The Shyness Project

Archive for the tag “confidence”

Shyness: From Weakness to Strength, and Fears to Excitement

Hello Readers, today I’m sharing a guest post from a lovely 18 year old reader. She resonated with my posts and reached out to share her story with me. Enjoy and feel free to write to her!

Source: http://www.amightygirl.com/courage-roar-wall-quote

Shyness: From Weakness to Strength, and Fears to Excitement

Shyness is something that I know really well. I have lived with it all of my life. I used to think that it was the worst thing about me, but now, I can see that it’s not so bad after all. I can live with it and I don’t have to let it take over my life. Most of the time now, I can talk to people without feeling shy, or scared. I can give oral presentations in class without freaking myself out. I can ask people for help if I need it. Not everything is easy- I still sometimes hesitate a lot before doing something because I feel shy- but it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be.

It used to be something that affected my life in the most negative way possible. I wasn’t just shy actually, it was more than that. I also had an extreme form of social anxiety called selective mutism. It made me unable to talk in any setting in which I felt uncomfortable. This means that I wasn’t even able to speak in class, chat with my friends, order my own food, etc.

This haunted me until 5th grade, when I finally decided to speak up after I changed schools. But still then, I was labelled as “shy and quiet,”- and I hated it. I didn’t have a lot of friends, only spoke in class if I really had to, kept everything to myself, avoided family gatherings or public events, hated talking on the phone, and panicked so badly at the thought of oral presentations in class.

The turning point came in 10th grade, and that is when I finally decided to change. I joined a volunteering club at school with a friend and forced myself to participate in activities with kids, elderlies, and homeless people. That is when I first realized, “Hey, this isn’t so bad after all. I can interact with people!” I especially enjoyed and felt comfortable with kids. I had such a great experience that that summer, I applied to a volunteering position at a summer camp outside of school. There, I unexpectedly learned not only to interact with kids, but also with the staff and volunteers who also worked there. I had such a good experience that in 11th grade, I decided to continue with the school volunteering club even though my friend wasn’t doing it anymore. I also tried even more activities.

That year was my last year of high school. I was really determined to overcome my shyness. I started feeling okay with doing class presentations. I started talking to more classmates and made more friends as well. I began to talk and ask questions to my teachers when I was unsure of things. Before I left the school, I wanted to show everyone that I wasn’t “just the shy girl” and that I was more than that. I thought that the perfect way of doing this was to perform my best at my last oral presentation and impress everyone. I worked my ass off, but unfortunately, it did not turn out like I expected. My partner let me down, and I was really upset at it. But something good came out of it.

After crying about it for a few hours, I gathered up courage and went to speak with my teacher Ms. S. As it turned out, not only was I allowed to make up for it, but Ms. S was also the first person other than my parents to really notice my shyness, tell me her own experiences, and give me advice on it. She told me that she knows how I feel and that she knows it’s hard to put myself out there, but that if I don’t do it now, it’s going to be even harder later.

And I took her word for it. When I came to Cegep (college), I tried even harder to overcome my shyness. At first, I simply worked at feeling comfortable speaking in English and making new friends. Then when I was a bit more adapted to the school, I started talking to teachers. After that, I also started getting more involved in clubs and activities. Currently, I’m working at talking with more people and just being more open in general. I even voluntarily participated in a Science Fair, became vice-president of two clubs, and joined the public speaking club.

Along the way, I also met a teacher, Ms. R. She became my mentor, helped and supported me, and convinced me that I could go beyond my zone of comfort by doing all these new activities. She even shared her own shyness story with me, and this really surprised me as I never would have ever suspected that she felt shy too sometimes. Once again, like Ms. S, she told me that the only way to “overcome” this was to put yourself out there. And I quote the word “overcome” because it’s not really about overcoming shyness. It’s about learning to control it and deal with it, and not let it take over your life. Whatever you do, you might still feel shy, but you’ll still do it despite the fact that you feel shy. You want it more than you are afraid of it. And once you’ve succeeded at whatever you want to do, you’ll feel so great about it, and it’s simply going to motivate you to do more and strive for the better. That’s what happened to me, and that’s what made me realize that I can be so much more than just “shy and quiet”.

