !

    • Hey Priyam! Welcome and glad you came across my blog and left a comment too! Thank you for your kind words! I’m gathering all my posts and things I didn’t post in preparation for writing the book as we speak! And haha thanks, I take it you read some of my “Dressing Confidently” posts? 🙂 It was freezing wearing that dress and I felt really self-conscious but I’m glad I did it! Thanks for writing and reading!

  9. One more great post!!
    I passed an award called “Candle Lighter Award” to your blog. Check my blog for more details. 🙂 Congrats to you.

    • Thank you Arindam!! I left a comment on your site! I liked the description of the Candle Award being for bloggers “that bring light to the world [and offer] inspiration, hope, optimism, good advice, faith filled assurances, and even humor.” What a neat idea!

  10. Wow, congratulations! Sounds like a world of difference has come your way. You’ve got a new follower!

  11. It’s been a year already, Brittany. Congratulations! 🙂
    The experiences that you shared to us were really moving and they taught us a lot of great things. Especially those who are currently in the situation you went through. Thank you Brittany!
    I hope 2012 will bring great happiness and adventures your way. I will definitely look forward to your book! Have a safe & happy new year! 🙂

    • I know it went by fast! I remember being thrilled when I made it to the halfway point of the year even! Thank you Jess for saying that, it means a lot. It’s been great getting to know you through blogging and I hope you enjoy your time in the US when you get here! And thanks for the support with the book too, I definitely need that. Happy New Year Jess! 🙂

  12. gypsy116 on said:

    Just wanted to let you know that Ive nominated you for the versatile blogger award, if youd like to participate follow the rules here

  13. I’ve enjoyed being part of your personal journey this year. This jumped out @ me : “I don’t believe it’s something that can be cured, nor does it need to be completely cured. ” That is my story completely…I went after this same personality issue myself 30 yrs ago… As long as the negative baggage that feeds shyness isn’t calling the shots, then there is something very beautiful in a gentle and quiet personality DM

    • Thank you Doug! 🙂 You’re my first blogging friend from the beginning, isn’t it cool how we’ve stayed in good contact all year? Yeah in the beginning I thought I wanted to be more extroverted and bubbly, but then I realized that I didn’t have to be that way and that just wasn’t me. Once I realized that and started focusing on just overcoming fears and anxious feelings, it allowed me to accept myself and in doing so make the changes I wanted to make. Thank you for leaving a comment here Doug, I appreciate it very much!

  14. carvedbytheshadows on said:

    Congrats on your sucessful personal growth! I hope the book works out well for you. I agree with others here – what you did is really inspirational.

    • Thank you! 🙂 I hope it does too. I’ll have to learn how to write a book now that I’ve learned how to write a blog. It’ll be a great new experience for me though. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

  15. riatarded on said:

    Congratulations and may 2012 be an even better year for you! 🙂

  16. Very well done and good luck with the project. I am very impressed.

  17. (Good luck with the project = the book)

    • Thanks it’ll be difficult to get started but it should be a great experience!

      • The blog project idea as preparation for a book is brilliant. Not only have you now already written a lot of material that can be adjusted and used in your book, you also have valuable material from others in the form of feedback, inputs and inspiration due to the interactive nature of a blog. You also already have readers who have somewhat bonded with you and are likely to help you to promote your book via sharing on their blogs and social networks e.t.c.

        When you finish your book you could do articles or presentations about how you did that. Not about overcoming shyness but about the use of social media (a blog) to build a book – and maybe a writing career or whatever eventually comes out of it. It is a very useful and relevant topic in itself.

        • Definitely true! I figured starting a blog would allow me to share my story in case I never got a chance to do it through a book, and at the same time I would learn if this project was of interest to anyone. And it seems to be of interest for sure! It’s been great and I’ve learned a lot from it.

          Yeah totally that would be awesome! There are so many great stories out there and I want to encourage people to share their stories in any way they can. It not only helps you but helps other people too. Thanks for your input Mados, I like your thinking!

  18. Brittany: what an incredibly exciting development! A book! May 2012 be a year which rewards all the hard work you have put into the Shyness Project 🙂

  19. littlemissteacherlady on said:

    You ARE me! haha! I completely empathise with everything you just said. I too, have taken this year to tackle my social anxiety, and I’ve made amazing progress. I think you just get into a habit of accepting shyness as a character trait, but when you do push yourself out of your comfort zone you might just release a whole new confident you! Looking forward to reading your completed book! 🙂

    I’m seeing a friend tomorrow and I’m a little nervous about hosting. Any tips for just before the event to get me a little more relaxed?

