The Shyness Project

Archive for the tag “psychology”

Overcoming Phone Phobia

I’ve never been a big fan of the phone.  In fact, I’d rather drive out miles and miles to talk to someone in person rather than have to call them.

I’ve never really understood why the phone brought me so much anxiety. How was it different than going up and talking to someone?

Well, with the phone, there is no face-to-face contact.  You can’t use your expressions, you can’t use your gestures, and communication relies solely on your voice.

And often times when you call a person or company, you don’t know quite what to expect.  Are you going to reach the person you were calling for?  Are you going to reach a secretary?  Are you going to reach the voicemail?  There’s an element of the unknown with making phone calls, which can build fear.

And what if you stumble on your words or mix up what you were going to say?  What if your nervousness shows?

Those are just some of the many fears I’ve had before, and that many people with phone anxiety experience.  Are these worries rational?  No.  But are they there?  Yes.

So what do you do about them?  How can you calm your fears and make the call?

That’s what I’m hoping to find some more about.  If I can find ways that help me reduce my phone anxiety, then maybe those ways can help others too.

My personal plan to confront my phone anxiety is to call a variety of professionals and companies to ask for permission to do informational interviews.  I’m interested in learning more about the careers I’m researching and I’ve always wanted to do this, but could never find the courage.

My main areas of interest currently are occupational therapy, psychology, counseling, and writing.  I will make phone calls to find people in at least a majority of those careers.  I believe this will allow me to acquire valuable information about these careers that I couldn’t otherwise gain from a website or book.

Since my main fear is with calling people I don’t know or people I haven’t talked to on the phone much, I believe this approach will help me the most. I don’t experience anxiety when I am calling people I talk to on the phone regularly, like any of my family members and some of my close friends.  I think the anxiety interferes most when I have to call a company or call someone with authority.

This is my personal experience and it may be different from yours.  If you have any related fears or if any of this makes you nervous too, please tell me about it in the comments!  I’d love to hear your experience.  Wish me luck!

Looking Glass Self: What you see is what you get

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Frustrations

Ugh, I was trying really hard to raise my hand in psych class tonight, but still I couldn’t do it!!  I had read the chapter in advance, written out all the notes in advance off of her powerpoint notes that she’d be showing tonight, made flash cards, knew the material really well, and even had about 7 possible questions I could ask on the side of my notes, and STILL I didn’t raise my hand!

Why is this class so hard for me to participate in?  Is it because there are more people and a majority of them are older than me?  I guess I do feel a little intimated, I think I’m one of very few high schoolers in the class.  But I got an A on the last test and she said there were only 5 A’s total in the class, so it’s not like I’m not doing well in her class or what I say isn’t going to be intelligent enough.

It’s just when that class gets going, I get in this comfort zone that’s hard to break out of.  It’s easy to hesitate and not act when she pauses.  I’m very envious of the people who can just speak aloud what they want to say or ask questions on a regular basis.  It seems like my questions aren’t really that necessary for me to ask, because I already know the material so well and don’t really need my questions answered since they’ve just been thought up for the sake of asking a question.  And the questions I thought of she often went over so there wasn’t really anything I could say after that.

So maybe I should try not doing my notes, reading, or making the flash cards and see if I can think of more questions when I don’t know the material as well?  I don’t know, this is tricky…I was in the right mind set tonight too, feeling confident and like I could do this.  But I just couldn’t move my arm and ask what I had prepared.  I’m definitely going to keep trying though.

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Lunch with Maria and the Topic of Dreams

Today I had lunch with a friend, Maria, who I needed to catch up with.  We’ve hung out once at Berkeley this year, but other than that we haven’t spent nearly as much time together as we used to.

So we made plans through Facebook, and we decided to go off campus to Jamba Juice, even though I hardly ever go off campus because I don’t want to risk being late back to school.  But she suggested we have lunch since her weekends are busy, so I said that sounded good and it was set.

Oddly enough, I had a dream this morning that I had forgotten that I was supposed to meet her for lunch.  It was such an interesting and relevant dream to me that I wrote it down as soon as I woke up.

In the dream, it started off that I was looking for my hotel room so that I could take a shower.  Apparently the whole school was staying at this hotel, which was a weird hotel because it was located in some ordinary department store.  I wandered all around the store, opening different doors, but I couldn’t find my room.  I saw some really fancy rooms with huge green lounge chairs and other elegant furniture.  I even walked into a big dark room where there was a taiko drumming performance as well as some fire performance.

While wandering around, I ran into one of my teachers and he walked around with me trying to find my room.  Then my teacher suddenly changed into my tennis coach and instead I was walking around with him.

As we were walking through the store, I suddenly realized that I had forgotten to meet Maria for Jamba Juice and I felt really bad.  I didn’t know how I could have forgotten since I’d been thinking about it in the morning.

Then wouldn’t you know it, I ran into Maria at the store and she was with another friend Alyssa.  Maria’s eyes were all watery and she was mad at me for not showing.  I said I was really sorry and I didn’t know how I had forgotten, but that I’d make up for it.  After much apologizing on my part she said it was alright and then me, Maria, and Alyssa walked outside down a path, and my coach just disappeared.

