The Shyness Project

Archive for the tag “opening up”

Responses to The Ice Breaker Speech and Shyness Project

I am touched by the responses I’ve gotten from those who have watched my Icebreaker Speech video.  Susan Cain, the brilliant upcoming author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts book and blog (http://www.thepowerofintroverts.com/), wrote an especially heartfelt email to me.  She said my speech “brought tears to her eyes — not only the cruelty of your so-called friends, but also your courage in telling it.”  She said she can’t even imagine what incredible things I’ll be doing by the time I’m her age.  I’m honored, not only because she took the time to read my post and watch my video, but because my speech had such an impact on her.  I will always treasure her email.

I recently told one of my friends, Tristan, (who I met through swing dance) about my project and speech, and he surprised me by saying that he considers himself to be shy and introverted.  He brought up many insightful qualities about being shy and introverted as well.  I had no idea that he thought either of those things about himself, but it was cool to hear.  He is a guy I admire very much and have always looked up to.  He is adventurous, environmentally conscious, and wise beyond his years.  He has travelled to many countries and is currently teaching English abroad in Japan for his second year.

Yesterday I finally told my oldest brother Andrew about my project. He wrote back saying “Oh my god Brittany, I am so proud of you!  You always amaze me with your brilliance and introspection!” which was really touching because I’d been nervous to tell him.  We talked on the phone for a long time.  He said he never thought I was shy, and brought up how I’d always befriended his friends right away and got along so well with them.  His friends would often tell him that they wished that I was their sister, and Andrew would tell them he was very proud to be my brother.

He then told me as he was watching my speech, he nearly cried.  He said he learned something new about me.  I asked him what that was, and he said he had no idea about the bullying.  I hadn’t realized that I’d never told him.  The truth is, I’ve rarely ever talked about it and at the time it was happening, I kept it secret.  I didn’t want my family to think that I was a loser like those girls did.  I didn’t even write about it in my journal because I didn’t want to admit that it was happening. It wasn’t until the cyber-bullying near the end of the year that I finally broke down and told my mom.

Today I talked on the phone with my friend Brian, and let him in on the project too. He was very enthusiastic and interested in reading it and watching my speeches.  He was very proud and touched by what I was trying to do not only help myself, but to help other people.  He thinks I’m proactive and am helping spread a message that shyness isn’t a weakness and something others should look down upon.  I told him how I used to believe that I had live my life with limitations, and now that I’ve learned that I don’t have to, my whole perspective has changed.

Now that I’ve been speaking more about my project instead of keeping it to myself, I’ve learned that people are very supportive and proud of me for what I’m doing.  The ones I’ve talked with don’t view me as shy at all.  They are glad that I’m becoming aware of what I’m capable of and that I am not letting labels or false beliefs hold me back.

To anyone who I’ve mustered up the courage to tell my project to, thank you.  Thank you for being so supportive, understanding, and loving.  Thank you especially Annie for making me feel so comfortable when I shared my project for the first time, and for making me feel so good about myself.  Thank you Andrew for spending several hours with me editing a guest post I’m writing to help make it the most accessible it can be.  And thank you to all the loyal blogging friends I’ve made since the start of this journey: Doug, Vee, Sharon, “Madonna”, Cheryl, Jenny, “Hook”, “GMom”, Tom, Patti, Maria, Patricia, Tyler, Eric, and Faith.  Doug, as you know you were my first blogging friend.  If you hadn’t been there to help me figure out blogging and hadn’t offered to let me write a guest post, it would have taken me longer to get started.

I am very fortunate to have so many wonderful people in my life.  Who knew starting this project and blog could bring so much greatness and self-realization.

Kicking off the Summer with Camping on the Beach

Last Wednesday I went camping at a beach for a few days with three friends. I’m closest with Annie, and have recently gotten closer with Emily and am getting to know Alice better. Originally I didn’t know if I was going to go on this trip or not, as I wasn’t sure who was going and how I would fit in with the group.  Would I be the fifth wheel?  Would I have a good time? Should I go or should I just stay in my comfort zone and turn down the opportunity?