Looking Glass Self: What you see is what you get

There’s a theory in sociology called “looking glass self”.

This theory basically states that we are socialized to accept the judgment of others and reflect it back to others.

To illustrate what I mean, imagine you’re at a party and you don’t know anyone. You notice that the people look at you with friendly faces and appear to like you.  So in response, you act friendly and smile back at them.

You have a positive experience because you have a positive perception.

On the other hand, what if the opposite occurs?  What if you notice that people are looking at you with blank faces, and seem to be whispering about you and judging you?  In return you may act defensive, hang back, and give off signals that you don’t like them either.

Perceptions can be wrong.  But all we have to go by are our perceptions.

And because of this, I have found that being in the right mindset is extremely important in making friends.

I’ve heard some of my former high school classmates who are going to the same school as I am directly say that the people there aren’t friendly.  They’re mean and they stare at you.  And I’ve read status updates on Facebook of people who say that they feel so lonely at this school because they don’t know anyone, and they haven’t made any friends.

These remarks were a total surprise to me.  I’m going to the exact same school as them, so how could I have had such a completely different experience?  I had an amazing first week of school, and made several friends.  I was thrilled at the prospect of being able to talk to anybody in the school and become friends with them.  It was a whole new ball park for me, and was nothing like the cliquey and divided high school I attended.

Why was my experience so different from several of my former classmates?

Without a doubt, it was because my perceptions were different.  In my eager pursuit of seeking out new friends, I unknowingly had the perception that each person I approached was friendly and just as hopeful to make friends as I was.

And you know what?  That perception turned out to be very true.  Every time I mentioned that I was hoping to meet new people and make new friends, the person I had started talking to said that they wanted to do the very same thing.

I know making friends isn’t always easy.  I had to initiate a majority of the friendships I’ve made, but all it took was for me to open my mouth and say something to them, anything.  In my experience, asking a question has been the easiest way to start a conversation.   In particular, during the first week of school it is very easy to ask someone a question, like “Is this the textbook we need?” or “This is speech class with Mrs. East right?”  And from there, you can introduce yourself, they’ll introduce themselves, and then you can talk about college and majors if you like.  If you don’t know someone and you’re in a certain setting like school, talking about that setting is a great way to get talking.  And by the end of the conversation, all you have to do is ask to exchange contact information.  Facebook is a great way to go, and cell numbers work well too.  Then be sure to keep in touch with them, and before you know it, you’ve made a friend!  Simple as that.

When you hold a positive perception that people are friendly, then you are going to get positive results back.  So be sure to take notice of how you’re viewing a situation or a group of people, because your perceptions have more power in determining your experiences than you may realize.

Deja vu- The first day all over again

Usually, there is only one first day of school.

For me, however, there were two.

I am taking classes at two different community colleges. I’m doing this so I can get all the classes I want my first semester instead of only having a few options as a new student.

My first day at one of my colleges was great, but how was the first day at my other college going to go?  The butterflies returned at the prospect of having to go through the first day of school all over again.

Soon enough, the time came and I set foot in my first class of my first day at this college, my Career and Life Planning. I was looking forward to it because I think the subject of career choice is fascinating and I’m hoping this class will help me figure out what I want to do. I’ve already done so much research on my own, but I hope I’ll get something helpful out of this class.

I talked to the girl sitting next to me right away, and she was really friendly. In class, an activity started where we had to go around the room and find someone who fits one category on a space, like someone who loves music, or who had a leadership position in school, or who volunteers. It seemed a little silly to me at the time but I know the teacher was just trying to get us all acquainted with each other. I briefly met a majority of my classmates, and even won a candy bar for being one of the first people to turn in my sheet with all the squares filled out with signatures from each person in the class.  Woot!

