The Shyness Project

Archive for the tag “inspirational”

Reading an E-Book Manuscript from a Reader

About a month ago, I received a lovely email from Andrew Landis in which he described an e-book he had written with his co-author Julia Swift, called Bold. In his own words, “Bold is about two 15-year olds, one shy girl who almost died in a car accident, and one boy who struggles with the loss of his journalist father, as they try to learn the difference between being bold and being stupid.” He told me he thought my project was wonderful and was wondering if I would be open to reading their book. I told him I’d be happy to read it, so he printed out the manuscript and sent it to me when I had just gotten to San Diego State for school orientation.

To my surprise, I was able to read through it fairly quickly, taking in pieces over the course of the two to three days I was there. The beginning didn’t grab me too much at first, but as I got further into the story, I felt the writing improved and I found myself wanting to know more.

The two main characters are Sasha and Will. In the beginning of the story Sasha describes herself as invisible and insignificant as a shy person, which I couldn’t personally relate to as much, but I’m sure others have felt that way. (Personally, I felt more frustration with others and myself, but I still felt that I was important.) Later on after the car accident, Sasha begins trying to live her life fully and boldly, something she didn’t feel that she did before. As for Will, he is a character who seems to have it all on the surface, but underneath he experiences his own pain. The story is about how the two influence each other as they come to terms with their own struggles.

I thought overall the story had a good inspirational message on living life fully and openly, and I encourage you to check out the piece if you would like a fairly quick, enjoyable read. There are some great quotes in the book that I found myself writing down and reflecting on, particularly near the end. For the next 5 days, Wednesday, September 4, 2013, through Sunday, September 8, 2013, the e-book will be free for download for the kindle on Amazon.com. If you don’t have a kindle, you can read it online by downloading a kindle app for your computer I believe. After then I believe it costs $2.99. From the emails I can tell that Drew and I’m sure his writing partner Julia as well are wonderful people and  they use their own experiences with shyness to share an uplifting message. They have always believed in telling stories that can change peoples’ lives somehow, “even if it’s just one person,” so I hope if this book sounds interesting to you that you’ll give it a chance!  I’m sincerely glad I did.

Here’s the link to the book, Bold. Enjoy! : http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DSRJHHY

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What do you want in a one-year project book?

Writing a book is much harder than writing a blog.

For one, blog posts are short.  They don’t have to connect together and transition smoothly from post to post.  Book chapters do.

I did not post every thought I had or action I took on this blog.  I wrote about a lot of my experiences but not all.  So now I am gathering what I can find on my computer and my journal and notebooks in search of all that I have written down this year.  I want to know exactly what I was thinking early on in 2011 so I can express my thoughts accurately in the book.

I wrote a draft of the first chapter a while ago one night in a writing frenzy, but now when I am trying to write chapter 2, I am struggling to find the right words. Who knew writer’s block could come so fast?

I think I might need more time to research and reflect before going further, or to skip a part of it for now and focus on another part.  I’m not worried, but I just thought I would share for those of you interested in writing a book someday.  Book writing is very different from blog writing, though blogging first has definitely given me an advantage.

While I gather my thoughts and do some more preparation, what are your thoughts on what you would like to be included in this book?  Would you be interested in reading my experiences straight through with the things I learned along the way and tips I found useful, or would you like there to be more “self-help” aspects involved?  Would you want to read say, my experience with talking to strangers, and then a separate chapter from an expert that shifts the focus to strategies on how you can do it too?   I’m thinking of how I can make the book flow smoothly but be the most effective at the same time. I definitely want to include interesting and helpful studies that have been done, inspiring or thought-provoking quotes, psychological theories and explanations, some others’ experiences, statistics I can find, and tips I’ve found personally helpful or others I know have found helpful.  And I’ll include all that I learned and the realizations I had in more depth. But I’d like to hear your input too and what you’ve enjoyed about other memoirs or books with a self-improvement basis.  Because I don’t want to write this just for the sake of writing a book, I want it to write it to comfort and help motivate people.

