The Shyness Project

Archive for the tag “growth”

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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Learn to Feel Free to Be Yourself- Not a Label

I met Faith in the beginning of my project.  I came across her blog when I was starting mine and appreciated that she was sharing a lot of the positive sides of shyness on her site.  She recently studied abroad in England and had a great experience.  Here is her post on shyness:

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I’m Faith and I’m an introvert.  My journey with shyness has been a lifelong one.  I’ve always been on the quieter side, especially in comparison to my younger siblings.  Being an introvert and an older sibling has been interesting.  I tend to be very cautious, so being the first of the family to grow up, go to school and such things was sometimes hard.  It takes me a while to get used to situations and people, because as an introvert I more observant and in my head, and not so much ready to go out and tackle things head on.  So there were times it took a while to adjust.  Added difficulty is that my shyness was coupled with low self-esteem and trust issues.  I was never hurt terribly, but I saw people teased, I had some people criticize me and I was already pretty critical on myself.  I’ve always been very sensitive.  To protect myself I cut myself off from others.  I let my shyness get to an extreme.  In elementary school I refused to speak, even when a teacher called on me.  People responded in different ways.  Sometimes I was a target for teasing because I was different, but because I tried to maintain a goody-two-shoes image and because I distanced myself, people were more at odds with me and gave me space.  It took me a while to realize that isolating myself was not a good answer.  I wanted friends but I couldn’t maintain a friendship being closed off.  It took me a long time to realize my barriers were keeping people away.

What changed?  I was not happy because I was stuck in a box.  As quiet as I naturally may be, I also have quirks and opinions.  I saw that in comfortable situations like with family I was more upbeat, but other in places I felt very anxious and critiqued myself.  I felt miserable and I wanted to change.  So with each new step in life I tried to let go of baggage and really evaluate myself.  I went to a high school with different peers than elementary school, so I started being more open with people.  Eleventh grade I attended a different high school that I graduated from.  I began learning who I was.  College was were I really stepped out of my comfort zone and my bubble.  It took a while, but each year I opened up more.  Away from my family I could better see the real me and decide the “me” I wanted to create.  I didn’t have any crutches to bolster me and I couldn’t hide.  It was also up to me to take control of my life.  I learned to love myself, which entailed being less critical of myself and learning to laugh at myself and love myself, so that when I stepped out of my comfort zone and things didn’t go as planned, it was ok.  In college I made some really good friends.  I met so many people with quirks and idiosyncrasies, and I realized that made them distinctive.  I liked who they were with all their quirks, so why couldn’t other people like me with my quirks?  I let myself get close to people and I found I enjoyed it.

Things aren’t perfect.  There are times I feel discouraged.  Struggles with self-esteem don’t disappear overnight, and being an introvert constantly in her head doesn’t help either.  But I have something that affirms my self-worth no matter what: my relationship with God.  I’m a Christian and this keeps me grounded.  When people let me down and when I let myself down, which is inevitable, I can look to God who still loves me.  I try to change the narrative in my head.  This became especially important my junior year of college (last year) when I studied abroad in England.  I was gone for a whole year.  I started a blog before I left in which I really began evaluating my values, my identity and my shyness.  Being abroad really challenged me to step way out of my comfort zone.  I had some of my lowest lows.  God helped me in those moments.  I was never alone so I could never be totally defeated.  I gained so much comfort living through that year.  Now I’m not even sure if I classify myself as shy anymore.  Yes, I can still be very shy in many social situations.  I’m naïve and introverted.  I still have self-esteem struggles.  But I’m confident that I will be ok.  Self-evaluation and growth isn’t pleasant, but it’s necessary and I got a lot out of it.

So my words of advice:

  • Know you’re not alone.  Find someone you trust to talk to and be honest with.  There are great resources that show how positive it is to embrace who you are, as a shy person, an introvert.  There are books and blogs that show there are people like you.
  • Don’t be afraid to grow.  Be willing to step out of your comfort zone, baby steps at a time if it takes.  Stretch yourself a bit and learn from your experience.  What did you like and not like?  What do you want to change and what to you want to keep and/or enhance?
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses and act with them in mind.  For instance, if I hang out with friends for an extended period of time, I may have a long quiet time to myself or with just one or two close friends to be able to wind down and recuperate.  That gives me strength as an introvert.  If I don’t take the time to wind down, I get burnt out and discouraged.
  • Love yourself.

Shyness is an attribute.  It does not have to define you.  Be you in all your complexity.