Next, I headed for my Intro to Sociology class. When I entered through the doors, I saw that every seat in the class was taken. Every seat. I had no choice but to sit on the floor, so I did. Soon others came in and had to stand or find somewhere to sit on the ground as well. The room was packed with people hoping to add her class. The teacher is supposedly one of the best Sociology teachers this college has ever had, and she’s won teacher of the year awards. I was excited at the prospect of getting to learn from her, and was hoping I’d be able to add.

We all waited a little while, but there was no sign of her. But then, the door crashed open and a tall white haired woman charged forcefully down the aisle to the front of the room, yelling for everyone to put away their cell phones, and ranting that if she ever saw one out again she’d kick the person out of the class. Several people looked offended and astounded, or slightly spooked, and I could tell that some people would drop. She continued to say that she would not tolerate any talking once class begun, and anyone who talked while she was talking would be asked to leave. There are no excuses in her class, nothing can be late, and there are no make ups. Her tests consist only of essay questions, because she doesn’t believe in multiple choice tests. There would only be three tests all year, and 3 research papers.

I had read that she tries to scare people away the first day and comes off as really strict and tough, but that she is actually one of the most caring teachers on campus. Her attempt to scare us didn’t work on me, and I happily added my name to the add list when she said anyone who showed up today and wanted to learn she would teach.  I had emailed her before asking to add, and she had first sent back an automatic message that said she had over 100 people requesting to add and that she wasn’t giving out add codes before class.  I wrote back saying that was a ton of people and clearly shows what a sought out teacher she is, and that I was hoping to add but I’d probably have to try again another semester.  I said I was hoping to take her class because I’d heard she was an excellent teacher and I wanted to learn what Sociology was about.  To my surprise, she wrote back saying it was her last semester, and she said to come to the first class and introduce myself and she was sure that I had a pretty good chance of getting in.

I was a little nervous to approach her after the big scary image she had presented of herself, but felt like since I had said I would introduce myself, that I should. After adding my name to the add list, I said, “Hi my name is Brittany, I emailed you over the summer about adding your class, and I said I would introduce myself, so I wanted to be sure and do that.” I held my hand out and we shook hands and she smiled and touched my arm and said she was really glad I made it to her class and was going to add. She asked if I’d gotten the books already and I said that I had, and I was looking forward to her class. It was a nice friendly exchange and probably made a good first impression on her.

Next I had speech class. I started talking to the lady next to me, Heather. On the first day we were given an assignment to interview the person next to us in class, so we ended up interviewing each other and another woman joined our group too since there was an odd number. Heather’s a mom of three teenagers and I learned some miscellaneous facts about her. The following class we would have to introduce our partner to the class, so I tried to find out some things that I thought would be interesting to share.

All in all the first day of this college went well too, though my previous first day was even better in my opinion. It was a good day though and I was glad to be done with both of my first days!

I Wore a Dress to School!

On Friday I finally decided to wear a dress, and it was the first time I had worn a dress to school since…well, preschool I guess, back when my mom got to dress me.  (After that in elementary school I rocked leggings until I was 7!)  Supposedly it was going to start raining again on Sunday so I figured Friday would be my last chance to really dress up for a little while, and wanted to end on a high note.  (though I’m still going to keep dressing nice)  I had looked at this dress in the beginning of April and told myself by the end of the month I would have the confidence to wear it to school, and I finally did wear it.  I worked up to it by wearing fancier tops and skirts first.  I know for some people wearing a dress to school is no big deal and is an easy decision, but considering that I used to dress as simply as I could so I wouldn’t get any attention for my clothes, it’s a good improvement for me.  I didn’t want to wear shirts with words on them either because I didn’t want people trying to read my shirt, especially if it said something embarrassing like “Kiss Me I’m Irish” (I’m not even Irish!) or something about cute boys that my mom would pick up and try to get me to wear.  I still think that’s embarrassing though, haha!

