The Shyness Project

Archive for the tag “overcoming fears”

Shyness: From Weakness to Strength, and Fears to Excitement

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

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

Shyness: From Weakness to Strength, and Fears to Excitement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

2015 Has Been an Awesome Year

http://thespiritscience.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/o-HAPPINESS-facebook.jpgTo my surprise, I have accomplished and brought back almost everything I wanted to in my vision board so far. I firmly believe a key part of this success was intention setting- I wanted it to be an awesome year, so I made a specific plan for how I wanted to make it happen.

This year I’ve really cultivated an active lifestyle. I’ve gotten back into dancing regularly, have been playing tennis again with a consistent partner, and I’ve started playing a new sport- ultimate Frisbee. I’ve made an effort to start cooking more of my meals. I have looked out for new experiences, such as going to a mosque to observe a prayer, going to a goth club, and exploring outdoor cliffs barefoot. I’ve developed more of a positive outlook, have reduced my stress, and have increased my compassion for others. Now that I’m in a healthy and stable place, I have been better able to be a rock for others who have not been as fortunate. I’ve learned how to let go of things that weren’t meant for me, even though it is still not easy.

Something that has really helped me get back on my feet is that I’ve started putting myself out of my comfort zone again. I’ve gotten reacquainted with that feeling of discomfort that I get when I first take on something new. Some of the things I’ve been doing have included driving more places and on my own. Even though I still have fears with driving, particularly at night, I have gotten braver with this and have managed to keep calm. Another thing I’ve done is continue to show up to ultimate Frisbee even though I felt like I was one of the worst players there at first; now through consistent practice, I’m a valued player. I also have gone out of my way to participate in class again, and I developed meaningful relationships with two of my professors by going to their office hours. Through adding on a Counseling and Social Change minor as well, I’ve realized that I want to focus my efforts on becoming a counseling psychologist.

I have also prioritized working on and maintaining my mental health this year. I’ve experienced a lot of benefits from doing yoga- it has helped me sleep better, have better posture, and feel much calmer and composed. Recently I’m trying meditation as well to see if I can add in that practice. I feel much more emotionally stable, happier, calmer, and healthier now.

I think having a regular exercise schedule, and making it fun through activities like dance, ultimate Frisbee, and tennis, has really made me a happier person. Occasionally, I do fall back into old patterns and anxiety does creep in, but overall I’ve been doing really well. From here, I would like to focus on babysitting my nephew every two weeks (or at least more often), learning how to be more comfortable on a bike, improving my confidence and voice level, and continuing to work on managing my emotions. I am thinking of making another vision board for the rest of the year for what I would like to add in to my progress. I hope you all have been taking care of yourselves, and that your year has been a good one so far!

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.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————

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.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————

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.

Tried to Add Speech Class…

Well tonight I went off to the community college center again, this time in hopes(sort of) of adding a speech class.  I went to the class and sat down nervously in the 2nd row.  I seated myself one chair away from a guy who looked to be in his mid thirties, early forties. So far I’ve mostly been talking to women because it’s easier for me I guess being a girl and all, so I decided to try and talk to a guy.

At first I thought I wasn’t going to end up talking to him.  I felt pretty awkward, and instead pretended to focus on the speech book and flip through the pages.  I glanced at him from time to time to see if he might want to talk, but he too was flipping through the speech book and reading parts of it.  Eventually I finally said “This is the only book we need right?” as I pointed to the book we both held.  He looked up and smiled and said yeah, and that he had asked the teacher that too.  I said that’s good and he said yeah it’s pretty cheap too, which is nice.  I asked him if he was already registered for the class, and he said he was the first on the list to add, and I told him that I was trying to add too but was further down the list.  Then the class started and the teacher started speaking.

The teacher said that he wasn’t going to be able to add many people, and read off a list of names of the people he couldn’t add that signed up.  Unfortunately, I was one of the names he called, so I had to gather my things and leave.  I was sort of disappointed because he seemed like a pretty nice teacher and was understanding that nobody is really looking forward to this class and he wanted to ease everyone into speaking slowly.  I think I’ll take his speech class another semester.  I thought taking a speech class would be great for part of the Shyness Project, but unfortunately I didn’t get in.  I do have to confront my public speaking fears though, so I’m thinking of other options like Toastmasters that I can do to put myself in that feared situation.  I hate presentations and public speaking, but I know it will be helpful for me if I at least try.

Career Class…Stunk

Tonight I had my first career class at the community college, and as much as I was looking forward to it, it turned out to be a real disappointment.  When I first arrived 15 minutes before the class was scheduled to start, I noticed that the room was dark and nobody was there.  I thought that was odd, and another girl walked by and was looking in the classroom too, wondering what was going on.  I asked her if she was in the career class and she said yeah, and I started talking to her about the class and where the teacher must be.  She said she wanted to study psychology when I brought up the topics of careers, and I told her I’m undecided though I’m starting to find interest in Occupational Therapy. I made small talk a little while longer until people started going into the classroom and turning on the lights.

I sat down next to the girl and told her my name and she told me hers(Jacora).  It felt good knowing that I had already made a friend since the classroom seemed really empty.  By the time the teacher arrived, there was maybe 20 people in the class, but still there were numerous empty chairs.  The class felt really empty.

The teacher turned out to be really monotone and boring.  He had to keep telling people to stop glancing at the clock, because it was obvious that many of us were bored out of our minds and couldn’t wait to go home.  It’s disappointing though because I was looking forward to this class the most. I thought it’d be exciting to be surrounded by a bunch of people wondering what they want to do with their lives and have a teacher who can really reach out to us and help us, but no, it wasn’t anything like that.

During the break, I went to sit out in the common room area where they have some comfy chairs, and an older lady I recognized from the class sat across from me.  At first I flipped through the career book awkwardly, not making eye contact because I didn’t know if she’d want to talk or not or how I’d talk to her.  Eventually I just thought heck with it and looked up and said, “You’re taking the career class too right?”  And she looked up and said yeah, and I asked her what she thought of it so far.  I said it seemed really boring, and she agreed and said he seems really boring and unmotivational.  She said she was having trouble staying awake.  I said I was glad it wasn’t just me then.  We then talked about other classes we were taking, and both said we wanted to drop this class now.  She said her name is Debra.  I recommended that she try and add the psych class I’m taking, because it seems like a good class.

Even though the class wasn’t what I hoped for and now I’ve officially dropped it, at least I went out of my way to talk to two strangers.  I think it’s starting to get easier now the more I’ve done this.  I have a better idea of how to start conversations and feel more self-confident in my ability to carry on conversations with people I don’t know.  Practice definitely does help.  As January is coming to close, I’m starting to plan my next goal for February.  As of right now I’ve decided that I want to dedicate February to “Improving Friendships”.  Now that I’ve gone out of my way to meet new people that I’d normally not even talk to, I want to focus on building my friendships with the people I already know.  I never kept tally of the number of strangers I’ve talked to, but I know I’ve talked to quite a few, and I’m quite proud of myself for that.  It’s not as easy as it may sound.  Negative thoughts, heart racing, etc can make it quite difficult. I’m sure it’s much easier for others than it is for me, and I’m sure it’s even harder for others than it is for me.(and it’s pretty hard for me, though I’ve improved a lot even in a month)  A lot of it has to do with being in the right mind set and feeling good about yourself.  Exercise, showers, talking to friends, receiving compliments or praise from friends and teachers: those all help with building self-confidence.  Before I went out sometimes I found it helpful to look myself in the mirror and remind myself that I’m self-confident and loved by others, so I should love myself.  People will be more than happy to talk to me.  It seemed to help.

Post Navigation