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To read more of Faith’s posts, click here.  She is very down to earth and you will enjoy reading about her studying abroad experience as well as a variety of other topics.  She has several good posts on shyness as well if you search her page using the tags at the bottom of her page if you’d like to hear more of her perspectives on this.

The Power of Facebook: Making friends has never been easier

Up until a few years ago, this communication tool didn’t even exist.

Cell phones were available, and emails were too, but then came along something that revolutionized the way people communicated.

Social networking sites.  And in particular, facebook.

I first made a facebook account in my freshman year of high school.  At first, I didn’t understand how it worked and didn’t care for it much.  Few people I knew had facebook then and I only created it because a few friends wanted me to.

Now, it has become an everyday part of my life, for better or for worse.

On my friend search, I’ve discovered facebook to be an incredibly helpful tool.  Making friends and keeping in touch with people has never been easier.  No longer do I have to rely on phone numbers to get in touch with a new friend or an old one.  Facebook has made the process of friending much more convenient.  (Granted, it’s important to talk on the phone from time to time, but electronic communication has its benefits too.)

Before when I had to call people up from my classes, it was very nerve-racking.  Sometimes the people wouldn’t recognize who was calling or wondered why I was calling, and the response wasn’t the one I’d hoped to receive.  Most of the time it went ok, but I still disliked not having any other resource to contact people than through my home phone.  Now that I have a cell phone and have access to texting, and now that I have facebook, I’ve been able to keep in touch with people much more easily.

When I meet someone new that I want to get to know better now, instead of just asking for a number, I ask for their name or email so we can add each other on facebook.  Once this is done, it’s simple to get in touch with them.  I also get to learn some more about them through what they share on facebook.  In particular, photo sharing is my favorite aspect of facebook, because if I take any pictures with them while we’re hanging out, I can easily just post them on facebook rather than having to email each individual with the photos.  This was a slow process and probably would be even more difficult now that the quality and file size of my pictures has gotten rather large.  It’s much more convenient to share pictures and information with friends through this site.

Facebook has really become a part of our lives as much as cell phones have.  It has made a lot of my friending much easier and much more possible, so I thank Mark Zuckerberg for that.

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!

Speech #2 – Organize your Speech

I’ve been trying repeatedly to upload my second speech to youtube, but it keeps failing.  I recently got a new camera and noticed that the file size of the video was quite big, 600MB, so that’s probably why it isn’t working.

But my second speech went well!  It was about careers and how I, like Sean Aiken from The One-Week Job Project, think it’s ok to not know what you want to do, as long as you are proactive about your search.  My personal goals that I focused on were slowing down and speaking up, which I did both of.  My evaluator Marcy still suggested slowing down even more, so that is something I can continue to work on.  I did concentrate on adding several pauses to my speech though. Carol complimented me for pausing in just the right places and asked if I had had public speaking training before.  She said she was especially impressed with how I am beginning to take charge of the room when giving a speech.

On the night of the speech, I wasn’t that nervous.  I think it was because I was so tired.  After school I came home and crashed on my bed and tried to rest before Toastmasters.  I was completely exhausted because I hadn’t been getting much sleep and the first few days of college were wearing me out.

I did forget a few things during my real presentation and had to refer to my note card near the end.  I tried to do a little bit of walking while up there and made sure to smile when I could.

After I gave my speech everyone excitedly started sharing college and career stories.  There were a lot of funny tales that had us laughing and I thought it was really neat to hear about all their different paths.  Katherine told me I am a very natural speaker and am lovely to listen to.

For my evaluation Marcy started off by saying that she thinks my strongest speaking quality that showed in the first speech as well as the second is the honesty I bring to my speeches.  She said I was honest about not knowing what I want to do and wasn’t afraid to say it.  I really connect with the audience.  The goal of the second speech was organization, and she said I did that very well with my three points.  The opening captured their attention and the closing was strong too.  The ending personally connected with her in that she’s not quite sure what she wants to do and my reassurances about that comforted her as well.

And at the end when Houston was giving the master evaluation and spoke of me, she said “We value how you speak to us as peers.   You don’t treat us like we’re older.  And as a smart young woman we appreciate that you don’t talk down to us.”  The last part made us all laugh and she said “you know what I mean!”

The second speech was a hit and I’ll have to think of what I want to do for the third one soon!

A Solitary Walk

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This week has been my spring break from school, and unfortunately it’s been raining hard all week so I’ve mostly stayed indoors.  I’ve been reading a lot though, and have a lot of books checked out on shyness as well as some other books that I’m simultaneously reading (I read too many books at once).  I did meet up with some friends for volunteer work at school on Monday though, and did some work for my internship yesterday and helped the client see where his water usage was going.