But back to the dress.  I decided the night before to wear it since the weather was getting really hot.  That morning though, it turned out to be really windy and a little cold even.  Why the weather always tries to make my plans more difficult I don’t know, but I was still determined to wear that dress.  My mom tried to talk me out of it though and thought I should change into something else, but this time I stood my ground on this and told her this was going to be one of my last chances to do this.  Her doubts hurt my confidence a little bit, but I walked out the door to the car, no turning back.

I was a little cold, and I did feel a little self-conscious, but I put my sunglasses on and walked through the halls telling myself that I looked nice and to remember to focus on what other people were wearing.  I did have to keep my hands down just to make sure the wind didn’t try to pull any fast ones on me though.  It certainly would have been easier and less nerve-racking if there was less wind and the dress was a little longer.

While walking to first period one of my girl friends said I looked nice today and one of my guy friends resonated with a “You do look really pretty!”  Another friend turned around and saw me and exclaimed “Oh my gosh you look so pretty!”  So that was a nice reassurance to hear in the morning, and I told them they all looked nice too.

On my way to fourth period, I had to pass through a crowd of people in the quad.  Maybe it was just my imagination, but it seemed like one of the good-looking popular guys I passed looked at me longer than someone normally would when you’re passing them, like with interest or something.  And it seemed like one of the popular pretty girls was giving me a glaring look.  It was kind of funny, and not something I’m used to.

When I saw my friend Annie at lunch, she did a double take when she saw me!  She exclaimed that I looked really cute, and then said these past few weeks I’ve been dressing really cute.  I thanked her for noticing and told her I was trying to dress more confidently.  She asked where I was getting all these clothes and I told her that I’d had them for a while but never wore them to school or anything, the only time I’d worn some of this stuff was at swing dancing.  She said she wanted to start getting some cuter clothes too since she feels like she’s been wearing the same thing for a while now.

Although I did feel self-conscious whenever I was walking, it was sort of fun standing out and looking pretty at school.  I didn’t wear any make-up and most of the time I don’t bother to wear any anyways, but I still felt pretty in my dress.  It was a bit of a pain because I had to be so careful with it, but it was worth it.

On the left: Not a dress, but one of the many notorious outfits my mom put me in.  And on the right:  What I wore yesterday, taken afterschool when it was finally nicer and less windy!

Laura Croft and Skirt

Yesterday I wore my beige jeans for the first time and a nice top and came to school sporting my sunglasses.  I didn’t think I was dressed up enough to get any notice, but my friend Annie raved over me and my sunglasses exclaiming that I looked like Laura Croft (Tomb Raider), which made me laugh.  It was flattering but I don’t think I quite looked like Laura Croft.  She said all I needed was brown hair and to braid it.  Annie was wearing a skirt in heels and I complimented her and said she was the one who looked really nice.  She started talking about how she didn’t think it was going to be chilly today but it was after all and she was kind of cold.  I took notice of this because I’ve tended to do the same thing when people have given me a compliment when I wear a skirt.  I tend to thank them and babble about the weather automatically like I want to take the attention off me or something, haha.  But I pay attention to it now and it does seem like a natural response for others too.  It helps avoid any awkward pauses after compliments too I suppose if you can’t think of anything else to say after you’ve been complimented.

Today I wore a long flowy brown skirt and a fancy white top and sandals.  It was kind of windy out and colder than yesterday, but I decided to go for it anyway.  One of my friends asked why I was dressed so fancy today and I just said for the heck of it and why not.  I was cold sometimes but for the most part I was inside and protected from the gusty winds outside.  When Annie saw me at lunch she gushed over my outfit again and I thanked her and complimented our friend Emily since she was wearing a nice green dress.

It’s been nice dressing up and giving out more compliments.  When I dressed up this morning, I just decided to focus on giving out compliments and not about what I was wearing.  That way I’d feel less self-conscious about the change and more outwardly focused.  The more I’m dressing up, the more I’m realizing that it’s a positive experience and no one thinks it’s weird to come dressed more fancily than the typical blue jeans and plain shirt.  It’s kind of nice knowing that when I dress up I’m likely to get some positive feedback too.

