The Shyness Project

Archive for the category “2014 Post One-Year Project”

The Challenging Year of 2014

We all have our lowest points. Mine was Spring 2014. It definitely wasn’t all bad, but the hard times were indeed hard. I learned a lot and have been changed by it, but it did come at some big costs.

Before it started, I had had an incredibly rough first month at my new college away from home. I had a horrible roommate situation, and each day and night was so chaotic, noisy, and uncomfortable that I lost a lot of sleep, weight, and sanity. It was nearly impossible to do well in school and I was pretty distressed. And for the first time, I experienced the feeling of not having a home. I spent many nights wandering out on my own as late as possible in avoidance of the dreaded circumstances I might return to at my apartment. After a month of fighting with housing, I finally was able to move, and was very relieved.

By January, I had adjusted to my new school fairly well and had made some good friends. For this next semester, I was excited to challenge myself again by helping start up a brand new organization in addition to going to school full-time. Taking on this addition turned out to be a lot more stressful than I anticipated, however. The organization was pretty disorganized and I found this to be very stressful because I wanted to do a really good job but didn’t know what they wanted me to do. In addition, I was really worried about the programs I was expected to come up with and run. I kept imagining the worst occurring and the idea of presenting to a large group something I didn’t feel ready to present made me feel physically sick. I began experiencing intense and unrelenting anxiety throughout the semester. I couldn’t stop the thoughts and negative images from spinning about work and I felt like a prisoner to my own mind. Anxiety was rearing an uglier, more physical head than it ever had for me in the past. I felt very ashamed and embarrassed for panicking so much about the public speaking and for not being able to control my anxiety.

When it got to the point where I knew it was seriously affecting my health, I went to a school doctor and counselor. I was given some medication to try, but I started experiencing bizarre and uncomfortable effects. Then one day in class, I suddenly felt like I was about to black out. The edges faded black and I stumbled to the front to turn in my test before collapsing onto a bench outside. I wasn’t able to move for fear of passing out and was in such a distraught state. I ended up missing both of my midterms. My friend Matt came to my rescue when I called him and he helped me walk to my classes so I could explain to my teachers what happened. Even though I was thankfully able to make up my tests, it was a very scary experience and something that had never happened to me.

The rest of the semester was spent going back and forth between doctor’s appointments until it was figured out what was going on with me. My friend Elin took me so many times without hesitation and stayed by my bedside when I had to get an IV. I was extremely grateful and appreciative for her help. Ever since the near syncope, I had experienced constant pain in my head and had difficulty walking since I was so dizzy. I was told that I was experiencing vertigo and eventually it was determined that I had developed migraines with aura. I did my best to take it easier the rest of the semester, and was relieved when the job ended and I got to go home for summer break. Somehow I managed to keep my grades up even with all this going on. I did end up running my programs still, and they went great, and ended up being much more low-key than I had anticipated them being. Since then I’ve had some time to recuperate and I am feeling better.


  • Sometimes you do have to remove yourself from a stressful situation if it proves to be too much
  • Anxiety and Stress is serious business and can really hurt your health
  • My anxiety got out of hand, and I need to build better mental barriers and work on controlling it again
  • You can see a beautiful side of people when you are at your lowest point

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!


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.



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!

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