Today was finally a sunny day though, at least on and off it was, as it’s been raining today too.  After spending my morning reading a book on shyness and taking notes, I decided it was a good day for a walk.  So I got dressed and asked my mom if she wanted to go with me, but she didn’t really.  I was thinking of calling my neighbor to see if she wanted me to take the dogs today or not, since she was home today.  I was sort of hesitant about calling, but then just pressed the button and did it without feeling any nervous symptoms thankfully.  It turns out that she didn’t want me to take the dogs today since she was going to take them, but at least I asked.  I gave myself a little pat on the back afterward, haha. 🙂

I wondered if I should just stay home then and not go walking, since my mom didn’t want to go and I didn’t need to take the dogs today.  I decided to go out on my own, even though it’s been a little while since I’ve walked around on my own and I prefer to be with people or the dogs.  I feel more self-conscious when I’m on my own when it comes to exercising.

As I walked and all these cars drove past me, I did notice that I felt kind of anxious though and couldn’t focus on my thoughts as well as I would have liked.  I felt like each person passing by in their car was watching me and I was very self-conscious about my movements and expression.

I made eye contact with, smiled, and said hi to every person I passed though, and they each said hi back to me, or nodded or smiled.  I walked until I reached the park, and then ran a lap around it and walked some of it.  I went over to pet a cute dog  that was going crazy with excitement trying to go over to me, and I talked to the owner (and the dog) for a little while, said it was nice to meet him, and then moved on.  I ran up the hill on the way home, and by the time I reached my court I was really out of breath. I saw a neighbor who I’d never spoken to before at the stop sign, and he started talking to me and I talked to him for a little while.  He said he had seen a girl running in the pouring rain yesterday and asked if that was me, and I said no and that I wasn’t THAT dedicated to running.  The rain was madness yesterday, it was bad enough that I had to drive in it, but I wouldn’t go running in that weather. I felt good after my walk/run and shower, it’s amazing what exercise can do for you.

Flippin’ Through Old Yearbooks

For some reason last week I’d been feeling a little distant from some of my friends, so I decided to look at my old yearbooks to cheer me up. I had some really nice messages in there that made me feel emotional. It was kind of sad realizing that a lot of the people who wrote to me I had grown more distant from, and I decided to send messages to a few of them to reconnect.

There are a couple of observations that I made about my yearbooks. In 6th grade, my book was pretty empty and the messages I did get were something along the lines of “Have a great summer”, which in my mind is the equivalent of, “I have no idea what to write to you so I’m just going to say something really generic.” 7th grade I had maybe 3 messages that wrote something personal and nice, while the others were general and very brief. 8th grade I had more messages than before, but still not a whole lot.

My first year of high school was a bigger shift in messages. I had a couple of really nice and lengthy messages, some even had been decorated and had little pictures attached in there. A lot more people wrote to me, and I didn’t get that “have a great summer” thing much anymore because I mostly just had friends sign it. Sophomore year I got more detailed and lengthy messages, and Junior year my yearbook had even more and was packed. Looking back at those yearbooks made me realize how I must have been changing over the years. It seemed like each new year I opened up more about myself, and had closer friendships. I’ve been closer with different people different years though, and it’s interesting looking at all the changes.

It was good reading through all those messages again, and even though it seems like I have a lot fewer friends than I did last year, I realize that the ones I’m spending my time with right now are the closest friendships I’ve had. So yes maybe I have fewer friends that I’m seeing regularly, but sometimes less is more. The others are still my friends, it’s just been harder staying close to them because some of them have moved, some have a new circle of friends, or we just haven’t been hanging out as much as we used to. I did reconnect with quite a few friends this month though, and I’m glad I’ve done that.

Brainstorming for February

So it’s February now.  I’m going to continue going out of my way to talk to strangers because I’ve learned that most people are happy to talk with me.  It feels awkward making the initial conversation starter, but that’s really the hardest part and once that’s over with it’s a pretty enjoyable experience.

As I’ve said before, my focus is on friendships and relationships for this month.  (My project doesn’t really have to be divided up into months, but for now it’s helpful for keeping me on track so I can address everything I want to work on within the year. )

So first off, I brainstormed some ways shyness can affect friendships.