Doing Well

Everything’s been going well since prom.  I’ve been in a good/happy mood and have been extra friendly.  I’ve been acting a little goofier too since discovering how much fun it was to let loose at prom.  I’m going swing dancing on Friday so I hope they play some fun music to dance to in addition to all the swing songs.  Hopefully it will be a busy and fun weekend as I’ve invited some new people to come play Ultimate Frisbee and am hoping to play tennis and possibly make some other plans.

I’ve been dressing in brighter colors mostly as it’s been too cold to wear skirts or dresses.  Even if I don’t get complimented, at least I can still compliment others each day.  It’s not too hard to notice something nice or different someone is wearing, whether it’s a top, necklace, shoes, or whatever.  This helps me keep the focus on others too when I feel a little self-conscious when I dress up.  At prom of course a lot of compliments were thrown around because everyone looked so nice and everyone was so excited for prom.

I’ve also been exercising more lately and have been taking my neighbor’s dogs walking whenever I can, and this week I have gone every day so far except on the weekend when she’s home.  Afterward I’ve been doing crunches, light weights, and just started doing lunges and squats.  I’ve also been eating healthier and have had more fruits and less bad stuff.  It’s been a little while since I’ve had a soda, even though I love it. I think these things have all been contributing to my happy mood too.

Hope you all have a great weekend and a Happy Easter!  We get a 4 day weekend from school, hooray!

Only Seeing the Tip of the Iceberg

There was a deep and honest discussion today in 6th period that ended up continuing all period.  Apparently an event called “Challenge Day” occurred yesterday and two of the students in our class had participated in it and were reporting back.  Basically about 100 students were selected and they each had to talk about their troubles and things that were going on in their life that others probably didn’t know about but would help others understand you better.  The boys reported that everyone thought it was kind of a joke at first but after a while they realized it was serious and learned more about why some people act the way the do, especially some of the meaner people they didn’t get along with before.  They learned why they might act mean and more about what was going on underneath the personality they displayed to others.

Our teacher drew a picture of an iceberg on the whiteboard and sectioned off a really tiny piece at the top and said that was the part we showed to others, our personality.  The rest, the majority of ourselves, was underneath the surface and was what he considered to be our character.  Most of us show very little of our true selves and we are mostly judged on that teeny portion that is above the surface.

The boys said the biggest message they wanted to share was to be open-minded about others because you don’t know what they’re going through underneath the surface.  They talked about name calling a bit and labels a while too.  Our teacher had us raise our hands if we’d ever been talked down to or called something you didn’t like by a guy, and then by a girl, and nearly everyone raised their hands for both.  He explained why people do that and why they call you something you don’t like or pick on you.  He said if you’re the one being picked on, then the others in that group join in because they think “at least we’re safe” and at least the focus isn’t on them.

I can definitely see that being true and I thought of my 6th grade experience where I was the one being singled out and picked on by the group I was with.  The people in that group didn’t want to be the one targeted so once one of them started picking on me the others added to it and continued it all year. They were really just acting out of insecurity though if you think about it, and it wouldn’t have mattered what I did or what I liked or how I acted, they still probably would have done the same to me for the purpose of making themselves feel safe.  One of the girls who was a part of that group and the one who did the most betrayal and hurt to me is in that class awkwardly enough, and I glanced at her when the teacher was talking about that and wondered if she was thinking of how she had acted that way in middle school.  It’s hard to tell though because she acts like nothing ever happened between us and I never got any sort of admittance about it or an apology.  But oh well, I’ve moved on.