I decided to go. It was a last minute decision made the weekend before and I was nervous but excited to be able to share this experience with them and to be included in the group. They’re all really close friends who have been in the same group since freshman year and beyond, while I’ve only gotten to know Emily this year and Alice not much at all, though I’ve known Annie since freshman year.

And I’m glad I went. I think this trip brought us all a lot closer and we learned that we’re very compatible living together.  If we can spend a few days together without our normal routine of having cozy beds, showers, and general comfort and not get annoyed with each other I’d say that’s a pretty good sign of lasting friendships. None of us got cranky; everyone was happy and the mornings were always pleasant as we exchanged smiles and good mornings. We laughed a lot and showed our silly sides. We opened up about some things.  We had a great experience together.

We roasted s’mores every night and various other foods that we wanted to observe the reaction of.  We took long walks on the beach at night when no one was out and it was completely secluded. During the days we would enjoy the beautiful warm sunny days on the beach and hike around the breath-taking area.

We frequently played a story game that is one of Emily’s favorite games.  The game involved giving a person three words that they have to use to make up a story.  There were stories about cats and castles, a flag man and a boat man, outcasted clams, three blind mice, pirate’s booty, a house of chocolate, a pumpkin man and egrets, and some other funny or happy or sad stories.  To be honest, the game made me a little nervous and uncomfortable at first because I didn’t know if I would be able to come up with anything like my friends were coming up with.  I didn’t know if I could make up a good or funny story on the spot like that.  But I gave it a shot and I surprised myself in that I was able to come up with some good stories.  The stories became the subject of many of our jokes and later on our drawings in the sand, and I was glad we had done that in the end.

One uncomfortable moment for me was when Alice randomly asked if I was ever loud.  I asked her to repeat that because I wasn’t sure if she’d said what I thought she said, but she asked again and I heard right.  She asked if I ever “yell and stuff”.  I didn’t know what to say and I was disappointed that she asked me that, but it wasn’t the first time she had said something like that to me before so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.  Emily said that she was sure I could if I wanted, and Annie said that’s rude.   One benefit of telling someone your biggest insecurity is that they know when something’s hurt you and that you’re sensitive about it.  (I told Annie about this blog too, and she told me that she’s read every post.)  I appreciated her sticking up for me.  Alice asked me if that was rude and I couldn’t say much without getting emotional so I just sort of tilted my head as if to say “Well yeah…”.  She said I guess you could ask me if I’m ever quiet, and then she and Emily laughed and said only when she’s studying or asleep.  The question affected me more than it should have by now, but I tried to dismiss it and move on.  I learned more about Alice on this trip and we became better friends all in all, and I didn’t want to let a little comment diminish any of that.

On our full day of the trip we headed out for the nearest town that was 2 miles away.  It felt like a much longer walk than 2 miles though and I think it must have been longer.  We had to walk along the side of the highway so it wasn’t the easiest walk since we had to walk in single file sometimes and be careful.  We could have driven but we figured it would be more fun to walk.  One car honked at us, and another car drove past and a guy flirtatiously hollered “What’s up ladies!”, which made Emily and I laugh.  When we got to town, we noticed that it was a really small town, and that everybody knew everybody here.  We were obviously not from around here, but everyone was very friendly to us.  We met two friendly drunk guys in one of the food places who started talking to us after Emily read off her Snapple cap to Alice that said that the tongue was the strongest muscle in the body.  Alice talked to them a lot and faked a British accent for the heck of it, and it was amusing seeing the guys try to do one back.  She seemed very comfortable talking with them and I was impressed.

After we got back to camp, we decided to go walk along the beach.  Alice was tired so she went to sleep in the tent while Annie, Emily, and I headed over to the beach.  We probably walked at least 5 miles earlier so we were all feeling some soreness in our legs and ankles.  This day on the beach though, was probably my favorite part of the trip personally.  It was without a doubt a perfect day, and the scenery was amazing.  It was so warm and the sand was so soft and inviting.

Earlier in the day I had decided that I was really going to try and live in the moment today and just have fun and be silly.  In this moment, I truly felt happy and content with my life.  I was so happy to be with Annie and Emily on this perfect day in this beautiful weather on this gorgeous beach.  I just wanted to hug them tightly and tell them how much I love them and what they mean to me, but instead of being cheesy I decided to jump on them and wrap my arms around them.  They picked up my legs and carried me to the water and we were laughing and it was fun.