I was reading several of the reviews on The Happiness Project’s page and it made me think about what other people want in a book.  Some are very happy with reading her memoir and can take inspiration out of what she’s done, while others are upset that it was self-centered and her realizations were too obvious. (Realizations often are obvious, but experience really makes you understand the obvious and why certain things are said over and over.)

http://www.amazon.com/Happiness-Project-Morning-Aristotle-Generally/dp/006158326X/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Then there’s Jamie Blyth’s book Fear is No Longer My Reality which mixes his story with advice from experts.  I read it and enjoyed the story but found it was kind of distracting jumping from his voice to the voice of experts throughout the chapters.  If I did include expert advice I would want to find a way for it to transition more smoothly and not seem like it was interrupting the flow.  I want it to read like a good story that people can read and take away from it what they want.

http://www.amazon.com/Fear-No-Longer-My-Reality/dp/0071737898/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1325535865&sr=8-1

So please share your thoughts on all this.  Thank you and I look forward to the discussions!

Learning to Shine: From Bullied Teen to Thriving Actress

I met Sharon in late March.  We connected mainly through our interests in bullying and our personal experiences with it.  Since then we’ve continued to stay in good contact and we’ve been supportive of each others blogs by reading and leaving comments. Here is her post on shyness and bullying.

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I wasn’t born a shy little girl. In fact, I was probably the exact opposite of shy; I used to preempt football games during the holidays by putting a stool in front of the television, standing on top of it and singing my little lungs out. I had a love of music and performing in my blood, for sure. Over the years, I would gradually lose that fearlessness I had, though. Some of it came naturally, from learning that the world can be a judgmental place and not everyone is going to be nice to you. For the most part, I held on to a lot of it up until about junior high.

That was when I first moved from the big city to a smaller city. I went from having friends and living somewhere I loved to a new place where people talked differently, acted differently and I just didn’t seem to fit in. I thought being from a big city would be a shoo-in for people liking you, but it seemed it had the opposite effect. Smaller cities tend to have lots of people who have lived there for years, know practically everyone OR are related to everyone somehow and outsiders stand out a little too much. Junior high was when the teasing started.

I transferred to a Christian school that was run out of a church, so the classes were small. That’s what I had been used to all my life, though. Whoever might have thought Christian schools were immune to bullying or teasing was very wrong. It can be just as bad, but since my class was made up of only about 5 or 6 kids, it wasn’t too unbearable. 7th and 8th grade was the start of me going into my little shell. I learned if I just concentrated on my work and didn’t talk much, people would ignore me most of the time, so I became quiet and withdrawn, at least until I got home and could be myself without fear of teasing.

Then high school came and everything just fell apart. I had to go from little classrooms at a Christian school to a public high school; the thought scared me to death. My parents ended up enrolling me in a high school that was in a town close by. The one in the city I live in is pretty big because all high schoolers go to one school. The one in a neighboring town was a lot smaller, but still big with classes of 20 to 25 in just one period compared to what I was used to: a maximum of maybe 20 to 25 in the whole grade and that would be a school in Austin I went to, not the junior high I went to with about 8 in the whole grade!

My first day was nerve-wracking and scary. It didn’t help that ever since kindergarten, I had been a chubby little girl. I started wearing glasses at the age of 6 and my long naturally curly hair had been cut short just before moving, making my hair look like an afro. Apparently that’s what happens when you have really curly hair and the shorter it is, the more curlier! UGH! These three things had already been a source of some teasing in junior high so what would happen in a PUBLIC school?

What happened was that I was bullied constantly, by guys, not so much the girls. I got called horrible names in reference to my size, such as whale and hippo. Around that time, there was a Pop Culture character named “Pat” that was fat and had an afro and no one could tell if he was a he or a she. I believe it was a Saturday Night Live Character? Well…it still hurts to think about that character, because I was teased endlessly and called Pat because I had an afro and was a big girl. I didn’t look like a boy, though….I most definitely had curves, but that didn’t seem to matter. Over the course of 9th grade, I just kept crawling further and further into my shell like a turtle. I would skip lunch at school and end up starving when I got home because I didn’t want people to see me eating. When they did, I got made fun of. I was a good student who just came to school, did what I had to do and tried to make it through the day, so I could go home and cry. At home, I would listen to the same music everyone else did. I would watch the same shows and movies and dream about the same cute guy actors and I always wondered why no one would ever take the time to get to know me and see I was just like them? Inside, I thought I was a pretty cool girl, but to the bullies, they could care less what I thought. I tried to dress nicely and cute, but it didn’t seem to matter. In 10th grade, I got contacts and got teased for it because I was “trying to fit in”.

