The Shyness Project

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?

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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!

The Theme of 2013: Do More, Think Less

action6Initially, when my friend Barb posted about choosing a word for the year, I disregarded the idea.  I didn’t think a word alone could possibly encompass the habits and skills I wanted to develop this year.  After giving it some more thought, however, and after reading the subsequent post in which she disclosed that she decided on the word “open,” a word of my own struck me.

I vowed this year that my theme would be “Do More, Think Less.”  This came to me late one night a few weeks ago when I found myself in a familiar situation- I was lying in bed, pouring over a stack of notebooks and folders with notes I’d taken from books I’d read and from personal reflections, trying (again), to decide what I want to do with the rest of my life.  Quotes from the One Week Job Project were particularly inspiring, as well as quotes from a select number of career-related books.  One quote that I had written down that stood out to me was from Dr. Phil’s book Self Matters, which said, “You need to know your highest and best use in this world, and then pursue it. How tragic would it have been… if Mother Teresa had been an accountant or a waitress?”  Also, from Po Bronson’s book What Should I Do With My Life? there was the riveting quote, “If I were to make an early exit from this world, what will I feel worst about not getting done?”  Reading these made me question what I was doing in business classes, and made me wonder what career  I could possibly have in business that would bring me the kind of fulfillment and accomplishment I had always desired.  I did feel glad, however, that I was studying Sociology, as it is a subject that I am passionate about since it focuses on the betterment of society.  With a little more thought though, I felt reassured that studying both subjects would have its benefits, as there are certainly ways to use business skills to make the world a better place.  Plus, I like the challenge of business courses so far, something I have yet to feel in my Sociology classes.

I could have spent hours more pouring over my notes.  I could have checked out more books.  Yes, these readings and notes were inspiring and helpful, but thinking about what I would want in a future career suddenly just didn’t seem like enough.  I needed more experience.  I didn’t need to think any more if I wanted to work directly with people or not, I had to go out and work with people. I don’t know why this didn’t hit me before, but now that it had, I knew I had to get more hands-on experience.

So I decided to try and find a job.  I applied for a tutoring position for students with intellectual disabilities and/or autism at my community college, and I am waiting to hear back to schedule an interview.  I went with a friend to a volunteer orientation when she mentioned she was going to check out volunteering for a local Wildlife Rescue.

And I felt great.  Finally, I was going to gain more work experience, and perhaps I would finally be closer to coming up with an answer to my long-held question.  It certainly couldn’t hurt.  I have worked as a water efficiency intern in which I worked directly with people (which at times was draining and other times energizing), I have worked at an automobile company as a file clerk completely isolated from people (which I discovered was very lonely), and also as a babysitter, dog walker, and a brief advertising assistant in which I learned how to design a brochure using Photoshop. These have all been great experiences, but I feel like I need a lot more experience with different areas of interest before I can say that I know what I like and dislike in a job setting.

Thus, the word of the year shall be Action.  It’s time for me to Do More and Think Less, and get to work.

I’ve Been Missing In Action but I’ve been Growing!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted and have been on WordPress, as you all have noticed I’m sure.  In my last post I discussed how I was wrapping up my first year of community college.  Well, it’s November now and I am in my second year of community college and have been living away from home in an apartment with friends as of a few months.  In this short period of time I have grown a lot and have become more independent, and have faced some of my fears and learned that they weren’t as bad as I thought they would be.  For one, I’ve been driving a lot more on my own than I used to.  Granted, it’s been a lot easier because I have a GPS I can use now, but I’m a lot less hesitant to go out somewhere I’ve never been before.  I’ve gotten lost a few times, but I’ve managed to turn myself around and find my way even when the GPS loses reception.  I’m proud of myself for that, and I do feel a lot more independent and capable.  Sometimes I really enjoy driving even, especially when the songs are good on the radio.

Living in another city for the first time has been a learning experience as well.  I only moved about an hour and a half away from home, but considering I’ve always lived in the same small town for the past 19 years of my life, it’s been a significant experience for me.  Thanks to swing dancing, I already knew a lot of people here, but I’ve also made some new friends and overall I’ve been very happy.