We took some funny pictures and did some funny poses.  I wrote “booty” in the sand with my toe because I felt like it and that word came to be known as something that reminds the others of me because I used it for fun a lot.  I saw a seagull all by himself and I randomly told Annie and Emily that he was Spencer the single seagull.  I told them how the other seagulls had outcasted him and how he couldn’t get a date.  When we walked by a group of seagulls and Emily said they were cute, I jokingly  scolded her and told her not to be nice to them.   We were supposed to give them attitude because they had outcasted Spencer!  She laughed and said “you’re a nut Brittany, a loveable nut” which made me laugh.  I’m happy to be called a nut because that means that my silly side showed and I’m glad it showed.  Some people get the impression that I am serious and I am not really serious or proper or anything like that, I’m actually really silly when I’m with the right people.  They said I could be a Seagull Whisperer and interpret for seagulls or something.

On the last night it was unbearably freezing and the wind was out of control.  We shivered and retreated to the car as we contemplated spending the out of nowhere bitterly cold night in the tents.  But we slept in the tents and it wasn’t so bad after a while.  The next morning we woke up and packed everything together.  We made one last visit to the beach where I did a humorous sand drawing for Annie and she did one back, and then Emily and Alice did one and it was a lot of fun.

The car ride back was fun too.  Annie and I danced around in our seats and did some arm aerobic type stuff and some silly moves like flipping the pizza and mowing the lawn.  We danced to a country song by doing a lasso type arm movement, and tapped our knees with our hands and hit each others knees which then turned into a friendly fight and we whapped each other playfully with our palms.  We crashed into each other on sharp turns a couple of times too, and I got trapped by her arms a couple of times, and it was fun and we laughed a lot.  We stopped at Inn N Out, and it was good even though I wasn’t really hungry and couldn’t eat much.  We got home at around 11am or noon I think, and it was a beautiful day.  We all hugged and said our goodbyes, and later on when I saw all the pictures, I couldn’t stop smiling.  They were some of the best pictures we’d had together, and it was an experience that I’ll never forget and will always cherish.  This summer has proved to be a blast so far, and I’m excited for more adventures to come!  I hope all of you are enjoying your summer too!

Opening up about Myself

Over the weekend I wrote a very open, honest, and confiding email in response to a close friend.  It took a while to write, and I was nervous about sending it and I had to reread it a lot.  I was nervous about what I was saying and how it would be received, and even nervous to check my email for the response. I wrote about how I missed her and wanted to talk to her more but that I don’t talk openly in most groups and that when it comes to honest and personal conversations I’m a one-on-one kind of talker.  She opened up about something and I told her what I admire about her- her confidence, enthusiasm, humor, and how she is so fun and can draw people into her and be so open with so many people.  It turned out to be a really long email even though I could have easily made that email less personal and shorter.  But I wanted to open up to her so she could see more of the real me, not just the surface me.

After a very good response (phew!) I wrote back again, and told her about some other things that she probably didn’t know about that seemed ok on the surface.  I told her about my conversation about how my biggest insecurity is my shyness and how tired I am of being called shy or quiet after having been told that my entire life.  And again, I got a really good response and I was really relieved and happy.  She even told me that she doesn’t think that I’m shy or quiet AT ALL!  I couldn’t believe it!  I think that’s the first time someone’s ever told me that they don’t think I’m shy or quiet, and she’s a very extroverted person too!  I’ve heard so many shy or quiet remarks about me over the years that I thought it was painfully obvious that I’m shy, and that no one could ever not think that about me or I’d ever be able to escape that label.  But hearing that she thought that was an incredible feeling.  I felt like a heavy armored suit had been lifted off me, and I felt a new sense of confidence.  It’s not that being shy or quiet is a bad thing, it’s just when you’ve been told that you’re something all this time it really starts to creep into your identity.  Maybe it isn’t as obvious as I thought, and isn’t as much of my identity as I think it is.  When I saw her in person we were both really happy to see each other and hugged each other tightly.