I was the queen of ignoring. I ignored even as a guy put his face in my face yelling names at me and threatening to kill me. I tried to cry in private. I even retaliated and hit the guy who was the ringleader once, to no avail. I tried to report him and got a look of sheer disbelief from the counselor. Why should I have even been surprised? The bullying ALL went on within a few feet of all the teachers and nothing was ever said to anyone about it. My bully was the son of parents on the school board. I was an outsider allowed to go to school there where the kids that went there were mainly kids that had been there since elementary. It wasn’t going to stop and this resorted in missed days of school and my mom eventually pulling me out.

I’m glad to say, I eventually went to an alternative school and finished high school a few months ahead of schedule. I went to classes there with my only concern to do my work and go home. I never tried to talk to any other students and if they said something to me, I said the bare minimum back. I didn’t want to draw any unwanted attention to myself.

When I started college in 2001, I kept the same attitude and it was extremely difficult for me to introduce myself or to do presentations. I got through them the best I could…usually with teachers asking me to speak up. I didn’t know any other way to be. I had literally forgotten how to be the fearless child I once was, because I was so afraid that to be THAT again meant I would only get hurt.   It wasn’t until years of college, when I lost a little weight, tried out for a singing/dancing group and signed up for Acting class, that I found her again.

Performing was something I had always wanted to do in some way, shape, or form, but I never had the guts. After losing a little weight, I decided to just go for it. I tried out for this group where I would sing solos and dance with the group and I remember being so shy and nervous, but being determined to try. When I made the group, I was so excited and it took some time for me to loosen  up and become comfortable, but I got there. I think I got there through my Acting class. This class really pushed me to do things that would make almost anyone nervous. Making silly faces and noises and doing impromptu things can be very scary, but since I was new to it, everyone was so nice and I sensed that the people in this crowd were a lot like me. They seemed to be all people who had once felt like outsiders. People that had felt different and maybe weren’t always accepted for who they were. And they accepted me. They liked how I acted, they liked how I sang. They thought I had talent and they liked ME for me. I could be myself finally without fear of being bullied.

It’s been a few years since then and while I still have moments where that shyness tries to reappear, I’m happy I was able to find myself again and I refuse to let cruel people force me back into the shell again. I’m a worthy person just like everyone else and I have a voice that deserves to be heard!

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To read more of Sharon’s posts, click here to visit her blog.  She is very approachable and easy to talk to, and you will enjoy reading her writing.  There are some great poems and short stories on her site that she’s written too.  She’s currently trying to break into a career as a free-lance writer.

Successfully Shy: Sharing Her Story and Helping Others

I met Barb in late July after she found my site through some of the comments I’d made on Susan Cain’s Power of Introverts blog.  After she requested I send her an email, I sent her one without knowing what to expect.  Turns out that email started our lengthy constant email discussions from there on out.  We became very close through all we were disclosing and sharing in our emails and reading each others blogs.  We’ve talked on the phone as well and have sent some hand-written notes to each other. She has also posted about me from time to time on her WordPress blog and even interviewed me for her Psychology Today blog.  I am very grateful for her enthusiasm and support for my project as well as her endearing friendship.  Here’s her story:

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I still remember one horrible day in high school when a math teacher called attention to my quietness. He told the whole class that I was the quietest student he’d ever had in his 22 years of teaching. Of course, everyone turned around to look at me, as if I was some kind of freak. I felt humiliated and ashamed. I truly believed there was something wrong with me. It didn’t even cross my mind that there was something wrong with a teacher who would make such a statement.

Unfortunately, I received more feedback like that from teachers, and it almost cost me my career.