Another thing the boys brought up was compliments actually.  At the challenge day event the instructor was telling people to compliment pretty girls or something like that instead of seeing a pretty girl and making assumptions about her that she is a slut or whatever else people often think.  This sparked a debate and one girl said that she would not want to compliment a pretty girl especially if she knew she was pretty because she wouldn’t want to fill her head with air and she doesn’t like cocky people.  Another girl said she would compliment a pretty girl.  Then one guy brought up that if you compliment one girl and tell her she’s pretty but then don’t compliment the girls next to her then it can hurt their feelings, so he thinks it would be better to not compliment them at all otherwise you’d have to compliment everyone then and tell them that they’re all pretty.  It was an interesting and lengthy discussion. After class I walked out with the same guy and a few other of our classmates and we talked about the compliment thing some more.  I said to avoid the hurt feelings it would probably be best to compliment peope’s outfits or things they do well on rather than complimenting their personal looks.  If someone is wearing a fancier top or did really well on a test or something it’s easier to compliment that than something more general, and if there are others around it’s probably good to try and think of some nice things to say to them too.  One girl said that she dressed up nice one time and her friend dressed up nice too, but only her friend got compliments all day and no one said anything to her, so she felt kind of hurt and felt that she looked nice too.  So compliments can be tricky I suppose, but I think the main thing to remember is to be aware of others and try to spread the love so people don’t feel left out.

Compliment Central

On Monday I wore a long flowery green, white, and pink top with a green jacket that I’d never worn before with jeans.  It’s been getting cold all of a sudden and our previous week of the great summer weather has disappeared.  It’s been really windy now and it’s supposed to even rain tomorrow unfortunately.

But I managed to dress fancily despite the cold.  Emily and Ashleia said “You look cute today!” as soon as I came over to join their little group in the morning.  Ashleia liked the long flowing shirt especially.  I told her she looked cute today too and that she always dresses so well.  I also said that it’s harder to dress up now that it’s cold, and they too were mad that the warm weather had just suddenly vanished and the cold had come out of nowhere.

First period I told Sue that she looked cute today and looked good in blue.  She was surprised because she didn’t think she was dressed up, but the dark blue sweater with white stripes did look really nice on her in my opinion.  After I said that she complimented me and said she liked my jacket and shirt and felt the fabric.

When I saw Pearl when we met up after 4th period I complimented her sandals which I liked and was the kind I was actually looking at yesterday when I was trying on shoes looking for ones for prom.

When we went to lunch and met up with Annie, she noticed what I was wearing right away and loved the jacket and shirt.  She gave me lots of compliments once again, she’s always very kind to me.

So it was a good day, and I gave out several compliments and received several compliments.  I notice that the same friends seem to compliment me each time and I’m grateful for their support.

It is getting harder to dress up as it’s getting colder though. How do you dress up when it’s cold?  It feels like instinct to want to bundle up in a warm cozy jacket no matter how plain it is on certain days.  I think most of my prettier tops are short sleeve or sleeveless and the jackets thin so it makes it harder…and wearing skirts or dresses right now would make me really cold.  Hopefully it will heat up a bit more next week!

 

Two in a Row

In first period today I raised my hand to answer a simple math question! 🙂  I did feel a little nervous beforehand and hesitated once the room got silent.  But I did it quick enough where I didn’t have too much time to think about it. She didn’t see my hand though, so I just said it aloud surprisingly enough.  I said how to solve the problem and the answer that you would get.

It was a good thing I answered because she was starting to think we couldn’t do simple math.  She then asked if anyone had a calculator, and she looked at me and saw I had one.  So I offered to do the calculations that she asked me to put in and I read them aloud.

I spoke more all period than anyone else did in the class, though after a while I thought some of the others were probably getting annoyed with me.  But if they thought that oh well, that’s the second time I’ve ever raised my hand in her class so it’s not like I say much often.

It felt good, and the more I spoke aloud the more confident I became and could keep speaking.  I even spoke without raising my hand since most of my teacher’s attention was on me and she sort of expected me to keep answering I think.  Usually I always feel the need to raise my hand to answer questions because I’ve gotten so used to it over the years, but now in my senior year classes and college class it seems like it’s not really expected anymore.  That’s probably because by now the teachers figure we know when to talk so we’re not interrupting.  I still prefer raising my hand though.

Does anyone else feel like they still want to raise their hand even when they don’t really have to?

Post Navigation