-sometimes you feel on the outside of a group of friends, and don’t feel as close to the others as some of your other friends are because you spend less time with them or talk to them less

-may end up turning down invitations to parties or social gatherings because you don’t think you’ll fit in with the group and have a good time, may feel pressured to participate in party games or dancing and singing

-difficulty with confrontations: suppress feelings and pretend like everything’s ok and wasn’t something worth bringing up even though it had been bothering you

-sometimes feel like you can’t think of anything to say, listen too much and don’t add something to the conversation

-avoid talking about topics that are too sensitive for you and avoid revealing much about yourself, don’t always let others really get to know you

-fear of embarrassment, criticism, looking foolish, or making a mistake can keep you from taking any risks

-can keep you from calling up a friend and arranging to hang out

-can cause you to lose touch with friends, either ones you don’t see much anymore or ones that have moved

-sometimes difficult to stand up for yourself and your values, and even to stand up for others because you don’t like conflict

Those are the things that I think of when it comes to how my shyness could be affecting my friendships.  So looking at that list, I could spend more time with friends, accept invitations to parties/social invitations, confront friends if something is bothering me, add more to group conversations, reveal more about myself to friends, take some risks and worry less about embarrassment or criticism, call up friends to arrange getting together, reconnect with friends who I’ve lost touch with or haven’t talked to as much as I used to, and stand up for myself and others and be open to facing any conflict that may come out of that.

I think all those actions will be beneficial and important to take.  In the months before I decided to pursue this project, I started getting really obsessed with reading, especially with books on careers.  As a high school senior, I’ve felt a lot of pressure on me to answer the question “What do you want to do?” and I’ve been trying to figure that out.  I was getting so into it (and so stressed out about it) that a lot of my weekends were spent in my room, reading and writing all day, going through exercises from the career books.  I felt like it was important, but at the same time I felt like I should be spending some time out with friends too.  But I didn’t feel like just calling people up and seeing if they wanted to hang out.  It was hard for me to break away from my reading and call up a friend, so often I didn’t.  I felt shy about calling even.  It was relaxing having no plans, nothing set for the next day.  But then when people asked me what I did that weekend, I didn’t have much to say.  I felt like I should have done more with my time.  It’s easy for me to spend a weekend at home reading or studying.  When I don’t have any plans, there are no pressures and no worries.  I need some time to myself to do homework and read/write, but I need to spend some time with friends too.

First Conversation with a Stranger!

Today was a pretty busy and fun day.  I went on a private tour of Pixar Studios with my parents, thanks to my dad’s friend’s neighbor, who got us in and showed us around.  It seemed like a really fun place to work, and I can see why so many people dream about working there.  It was interesting hearing about what happens each day and seeing all the storyboards and clay figures that were the starting points of some of their movies like Toy Story 3.  I got to ask him some questions and learn more about what it takes to work at Pixar and what it’s like.  I’ve always loved art classes, and it seems like it’d be fun to work there, but I’m not sure if animation or art is something I want to go into as a career.  There’s always been two sides to me: the artsy, creative side and the altruistic, want to help people side.   I’m not sure which side I’m going to go into, but lately I’ve been leaning more towards the helping people side.  I’ve been considering Occupational Therapy and a few other things.  It’s hard to make a decision at 17 what you want to do with your life though, and since I have a variety of interests it’s hard for me to just pick one thing and be certain of that decision.

After Pixar, we went to Ikea, then Rite Aid, and then Sam’s.  And guess what?  Today I had my first conversation with a stranger!  🙂  As I was checking out of Sam’s with my family, I handed the elderly guy(named Tom) our Sam’s card, and he scanned it, and started scanning our other items.  I had noticed earlier that Sam’s didn’t seem too busy today, so I finally asked, “Has today been a pretty quiet day?” Tom laughed and said it hadn’t been, and yesterday and today had actually been pretty crazy.  I told him I was surprised because the store didn’t seem too busy,  but I guess the check out lines must be busier.  And he said yeah, it’s been pretty busy.  My dad then made a comment that he remembered this guy always gave the best food samples when he used to work in that area, and the man laughed and said that his boss complained that he was giving out too much food in his samples, and that he was just supposed to give out a tiny bit and not a meal.  I asked him when they gave out samples, and he said they only do it 4 times a week now, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday.  He then went on to say that he was glad he was done with the samples though because he was actually getting paid better working at the check-out.  I told him that the customers were probably sad to see him go, since he always gave out good samples.  He laughed and then said he didn’t know about that, and handed us our items and we smiled and said have a nice day.

It was a good feeling afterward, and I felt like giving someone a high five or something, haha.  At first I was hesitant to talk to him because I wasn’t sure how good his hearing would be and if I would have to shout to talk to him, but it turns out that he had pretty good hearing and understood me just fine.  I was glad that we got him laughing and smiling, and it made me smile too.  So now at least I’ve gotten the first conversation out of the way, which is good because the first one is always the hardest I imagine.  I’m going to start keeping a tally to keep track.  🙂

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