I made it though my undergraduate years, not having to talk in classes. I was smart, and easily made good grades. But when I got to graduate school, everything changed. I was in a doctoral level clinical psychology program. Most of the classes were small discussion groups. During the second semester of my first year, the clinical director called me into her office and told me that if I didn’t participate more (i.e. stop being so quiet), my standing in the program was in jeopardy.

Of course, I freaked out. What was I going to do? I daily experienced intense anxiety in these classes—my stomach hurt, my face felt hot, my heart raced. I would try to think of something to say, but usually by the time I got up my nerve to make my point, someone else would have jumped in ahead of me. I wasn’t good at interrupting, that’s for sure. And no one really paused long enough for me to get a word in.

So what did I do? I did what any good psychology graduate student would do: I went into therapy. Fortunately, I found a wonderful female therapist who was supportive and encouraging. We worked together individually, but she also mentioned that she had an ongoing women’s therapy group that I could join. I was apprehensive, but also intrigued. I joined the group and attended weekly. Each Wednesday evening I listened intently to the other women in the group share what they were working on, and each week I didn’t say a word. I truly don’t remember for how long this went on. My memory says it was months, but maybe it was only weeks.  One night, though, it was like some sort of intervention you’d see on a reality TV show (but in a really nice way). None of the women would let me leave until I said something—anything. I don’t remember the details, except that I spoke. After that, the ice was broken, and I didn’t shut up.

The trick, though, was how to generalize my talking in the women’s group to talking in my classes in school. It actually didn’t happen until the next year when I started over with new classes, new teachers, and a different combination of students. It was easier then to be the “new me.” I remember having one professor who thought my insights about clients/cases we discussed were brilliant. It was thrilling to begin sharing my thoughts and ideas and have them validated as being important contributions.

Fast forward. I have successfully finished graduate school, completed a postdoctoral fellowship at St. Louis University Medical Center’s Anxiety Disorders Center, and have co-authored Dying of Embarrassment, the first self-help book ever written on social phobia (now called social anxiety disorder).  When I proposed the book idea to my colleagues and the publisher, I never even contemplated telling anyone about my own lifelong struggles with shyness and social anxiety. After all, I was now an “expert.” How could I have difficulty with public speaking, participating in meetings, or going to social events? I thought it was okay to help other people face their fears, but it wasn’t okay to admit I’d struggled with these same situations myself.

After the book’s publication, I promoted Dying of Embarrassment and received much satisfaction from knowing I was helping people learn more about this neglected and misunderstood problem. I continued to feel, however, as if I was doing others with social anxiety a disservice by not sharing my own experiences.

It wasn’t until years later, when I wrote Painfully Shy: How to Overcome Social Anxiety and Reclaim Your Life, did I muster the courage to share my own story. I wanted to be honest, and I wanted to let people know they are not alone. Most of all, I wanted people to know there is hope. In addition to writing Painfully Shy, I participated in a documentary called Afraid of People, in which I talked openly (not to mention I cried on camera—ugh) about my experiences with not only anxiety, but also depression.

Aside from one negative book review in which the writer said my personal stories were “distracting,” the majority of feedback I’ve received is positive. I’m not sorry I crossed the line from being simply the “expert” to being a human being with real-life problems. I now realize, I can be an expert AND someone who still struggles from time to time.

I feel like I’ve rambled a bit—thank you for indulging me!  In closing, I want to leave you with a few take-away points:

  • While there may be some careers that will suit your personality better than others, you do not have to let shyness hold you back from doing whatever you want to do.
  • Remember, the world needs your ideas! As much as I dreaded and hated participating in classes, once I did, I realized I had valuable contributions to make. If only the naturally outgoing people speak up, we’re going to miss out on some important perspectives.
  • Find support wherever you can. For me, it was that women’s therapy group. (With managed health care, such long-term therapy groups are a rarity these days.) But you might be able to find a support group. And now there are plenty of online options for reaching out, such as blogs like Brittany’s!
  • The path is not a straight one. I still have days where I want to crawl in a hole and not talk to anyone! That doesn’t diminish how far I’ve come.
  • And finally, it is only by sharing our vulnerabilities that we can truly connect with others in a profound and meaningful way.

“Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”
- Brené Brown

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To read more of Barb’s posts, you can visit her wordpress blog or her Psychology Today blog. She is the author of four books on shyness and social anxiety and is a nationally recognized expert.  Not to mention, she’s extremely kind and thoughtful and she’s someone who you will be very lucky to get a chance to know.  She has a lot of great posts on shyness and social anxiety that you will enjoy reading if you can relate in any way or have an interest in that subject.

Keep Moving in the Right Direction; You Will Make Progress

I met Vee early on in my project in March.  After chatting with her in the comments section of my blog and reading her posts, we formed a fast friendship.  Her blog was very interesting to me because she was going through her own journey of confronting fears and I felt comforted knowing there was another person out there like me challenging themselves to do things that scared them.  We’ve been close since then and I’ve continued to follow her journey with interest.  So far I have yet to touch on social anxiety with these guest posts, but now I present you Vee’s incredible story on overcoming severe social anxiety.

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My name is Vee and during the last couple of months, I have been on a year-long journey to overcome social anxiety. Here is my story.

How it started

I have been struggling with this issue for many, many years and although it was unpleasant as I was a teenager desperately trying – like all teenagers – to fit in, social anxiety definitely became a serious issue as I reached adulthood. With all the responsibility associated with this period of life, social anxiety became overwhelming and I started to avoid more and more things. This is when the problems started: I would not go to the doctor although I ought to. I would not make phone calls to let my financial institutions know that there were incongruities with my account. I did not ask for directions when I was lost. I could not find a job because I could not go to job interviews. I isolated myself more and more. I quit school for a while… On a daily basis, I could not make phone calls in public, I would not answer the phone in public although I knew sometimes that the person calling had something urgent to tell me, I did not eat in public, I even did not talk to someone in public. My life started drifting into chaos. I was sick, my money was disappearing, I could not find a job, I was starving myself for hours every day to avoid eating in front of other people, I was out of school with no diploma… I thought that there was nothing that could help me and that there was no way out. At the time, I did not know what social anxiety was. I thought I was shy and abnormal and that there was something terribly wrong with me.

Yet, I could not talk about it because there were no words to define it. It wasn’t just shyness. I did not think in terms of introversion/extroversion either at the time. And there were those physical symptoms… Ultimately, because I could not name it, it was as if it did not exist and that I was just going crazy. Not to mention, I struggled with racism (especially in high school), homophobia (especially within my own family), depression and low self esteem.

Transition

At the end of 2010, I started to search online for people who would have the same problems as I did. I discovered I was not alone and that there were other people like me struggling with anxiety. Even more importantly, I discovered what was “wrong” with me. It was called Social Anxiety. Finally, I could name it! I finally knew what it was. And yes, it could be cured! From that point on, I decided I would not live the life of a socially anxious girl anymore. I was almost 20 years-old at the time and I wanted to change. As a teenager, you want to fit in; but at 20, you want to change the world, right? There was so many things that I wanted to do, so many places I wanted to go, so many people I wanted to meet. Yet, I could not because social anxiety was holding me back. It was time for it to stop ruining my life.
I did not know why or how. Why am I socially anxious? How have I become like that? Did I become like that or was I born this way? Is it my fault or other people’s fault? Is there a specific event that happened and made me socially anxious? … Who knows? But I have come to realized that you don’t really need to know why or how to go forward.

The beginning of my journey

The war had started. Me VS Social Anxiety. I was determined to win this fight. I found the courage to seek help. I started Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It was very beneficial and it gave me the tools to overcome anxiety on my own. So a few weeks after CBT and a little pup added to the picture, I started 2011 with the goal of actively take the anxiety out of my life. It has been a bumpy ride. I pushed myself to go out of my comfort zone. I reached a lot of the goals that I had for myself to 2011. I wanted a new friend; I had many more. I wanted to get involved; I did and volunteered at Pride Parade and at a Film Festival in my home town. I wanted a more healthy life; I ate well and ran and did physical exercises to keep depression away from me.