I also entered my first full-on relationship several months ago, which is something I didn’t think I would be ready to do because I had had some bad experiences with dating in the past that had made me hesitant to get involved.  Even though it is over now, I had a great experience and learned a lot from getting to know someone on that deeper level.  The experience showed me that dating could be fun and that your friendship with the person can still be maintained afterward if you ended on good terms.  Dating can certainly still be a little scary, but I definitely have a better perspective on it than I did before. On reflection, I think it’s amazing how much our initial experiences can shape our views, and I’m glad that my perspective has finally shifted in this area.

Again, sorry for not keeping this blog up-to-date these past few months, but I hope you all have been doing well and have experienced some personal growth over this time too!   If you’ve learned anything new or feel like you’ve improved in one area of your life, please tell me about it in the comments or in an email as I’d love to hear about it.  Enjoy your week!

Second Semester of College: Almost Complete

Well my second semester of college will be completed in less than two weeks.  2012 is certainly flying by; I can’t believe it’s May already.  It’s been an emotional and stressful year so far for me, but I’ve learned a lot from it.

I gave a presentation in women’s history class last Thursday which I was nervous about since I hadn’t had to do much of any public speaking in months, but it went really well.  Somehow I managed to not get panicky before my turn to present and spoke with ease and confidence, and made the class laugh too.  I’m glad that my speaking ability hasn’t diminished since I haven’t been up in front of anyone in a while.

I had to give a little presentation in my cinema class the week before too, which wasn’t a big deal to me either.  The girl behind me though came in late to class as we were watching a movie, and at the end the instructor asked her to give her presentation.  I could tell she was caught off guard and I heard her voice shaking and trembling like she was about to cry or have some sort of anxiety attack so I turned around quick and said, “Hey, would you rather do it next week?”  She nodded, so I called over to the professor, “Can she do it next week?”  He said sure (he’s a nice guy and a lot of people have been giving their presentations later than planned) and asked if she could give it Monday at 9 and she whispered, “Yes sir”, but he didn’t hear her so I told him that would be good.  She looked relieved and the instructor seemed to pick up on what was going on too and seemed glad that I was looking out for her.  It’s cool to be on the opposite side of things now and to help people out who have fears of speaking in front of the class.  Hopefully she will be ready to give her presentation this week and she won’t skip class because of it, but I had a feeling that if she had to give it that day that she might burst into tears up there or have some kind of anxiety attack.

Other than that I’ve been doing good.  I’ve been learning more about myself this year and am getting a better idea about what I want in life.  In August I’ll be moving out on my own with some friends to take classes at a different community college, so that will be exciting.  I think it will be a great experience for me.  Hope you are all doing well!

Swing Dance Crazy

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of swing dancing.  I was first introduced to swing dance when my brother Andrew took me to a dance in Golden Gate Park when I was 13 or so.  I remember I only danced with two other people than my brother then, because I wasn’t as comfortable dancing with others and didn’t know as much about the dance as I know now.

Recently, I went to San Diego for my brother Andrew’s wedding.  At his wedding, we did a lot of swing dancing because Andrew and a majority of his friends are all really talented swing dancers.  I had a blast and I had the time of my life when Andrew, Liz, and Dewey and I took the stage and did an impromptu lindy dance in front of everybody.  At one point my brother picked me up and spun me around, and other times I was jumping in the air as he kicked between my legs.  The dance was intense because it ended up being to an 8 minute song called “Bill’s Bounce”, which wasn’t intended to be played during the dance session, but it was really fun.

I went swing dancing the following Wednesday and Friday with my brother’s best friend Jack as well, and had a great time.  I made some new friends, and learned some new dances.  I was sad when I had to leave on Saturday because I had enjoyed dancing in San Diego so much and meeting the people there.

Swing dancing is a great way to make new friends.  It’s a social dance, so you dance with as many people as you can and will meet lots of people.  And several of the people who are swing dancers tend to be pretty cool people from my experience.  There seems to always be a few creepy guys at every venue, but you learn to spot them and set your boundaries with them if they are bothering you.