I never knew opening up could feel so good.  I’m putting myself out there and making myself vulnerable, and it’s actually turned out to be a really good thing and I feel so much closer to her now.  We were hanging out less and less as the year was ending and I was kind of worried we might lose touch.  But now I think being so honest with each other has brought us even closer than before, and I am so happy about that.

Some more honesty for you

Two nights ago (Monday) my dad left clothes laid out all over my bed that were to be put away.

It was late at night and I was really tired and just wanted to flop in bed, but these clothes were in the way.  I tossed them to the pile of other clothes at the side of my bed.  Then I looked at the nice laid out clothes all carelessly tossed to the side and sure to get creases, and I just started getting emotional.  I started tearing up and was upset with my dad for piling all these clothes on my bed when I just wanted to go to bed, and picked up the clothes and carefully laid them down on top of some other stuff on my floor instead so they were flat and wouldn’t get wrinkled.  That made me feel better, but I was still emotional and started crying.  It wasn’t really about the clothes though, just at that moment all my frustrations came to the surface and I just had to let it out.  So I cried for a little bit in bed thinking about it all, then after a little while stopped crying and was fine.  Sometimes a good cry is all I need to feel better and get back into the swing of things.  I can’t always keep positive and be in the best of moods, I have my ups and downs like every person does.  Sometimes there’s not even a real concrete reason for feeling upset, it’s just a weird feeling or mood.

I’ve been feeling that mood lately.  I’ve been trying to act more energetic and enthusiastic but I just have been in this weird, more reserved mood.  I guess I just have to prepare myself a little better to get into that energetic mood, like listen to upbeat music in the morning or something.  I’ve just been tired and not feeling the best and it’s hard to pretend otherwise.

I had a good conversation with a friend I haven’t gotten to talk with much one-on-one several days ago about our futures after high school, and that was cool.  We just sat on the sidewalk curb in the shade and talked after three hours of picking up trash in the blazing hot sun.  I learned some more about her that I didn’t know before and I was glad that she opened up to me and I opened up to her too.  It was nice, and I’m glad we got to talk like that.

I’ve been saying more funny things at school too whenever I can think of something like that to add.  Today for instance one friend was saying how she loves science but hates dissecting things, and with a wry smile I told her to just pretend it was cheese and think like she was cutting cheese.  Mind you it would be squishy, smelly, disgusting cheese I said, but think of it that way.  This made her laugh quite a bit and she said that was great.  I’ve just been saying more things like that without allowing myself to think about it too much and be too much of a perfectionist with what I say even if it doesn’t make the most sense.

And lastly, tonight was the last night of my psychology class before the final next week.  I missed out on Senior Awards night (I heard I got an award from the California Scholarship Federation club though!), but I’m glad I decided to go to class instead.  The lesson was on phobias and disorders and it was all very interesting to me, and hearing about some of the cases my teacher has come across working as a psychologist was really cool to me.  She explained the story of one person who got over their fear of dogs and how they worked her up to confronting her fear very slowly and carefully, and eventually at the end she even adopted a dog!  It was awesome to hear about and it must be great helping people work on phobias like that.  There was another lady who wouldn’t go anywhere without her husband, especially shopping, because she feared she was going to have a panic attack and collapse and all these people would be crowded around her.  So my teacher drove with her to the store and told her to just go in the store and stay there for 15 to 20 minutes.  She didn’t have to interact with anyone or buy anything, just stay there.  She was taking a long time and my teacher started getting worried, but then the lady came out triumphantly with 2 bananas in her hand.  My teacher got worried and thought she must have stolen the bananas because she had a huge fear of standing in line and there was no way she had waited in line for those bananas.  But it turns out that she felt good enough that she waited in the short line and bought two bananas, so they had celebratory bananas.  That was a good story too.