A few tips

I have learned a lot on this journey. I would like to share a few things that I have learned with those struggling with social anxiety (and/or shyness):
– Learn what anxiety is. I self-diagnosed but I would not recommend doing so. I was right this time (it was anxiety and I indeed was diagnosed with it), but I might have been wrong. Reading, reading, reading. Realizing that social anxiety is an IRRATIONAL fear helped me see that I was stronger that it was.
– Change your train of thought. There is no point in forcing yourself to go out and to put yourself in difficult situations if you still think like an anxious person. Those anxious thoughts that you have been internalizing for months/years need to change. Perhaps you know what those thoughts are: “People are looking at me weird” / “People are judging me” / “People know I am anxious and they don’t like it” / “People don’t like me” / “I look like a fool” / etc. If I could give a quick tip, it would be to be careful with those sentences that start with “people”. Nobody really knows what other people think, so let’s stop trying to guess what is going on in their heads.
– Shyness, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, anxiety, stress, introversion and extroversion are NOT the same. Learn to make the difference, it will help you understand better where you stand and give you the direction you need to take on your journey. Remember that you can be introverted and happy and live a well-balanced and healthy life.

Am I anxiety free? I would not say so, yet. In fact, sometimes I feel like I am going back and avoiding situations like I used to. But it happens a lot less often then it used to. I have a lot more control over my life now. To be fully honest, I am not as far on this journey as I hoped or as I thought I would be by now. But that’s ok. You can’t overcome social anxiety overnight. It might take a few more years to totally get anxiety out of my life. But I’ll keep making those baby steps and I know I’m heading towards the right direction. I thought 2012 would mark the end of my journey. But it is only getting started.

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To visit her blog and read what you’ve been missing out on, click here. She’s an incredible woman and I’m amazed by her bravery.  I’ve loved getting to know her and reading her posts (so much so that I want to go to Canada to meet her!) and I’m sure you will enjoy getting to know her too.

The Secret Note

A lot has happened since the first week of school, and it would take several posts to go over it all, so I’ll give an overview.

Basically, college has been great.  Even though it’s community college, I’ve managed to make several friends and I’m meeting some interesting people (interesting in a good way!).  I’ve hung out with a few of them outside of class after initiating we do so through a text or at school and what not, and that’s brought me closer to them.  Yuli, K, and Johanna I’ve all gotten to hang out with outside of school and I like them a lot.  I’m making several friendships in each of my classes and have made an effort to talk to as many people around me as I can.  Some of those people I may not become close friends with, but it’s good to have a friendly classroom relationship with them I think.  Facebook has been of course helpful for getting to know some of them better.

I’ve found that the few times I’ve been on my own for lunch, I can’t help but want to talk to the people around me.  It’s like I’m in “friend mode” all the time now and I can’t turn it off.  Even when it’s a quiet area like a study hall, I secretly hope someone will not be too invested in their homework and will try to talk to me.  It’s kind of funny.

The first time I sat on my own at a table I witnessed a guy come out of the cafeteria with a lunch he just bought and ask to sit down at a table where a girl was sitting doing her homework.  She smiled and said of course.  He sat there quietly, munching on his lunch.  She kept studying. At the end, when he finished his lunch and packed up to leave, he slipped a piece of paper over to her, and walked away.  I couldn’t help but watch her open it. I saw her expression change from a neutral look to a big smile and she laughed out loud and shook her head and just kept smiling, and reached for her phone to text her friend.

What did the note say?  Did he compliment her?  Did he leave his number?  Did he thank her for allowing him to sit with her or wish her luck with her test?  I wondered what the note said and smiled, feeling very fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time to see that.  The note seemed to totally make her day and it was so cute to witness.  I got the feeling that it was just a friendly message meant to brighten her day, and I just thought that was really cool.  I wouldn’t have minded if he had sat next to me!

Then a girl comes and asks if she can sit next to me, and excited I say “Please do!” She sits next to me, and I keep fumbling through my notes for a little while, and she looks at her phone.  Inspired by the incident I just witnessed, I start talking to her, asking her about the pizza that she got to start.  She was friendly and it was easy to keep talking to her, and we talked about college related things a while.  Afterward she said it was really nice talking to me, and I resisted the urge to ask to swap facebooks, and simply said it was nice talking to her too.