Once outside, we ran into another one of my friends Sue.  It was a beautiful sunny day and there was a huge grass field up ahead.  We all started running as fast as we could on the grass, playfully and happily, and then Sue got tired and stopped so we all stopped and sat on the grass.  We then played some game where we knocked some big inflatable beach ball around, but it didn’t really have a definite shape and was changing form a lot.  It seemed like a really good day though.

Then I woke up at 6:30am.  It’s funny how so much of what was on my mind was in that dream.  Last night in psychology our lecture was on dreams and sleeping after we took our exam.  After I got home I meant to take a shower, but had forgotten, so I felt like I needed to take one.  And yesterday I had talked with my friend Sue and another friend Charmagne that I don’t know as well about going to a festival with a parade. They were saying that there are these taiko drummers in the parade and I was looking at pictures of them.  I also wanted to make sure that I didn’t forget about my lunch plans made over the weekend with Maria, and I recently reconnected with Alyssa, so that’s where they came in.  It was really interesting to me.  I even felt bad when I woke up this morning, like I had actually forgotten.  But then I remembered that I was meeting her today, so I showered, and then wrote “Jamba Juice” on the back of my hand so I would be sure to remember.  I decided it would be a funny thing to share with Maria.

So we met up at lunch, got in her car, and went to Jamba Juice.  I was going to pay for my own when she caught me and insisted on paying as a treat for my belated birthday.  We each got a smoothie and split a chicken wrap, which was pretty good.  She drove back to school and we ate lunch in her car, since she doesn’t like having to worry about being late either she said.

We talked about spring break plans, my psych exam yesterday, and some other things.  I told her about how my class yesterday was about sleeping and dreaming, and then told her about the dream I’d just had and how it related to everything I was thinking about.

She thought my dream was funny and that it was really cool that I could remember that much.  She told me about some of the dreams she’d had, and I told her some of my other ones I’d had before.  I talked about what we had learned in psychology the previous night too, and we actually ended up talking about dreams most of the lunch period.  It was an interesting conversation; I always like hearing about other people’s dreams.

Then the bell rang signaling the end of lunch, so I hugged her, thanked her for lunch, and headed off to my class.  It was good spending lunch with her today, and I’m really glad that I didn’t actually forget to meet her!  Haha.   🙂

1st Night of Psychology

Well what do you know, the first class went great! 🙂  I was so worried about it and imagined myself having trouble talking to people in my class, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought!

I got dropped off at the college 20 minutes before my class began, and immediately went to the list posted in the center of the room where students were crowded around.  I figured this was the list that showed all the class numbers for each of the classes.  When the crowd whittled down a little so I could get close enough to the list, I scanned for my Intro to Psych class and soon found it.  I asked one of the ladies that was crowded around the list if that room number was upstairs, but I got no response, and she left.  I felt a little embarrassed, but I don’t think she was ignoring me on purpose, she must have not realized that I was talking to her.(even though I turned around and faced her)  Anywho, I went upstairs to where I thought the class would be, and eventually found it even though the room numbers were scrambled and were not in order.

When I entered the class, it was dead silent.  About 10 people were already seated, and no one was talking or making any kind of noise, not even ruffling papers!  I scanned the room trying to figure out where to sit so I could be in a good position to talk to some people.  I decided on the 3rd row, and sat next to an older lady.  My first thoughts were “Dang, it’s so freakin quiet in here that I’m never going to get a conversation started!”  I was conscious of my breathing even, that’s how quiet it was.  I felt awkward.  I then decided to ask the lady next to me if this was the Intro to Psych class, and she smiled and said yes.  I then started talking to her about the textbook that we both had out and asked if she had read any of it yet, and she said she hadn’t and asked if I had, and I said I’d read the first chapter.  She then asked how much I had to pay for the book and I said only a few bucks because I got it online.  She said she got hers for around $10 at a thrift store or something like that.  I then told her about the other classes I was taking and she told me about some of the classes she’d taken.  She said she’s 50 years old and has been trying to get all the requirements to get an AA degree.  She smiled a lot and was really nice and friendly, I’m glad I sat next to her and started talking to her.

Then another girl came in and sat next to me, and asked me if this was the intro to psych class.  I smiled and said yes, and that I had actually asked the same question earlier.  I then asked her if this was her first psych class and she said yeah, and that she needed it as a nursing requirement.  She wants to transfer to a nursing program.  I then showed her my schedule and talked about classes that she liked or ones that were easy and she gave me the teachers’ names.  She and the older lady also use ratemyprofessor.com, so we talked about the reviews for this teacher and the other teachers that I was going to have.  She was really nice and friendly too.  The girl’s name was Rose, and she actually knew the other lady next to me, Patricia, from a Spanish class, so we were all talking in our row so no one was left out, which was great.  Everyone else in the room was still pretty much silent, but after we started talking it wasn’t weird being the only ones talking, and as I mentioned that I got the book for cheap online a guy in the front spun around and asked me how much I had paid for it, and I told him only a few bucks off of the internet.