    • Haha you aren’t the first to say that! 🙂 It’s funny how several other people can completely relate and feel like they’ve written what I’ve written themselves. So glad to hear that you’ve been tackling your social anxiety this year and have made amazing progress! A lot of improvement can be made when we simply make the decision in our heads that this is something we are serious about. It is a life change, not just a resolution. And I think it’s awesome that you’re a teacher with social anxiety too, just making that decision to be in front of the classroom each day with all eyes on you is one of the most anxiety arousing things you can do! And thank you, it should be a great experience!

      Hmm yes events and get togethers can definitely be anxiety arousing. I went out to a party last night expecting to have to talk to a bunch of new people and make small talk, but it turned out to not be much of a party and was more like a sit and watch the performance thing. Is a friend just coming over to your house tomorrow, or is it going to be a big group thing at some place you aren’t familiar with? If it’s your friend you can first think of what you can talk about and jot down some ideas if you guys haven’t talked in a while. Talk about Christmas (or any other holiday you celebrate), New Years and New Years resolutions in general, what you’ve been doing lately, and have some questions for her. It helps to take a topic and try to think of many things you can say about it to keep the conversation going longer. Have your clothes picked out and maybe even try them on beforehand so you know you like them and feel comfortable in them, take a hot shower. Maybe talk on the phone with a close friend beforehand to get some jitters out. Have some sort of activity planned like baking or watching a movie or something so not all the focus has to be on the talking. And remind yourself of all that could go well and the closer friendship and not on the worries of what could go wrong. That’s what I do sometimes in general but I don’t know the specifics of the event or friend. Hope that helps!

      • Littlemissteacherlady on said:

        Fantastic advise! My friend is coming over to my house, and it’s happened plenty of times before. She is one of my besties really but she lives miles away with her boyfriend. When I see her now, I worry that I need to make them have a really good time so it’s not been a wasted trip. Even just writing this makes me feel stupid! I know she comes to see me.

        I think I will write down possible conversation and have something playing/on tv to take the focus off. Cats help too! I guess I do find it frustrating though. I’ve always been shy but I was never like this around friends. Seems ridiculous to me that I’d have to go to these lengths to speak to someone close to me…but I guess if I keep preparing like this, at some point I won’t have to anymore?

        Yours is my new gave blog anyway! One last question – what do you do? You’d make an excellent teacher! Primary is much less intimidating too and I think you’re the kind of character that would excel! X

        • It’s not stupid at all! I’m sure a lot of people worry about these kinds of things too, they just don’t talk about it. I can personally relate for sure! It’s harder when you haven’t seen someone in a while even if they are one of your closest friends, because like you say you feel like you have to make sure they have a great time for coming all this way. You just want things to go well, and that’s why you have those feelings. It shows you care about your friend. It helps to realize that she could be just as nervous too.

          Yeah I make those lists too on things to talk about, they’re helpful! Animals definitely help a lot too. Preparing isn’t something you have to do, but it can be helpful when you’re nervous for something. Sometimes you won’t feel like it’s necessary and you can try without planning, and other times you’ll want to have some safety net for yourself. The more you do things like this and see a person the easier it gets though. When you only see your friend every once in a while you still might get nervous each time but that’s ok. I think once the initial ice is broken and you guys are settled in then the nerves will slip away for the most part and you’ll feel more relaxed. That’s what I’ve found from my experiences anyhow!

          Thanks I’m so glad you found it and are enjoying it! I’ll have to catch up on your previous posts too and all your accomplishments this year. And thank you! I’d never considered being a teacher before but someday it could be a possibility. I’ve heard a couple people tell me that too. Right now I’m just a college student doing general education and I’m not quite sure what I want to do career wise. I love the social sciences though like Sociology and Psychology, and I want to take some Anthropology courses. I’ve thought about being an Occupational Therapist and possibly working with people who have lost limbs and are trying to adjust to their new life. I find people who get a life changing injury like that and move on and make something great of their lives through it very inspiring. Then I like writing and wouldn’t mind doing something more with that. I would probably enjoy being a counselor or being a psychologist too because I like connecting with people and having honest conversations. All I know is I want to do something I find meaningful and allows me to learn more about people and the world. 🙂

          • littlemissteacherlady on said:

            Thanks so much for your advise. At it happened, I had a wonderful time and I’m sure my friend did aswell. Being around such a good friend reminded me what life is all about!

            Mmmmm I can see you as an occupational therapist, or a teacher, or a social worker…or how about an educational psychologist! One of my friends is a trainee ed. pshyc. and she finds it very fulfilling. I guess there’s no rush to make up your mind yet. My dream job is to be a published author. I love to write, but I rarely find the time!

            • I’m so glad it went wonderfully! I figured it would. The anticipation is always the worst part and usually things go better than you think. Hope the tips helped ease out any jitters beforehand!

              Being a published author sounds like a dream job to me too. There is so much you can do in this world…I’m excited!