That is just one story of many, but I do need to get on to a new goal soon so I won’t be able to post a lot of the other ones.  I am planning to write a *book* though and will be able to include a lot more in there!   The new year is approaching quickly, and 2011 is coming to a close.  It went by so fast!

Grammarian / Wizard of Ahs

Last night at Toastmasters I came in without a role for the first time.  I had missed the previous two sessions of Toastmasters since I was away on vacation in Santa Barbara.  I was a little more hesitant about attending than usual because I thought if I didn’t have a role I would for sure be picked for impromptu speaking with Table Topics.  Nervous thoughts floated in my head about not going, and my dad was busy working on a presentation for work so we could have stayed home.  I read some of my blog comments though and decided that avoiding it was not an option for me.  My promise to myself was to feel the fear and do it anyway, and I didn’t want to let myself down.

We arrived at the meeting and they needed someone to be a Grammarian to listen out for ahs, ums, and sos, so I offered to do that when no one else volunteered.  I’d never done that role before but I knew that I would have to keep alert for it to catch anything like that. Usually it is rare and difficult to hear more than a couple of ums.

Being the grammarian helped me focus on my listening skills, and I did catch an um, uh, and so.  I really did have to listen carefully because they were very faint and wouldn’t be noticed unless you were looking out for them.

I did not get picked for Table Topics, to my surprise.  This was kind of good because I was sitting near the back for once (I always sit near the front) and this made it harder for me to want to go up to the podium.  The further back I am, the bigger the room seems, and the more I want to stay to myself.  Not having gone to a meeting in two weeks also made me realize how helpful it is to go each week. It keeps you in the right mind set and fills you with momentum.  My mind was going blank on the table topics as I listened to the introductions, and I don’t know what I would have said if I had been chosen.  I’ve only done table topics twice so I suppose the more I do it the more I’ll get comfortable with it.  The impromptu speaking segment still makes my heart race.

Near the end of the meeting Chole brought up the idea of starting a mentorship program within the club.  She went around the room and asked each of us to say what we thought our strength was in Toastmasters that we might be able to help someone else with.  Initially I didn’t quite think I couldn’t think of any strengths in Toastmasters that I could help anyone with, but as I had more time to think about it I thought of something I could say.  Many of the others also felt like they didn’t really have a certain strength until someone brought up some ideas of what they thought their strengths were.  Some of them said they are really good at being the Toastmaster, others the Table Topics Master, or are good at adding humor to their speeches, etc.  I said that I’m fairly new, but I think writing is one of my strengths.  I’m able to brainstorm ideas fairly quickly for speeches and then once I start writing them out the speech just flows.  Windy joked that she wants me to write her speeches then, which made us all laugh.  Chole said being able to brainstorm ideas like that is quite valuable and is something that could definitely help someone.

At the end they assigned roles for next week.  I thought of volunteering for Speaker #2, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to have the time to practice my speech enough before Wednesday.  I finished writing it yesterday.  I told Larry I’d email him if I thought I could do it though.  I think I can, I just don’t want to put added pressure on myself if I feel like I’m not ready.  I’m starting my first semester of college next week and that is already a lot of stress for me.  I still am not all that familiar with how to get to each of the two colleges I’m taking classes at, and have hardly driven on the highway before (and never by myself).  I’m hoping to practice this weekend though so I’ll be feeling a little more prepared by Monday.  (*Update: I emailed Larry a few hours ago and told him I would give the speech on Wednesday!  I practiced a lot today and I am feeling more prepared.)

*Psst: Here’s a link to the Toastmasters website: http://www.toastmasters.org/

It has some good info on there about public speaking and about Toastmasters.  There is also a Q&A that I just read about a guy who said he is shy and introverted and how Toastmasters has helped him.

http://www.toastmasters.org/MainMenuCategories/FreeResources/10QuestionsFor/ArunSridhar.aspx

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