Soon the class started, and the instructor, Mrs. Jaimez, introduced herself and said she had a PhD in psychology and first worked as a psychologist, and later decided to become a teacher so she could spend more time with her kids.  She said she enjoys teaching more anyhow.  She then said that she wanted each of us to introduce ourselves, say something interesting about ourselves, and then say why we were taking the class.  I felt a pang of nervousness in my stomach, but was glad that I had at least talked to the people next to me already and had already been talking and introducing myself before she made us do it to the class.  Rose looked at me and raised her eyebrows and widened her eyes, as if to say “oh great” and I smiled.

She started in the front row and eventually it got to the third row and Patricia introduced herself and accidentally repeated why she was taking the class twice out of nervousness I think, but she pointed that out aloud and got some laughs.  The interesting thing she said about herself was that she works on the clavicle of the back or something like that.  I’m not sure exactly how she put it, but she pointed to her lower spine.  Then it was my turn(oh boy), and I said “Hi my name’s Brittany, I like to play tennis and go swing dancing.  I’m taking this class because I think it sounds interesting and I want to learn more about psychology.”  I did my best to speak loudly and clearly, and I think I was understood.  Then Rose went, and said she’s pregnant and due in August.  She said she’s taking this class because it’s a requirement to get into a nursing program.  Then all the 50 something people went, and when one lady said her name, Ann Healy, in a beautiful British accent, I knew that must have been my friend Emily’s mom.  I thought Emily was thinking of taking the class, but I didn’t see her there, and I didn’t expect her mom to be taking it.  I wondered if the mom would know me if I went and talked to her, since I’d never met her before and hadn’t hung out with Emily too much.  But during the break, I felt a hand on my shoulder and I looked up to see her standing over me and she said she knew I was Emily’s friend and I told her I thought she was her mom.  I also said that I thought Emily was going to take the class too, but it turns out that she really wanted to volunteer at the library and ended up with a shift on Wednesdays, so she couldn’t take the class.  We talked about the class and she said a cousin had taken the class and really liked it.  She then said she was heading outside for the break and left the classroom.  I got some papers together on my desk, then decided to head down to the bathroom.  When I was at the sink washing my hands, Emily’s mom came out of one of the stalls and washed her hands too, and she started asking me about my tennis season.  I told her it had ended a few months ago, and she asked if I missed it, and I said not really because the weather’s been so bad and I have so much more free time now so that I can take these college classes.  We then talked the rest of the way back to class, and returned to our seats on the opposite side of the room.  I started talking with Patricia and Rose some more until the class started up again.

So for the actual class, it was alright.  She pretty much lectures from powerpoints and you have to really listen to what she’s saying to have good notes, because her slides are very brief and won’t tell you much of anything.  She seems nice though, I think some of her tests will be tough and I think I’ll have to spend a lot of time studying and reading the chapters assigned each week, but it should be ok.  She encourages participation and offers a lot of opportunities to participate, and I thought it would be great to raise my hand for something since I was already on a roll that night, but my shyness got the best of me and I kept my hand down, despite repeated efforts in my mind to “answer the next question”.  The next question came and went, and I found some excuse in my mind not to answer it.  For example, some of my thoughts were: I don’t want to answer that one because it’s too hard to explain, I’m not sure how to word my answer so it sounds like something I’d say and not what I just noticed in my textbook, The answer I have might not be what she’s looking for, Someone else already said the one I was going to say and anything else I say already sounds too similar, yadda yadda yadda.  My mind really needs to shut up sometimes.  But I’m so proud of myself for making 2 friends in my classes, and becoming friends with Emily’s mom.  I had a lot of good conversations, and was able to be friendly even when everyone else in the room was silent and sticking to themselves.  Normally, I’d be one of those people.  I’d be doodling, flipping through the textbook, anything to avoid making eye contact with people and attempting conversation.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d WANT to talk to people, I’d want to make a friend, but I’d feel so awkward that I would just keep my eyes glued down rather than attempt something that could cause embarrassment or awkward lulls in conversation if I couldn’t think of what else to say.

So all that worrying was for nothing.  I did great, and I’m really happy with myself.  When 2 of my other classes start next week, hopefully they’ll go just as well, and I won’t be stressing out as much as I was this time.  But realistically, I know I’ll worry.  I just have to remind myself how well this experience went and how past experiences have gone well too.  My perception of the situation controls how I feel about it, so if I can think to myself that the class will go fine and that there’s no harm in talking to people and if I don’t it’s not the end of the world it should help.  Having expectations to talk to people makes me more nervous because I don’t want to let myself down, but they’re also helpful for me because I like to fulfill goals.  I feel a sense of pride when I set out to do what I want to do.  Unfortunately when I don’t fulfill my goals, I often feel sad and ashamed that I couldn’t open my mouth and say something to the person next to me.  So I have to be careful not to be too hard on myself and put extra pressure on myself, because that could very well backfire.

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