  20. Wow Brittany! Such a great achievement and bigger and better things to come.
    May your journey continue to bring wonderful experiences 🙂

  21. It’s great that you’ve done this project for a whole year! I can’t believe I only got into it by the end. And I like how you’ve added other people’s stories on here too! Hope college goes well! Definitely not the shy and quiet life for you. 😉

    • Thank you Gemma! The year went by fast! Feel free to read through my older posts if you’d like to read about the progression I made along the year. 🙂 I’ll keep this blog updated for sure though! Happy New Year!

  22. Brittany, you are so inpsirational. I only wish that I had a resource like you when I was in highschool. I am so happy for your personal discoveries over the last year and so happy that you are going to write a book about your experiences. This will truly touch so many people. Congratulations and Happy New Year!

    • Thank you very much for saying that! Comments like these make me happy that I decided to do this project. And thank you! Writing a book is a lot harder than writing a blog I’m finding, I already have writer’s block! But I will figure it out. Happy New Year and thanks for your kind words!

  23. eyeLaugh on said:

    Your story is so amazing! So touching. We are all so proud of you! I can’t wait to read your book.

    • Thank you! I just figured it might be helpful for some to see someone carry out some of the advice and the strategies recommended in self-help books. Thanks for your support!

  24. I will definitely be the first in line for your book. All the best, Brittany. 😀

    • Thanks Addie, this made me break out into a smile. All the best to you too Addie! Hope you’re enjoying 2012 so far! And best of luck with Toastmasters. Please keep me updated on how it’s going for you and you friend! It can be terrifying at first, but just expect that and commit yourself to joining. You will surprise yourself in what you are capable of if you just give it a chance. Thanks for your support all this time Addie!

  25. Great Entry Brittany you have a great work always well done 🙂

  26. You said: “For me, the biggest success was not in completely overcoming my fears, but in proving to myself that I could overcome them when needed.” I think it sumarizes what this kind of journey is about. If we’d woke up one day and everything would be easily and different from the way it was before, then I’d ask: where are the sweat and tears? A journey is an ongoing process, it’s a fight, not a stroll through a park. And the destination is not as important than the path you took to go there and what you have learned while travelling from point A to point B.
    Thank you Britt for this wonderful year of blogging. 🙂 Something tells me that 2012 will be full of surprises as well.

    • Yes definitely, it is all about the journey and not the destination with this sort of thing. The fact that we tried and chose to face our fears than avoid them is most important. There’s no instant fix, it is a continuous process. Thanks Vee for all your support, comments, and friendship! You were among my top commenters this year according to my report!

  27. I can relate to your story – being called “the shy one” or “the quiet one” and what’s funny is that the more people labelled me as such the more I became “shy” and “quiet”. I felt like I was trapped but over the years, I’ve learned to do away and did all the necessary to be less shy.

    Just like you… my life is still a journey. I have improved in certain ways, and there are more improvements needed in other areas.

    Thank you so much for this blog and sharing your honest stories. I have yet to read every single post.

    Good luck with the book and I will definitely buy it even though I live in Malaysia. (Thank god for

    Take care,

    • Yes definitely, I really hate the shy or quiet label. It really limits a person once it’s used enough. Now that I’ve let go of that label it’s easier to be myself and not feel like I have to act a certain way. It’s hard to let go of it though when you hear it a lot, it’s been helpful that I haven’t heard it in a long time.

      Yeah it will always be a journey, there will always be setbacks and advances. Changing your thinking makes a huge difference though and has probably helped me the most. I wasn’t able to change my thinking until I gained more positive experiences in challenging situations though, so it wasn’t an easy thing to change. And there are still plenty of days when the doubts resurface and I have to talk to someone and have them help me realize my worries are irrational.

      Thanks for reading! I’m glad I shared even though it can be a difficult subject to discuss. And thank you! I really do need to work on that more, it’s a lot harder for me to settle down and write it than it is to write blog posts. Thanks for your comment Syafique!

  28. yameira on said:

    words cant explain how relieved I am that someone is writing about this subject I can relate to you on the highest level in terms of being shy. I also had an epiphany before I started college about how I was going to deal with my life and how I would overcome shyness. I often dream a lot about how I want my life to be without the shyness the only thing I’ve felt I’ve ever been good at is writing so I often write poems on this subject so I thank you for writing this book you inspired me to stay on track with my dream of becoming a writer
    thank you Congratulations Good luck & I cant wait till your book is published

    • Thank you so much Yameira for your kind comment. 🙂 I am glad you can relate and it’s comforting to hear you have had similar experiences with trying to live your life free from self-imposed limitations. I have not yet written the book and am not sure when I’ll get to it but thank you for your support of the blog! I hope you keep writing your poems as well. Thanks for stopping by!

  29. Peculiar article, just wgat I needed.

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