At the end of class Patricia started talking to the teacher about the DSM-IV book she was passing around.  I joined in on the conversation too, and also asked the teacher if she always knew she wanted to be a psychologist.  (I had never really talked to her after class before so I’m really glad I stayed and talked to her.)  She said she originally thought she was going to go into law, but then she took some psychology classes and really loved them and wanted to learn more.  I told her that I’m a high school senior and was thinking about psychology as a possible major, and was really interested in the subject too.  We asked if she had any other psych classes she teaches because we both really like her, and she mentioned a few other classes.  We then said goodnight to her as we were the only ones left in the classroom and had been talking for quite a bit, and walked downstairs together.  Patricia and I talked some more while we waited for our rides and she said she has a bit of a driving phobia too, and I told her I don’t like driving much either.  When my dad came I got up and opened my arms for a hug, and we hugged for the first time.  Before it had always been friendly goodbye waves and big smiles, but I probably won’t get to say goodbye to her after the final so I wanted to hug her before we parted.  Hopefully we’ll still keep in touch, she works at a hospital that I might want to volunteer at sometime, so she should be there for a few more years before she retires.  We exchanged emails and numbers earlier too, and I’ve been trying to help her add me on Facebook but she hasn’t figured it out yet.  I can’t add her because her privacy settings are really strict, but hopefully she will figure it out soon so we can talk using the “box” as she says, or chat, haha.

Driving home with my dad I felt happy though, the hug and conversation with my teacher made me feel good.  I looked up at the purple-blue sky and felt more optimistic and hopeful than I have felt the past few days.  I think I’m starting to get out of this funk I’ve been in.

Vulnerability and Energy

Lately I’ve been good about speaking up when I want to compliment someone.  Just a few hours ago I complimented a girl I sit next to but don’t talk to much who was wearing a pretty dress.   I answered a couple of the teacher’s questions in Lit class yesterday too when only about me and one other guy were answering his questions.  Everyone else was silent, and I think a lot of people hadn’t read, but luckily I’d finished the book a few weeks ago and knew enough to be able to respond to his questions.

This month I am going to let myself be more vulnerable with friends and share my stories, experiences, thoughts, and open up and confide more.  I’ll probably have to hang out with people one-on-one to be able to do that, as it’s much harder for me to do that in a group and I tend to have my deeper conversations when it’s just me and one other person.  In doing so I also hope to learn more about my friends and have a deeper connection with them.  Another goal will be to act more energetic, enthusiastic, friendly, and silly to keep things light and not too heavy with all the deep opening up I’ll be doing.  My psych textbook was saying that if you want to change your attitude you can change your behavior, since when you change one thing the other will feel a need to align itself with that change as well.  So I will try that out.

Those are two behavioral things I can work on.  Two cognitive things I can work on are to quit expecting negative results & the worst to occur, and also to imagine positive responses and closer friendships.  For a lot of my friends I only have the remainder of senior year to be with them and get closer before we all split ways for college.  I will probably see several of them again during breaks and what not, but it will never be quite the same as it was in high school and will be more difficult to get together.  I hope I stay in good contact with my high school friends even through the distance.  It will be different without them though, as I’ve lived in the same town for all of my life so far.  I won’t be moving away until after I get my general education completed through community college, but in two years or so I will be in a different place.  I am excited for that though even though I am nervous too.  I think it’ll be important for me to go somewhere different with a fresh start.

Lunch Disclosures

Lately there haven’t been a whole lot of opportunities to raise my hand in front of the whole class.  On Thursday I raised my hand a few times but since we were on the computer for those classes the teacher just came by and helped me one-on-one. It’s still been good practice though asking for help when I need it instead of trying to figure out certain things on my own so I don’t have to ask.

I spent lunch with a close friend Thursday.  We talked about general things at first that weren’t too personal, like upcoming dances, volunteer work, the weekend, etc. Eventually she brought up the topic of her weight again and she thinks if she loses so much weight that she’ll be more confident and self-assured.  I told her again that she didn’t need to lose that much weight, but if she really wanted to lose some weight she should do it safely.  I suggested exercising more and eating less, but not to the point where you’re starving yourself.  She said she’s really sensitive about her weight and easily upset.  I decided now was as good a time as ever to open up to her that my insecurity is my shyness and I’m really sensitive about it.  I told her how I dislike being called shy and every time someone says that to me, even her, it makes me upset.  I’d been meaning to sort of confront her about this for a while now since I’d heard her go on about that I’m “too shy” or “I wish you were more out there”, etc, and it’d always hurt my feelings.  I finally brought it up though, even though I was afraid of “making something out of nothing” by talking about things she’d said to me a while ago.