I think whenever you find something that you are passionate about and get involved in it boosts your confidence as well.  The trick with getting involved in any type of dancing is being ok with not being good at it at first.  This is a hard thing to accept sometimes because you’re dancing with other people and want to do well, but with anything it’s going to take time to get better at something.  A lot of people try it and give up right away because it seems too hard, but if they would stick with it a little longer they would see that each time they practice they are getting better.  I’m very glad that my brother introduced me to swing dance when I was young, and I know it will be something that I will continue to do all my life.

To see what kind of swing dancing we were doing, here’s a video.  This style of swing dance is called lindy hop.

The Art of Friendship

Things have been going well lately.  I’m happy to say I’m feeling much better and am back to my normal self again.

I recently finished a great book called MWF Seeking BFF.  It’s written by Rachel Bertsche, and it chronicles the year she embarked on 52 friend dates in a search for a new best friend after a move to a new city. It’s a very entertaining read as she is very honest in sharing her thoughts of the people she meets as she puts herself out there to make new friends.

There are a lot of great quotes in the book about friendships and reaching out to new people, but this is one of the best ones I think. She writes, “We all think we’re living in a world of grouches, so we’re too self-conscious to be the overtly friendly one.  A 2009 survey found that 75% of adults say Americans are becoming ruder and less civilized.  I was part of that ¾ of the population when I moved to Chicago.  I thought overtures of friendship would be received with suspicion rather than appreciation, so I hung back in fear of being the weirdo.  Now I think I was wrong.  It’s not that people are less civilized, it’s just that we think they are, and so we act accordingly.  We don’t reach out to talk to new people because we assume they don’t want to be bothered.  But as I continue to pursue friendships, I’m constantly surprised at how receptive people are.”

I read Rachel’s blog before I read her book.  Her blog was always interesting to read too and she always writes with a good sense of humor.  If you haven’t heard of her story I recommend reading some of her posts and reading her book too.

When I made an effort to make new friends as part of my project, I came to the same conclusions as Rachel.  People were happy I reached out to them.  One girl in my speech class even told me she was very grateful I had befriended her because she didn’t know if she could have gotten through that class without me.  That was pretty touching and it made me very glad I chose to try and befriend her.

Like Rachel, I’m always open to new friends and even now I’ve been making an effort to meet new people.  I recently made a few new friends at school who are really cool people, and afterward I was so happy I was skipping.  It’s a great feeling when you’ve made some new friends.  We often do think that the people around us aren’t open to a conversation or open to being friends, but the truth is just the opposite.  Many people would be thrilled that you reached out to them, and would be happy to be friends.  I know that when people start talking to me that I’m thrilled and happy to talk.  So it’s good to keep that in mind the next time we think that someone won’t want to talk to us.  The odds are that they would be flattered.

Random Acts of Kindness

When you feel down and are going through a tough time, it can be hard to get your head together again.  I was struggling with a lot of doubts and uncertainties that suddenly arose, and my mind was not giving me a break. Suffice to say I wasn’t being a good friend to myself for once and was slipping into a place I’d never been before.

But I don’t want to be in that place any longer.  I have to accept uncertainty and difficulty, and keep trudging forward.  I have to see the positives and not just the negatives.

I read a few of the recent posts on the blog, Year of Kindness, this afternoon after a long and dreary day at school.  Let’s just say that the posts touched my heart and I think it’s wonderful that Cat’s doing random acts of kindness for strangers.  It lifted my spirits reading about her generosity and thoughtfulness, and I thought of how I would feel if I had been one of her recipients, especially if it was during a time when I was feeling down like I have been.  I’m sure it would have brightened my day.

I think doing kind things for others can really be helpful for when you aren’t feeling well yourself.  It brings you a sense of human connection and reminds you of the little differences you can make each day. I feel inspired by Cat to be more active in my random acts of kindness now too.  I have done random acts of kindness in the past for strangers as well as people I know, but I haven’t really done any lately.  I feel like doing some now though, even just little things.  I know there are many people out there going through tough times themselves, and I hope I can make their day a little better so they can be given a boost of hope like Cat’s blog did for me.  If you want a boost of hope yourself, head on over to Cat’s blog and read about what’s she been up to!  You won’t regret it!

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