She said she didn’t know I was sensitive about it and that it hurt my feelings, and apologized and gave me a hug.  I went on about it and said there are a lot of good things about shyness too and it doesn’t have to be seen as a weakness. I said I was trying to work on things like talking to strangers and raising my hand too.  I told her that I work hard to be outgoing, and I wish I was just accepted by her.  Hopefully she’ll understand now that her sensitivity to being called fat is like my sensitivity to being called shy.  Since I started this project though, I have become less sensitive about it and have started embracing more of my shyness.

On Friendships and Shyness

“One thing about high school is that you learn who your real friends are.”

That’s what my friend Annie said to me and 2 of our friends at lunch today.

I’ve never had a big group of friends.  At times, I’ve had none. Other times I’ve had one or two.  Now I have about 4 true friends who I’ve really opened up to and can rely on, and a few others that were once close but I’ve sort of lost touch with.  I know a lot of people from being on my school’s tennis team, from joining school clubs, and taking classes.  But it’s hard to find those true friends that will stick with you over the years and that you can have really deep and honest conversations with.

So you may be wondering, what does The Shyness Project have to do with friendship?  Quite a bit, actually.

I’ve read through a ton of books on careers.  And I’ve also done a lot of those exercises that are included in the book to help you find the right career.  I remember one of the exercises was to write about some of your happiest times, and after reading over my response, I realized that a lot of my happiest times were because of friends.  Good friends can boost mood, confidence, and happiness.  And all those things can really help me with confronting my shyness.  The more support that I feel like I have, the more confident I am likely to feel when I’m doing something outside my comfort zone.

As good friends as they are, I have only told my mom about this project.  She was the only one I opened up to about this when we were going on a walk one day before the new year.  I was really nervous to tell her about it, because by telling her I was basically taking the first step to committing myself to follow through with this. I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone else though, not even my brothers, dad, or closest of friends.

Why?  Embarrassment, I suppose.  I don’t think anyone else realizes that I have as much anxiety and worries going on in my head as I do.  I think they see me simply as shy and calm (a lot of people think I’m “calm”, if only they spent a day inside my head!).  And I don’t want to tell them otherwise because I don’t want them to look at me differently or to feel sorry for me.  I think it would surprise them that I have a lot of difficulties with basic things like making a phone call or striking up a conversation with someone.  One of my friends, who is the one I’d say I’m the closest with, does basically know how hard these things can be for me.  I don’t think I’ve gone into as much detail with all the negative thoughts and anxiousness though.  I’m just really not comfortable talking about my shyness to friends and even family.  I’m very sensitive about it, and whenever someone says “She’s so shy…” like I’m not even there, I feel ashamed and my eyes start tearing up, even though I usually hide it well so they have no idea.  I’ve had others ask me why I’m so shy, and again I get teary eyed and can usually only manage a smile, even though I don’t feel like smiling much.  I really don’t know what to say to that, so I say something brief or say I don’t know.  Plus my eyes tear up unfailingly every time something like that is brought up, so it’s hard to say much when you’re trying to force back tears without anyone noticing. It makes me feel the worst when someone says something like that after I feel like I’ve done a good job of being outgoing.  It crushes and frustrates me, and makes me feel like my efforts weren’t even noticed.  I don’t know why people have to make comments about others’ shyness/quietness.  Do they realize that it might be something they are sensitive about and would rather not talk about?  Do they do it to make themselves feel better?  I would think that it would be a lot more thoughtful for a person to just try engaging that person in a conversation rather than just pointing out their shyness.

This blog is the most honest public writing I’ve ever done.  Usually this kind of stuff is only seen by me in my private journal.  But now I barely write in there anymore, because I feel like I can open up here.  After telling my mom, the next major step was making this blog and having it be public.  I felt like once I did that, there was no going back.  And thanks to support from the unbelievably kind and supportive bloggers I’ve met so far, I’m more determined to keep going forward.

Post Navigation