The Shyness Project

Archive for the tag “shyness blog”

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!

The One-Year is Up: How I Got Here and What I Learned

Now that you’ve read the stories of some of the wonderful people I’ve met along this blogging journey, I thought I should disclose my own story here as well.  I have some new readers now who may not know my story and why I felt a need to start this blog in the first place.

In school, I’ve often been labeled as the shy or quiet one.  I would hear this from other students, teachers- sometimes even strangers.  I heard it so much that I felt like it was something that was forever going to be engrained in my identity.  But I didn’t believe the shy or quiet label was right for me.  I knew there was so much more to me than most people could see.

My worst year was in 6th grade, when I was bullied.  My carpool group turned on me midyear and I became their daily target. They made me feel inferior to them, like a loser.  They disliked me for being quiet and too good-natured.  I had food thrown at me, was often ditched, was told I was a follower, was shut out from their conversations, was prank called, and was even the subject of a cyber bullying forum that I discovered near the end of the year.  I was devastated and deeply hurt.

By 8th grade, however, I found my place and made a good group of friends who accepted and loved me for who I was.  I was finally happy and had found my niche.

Fast forward to my senior year of high school.  The first semester had just ended, and I realized that very soon I would be graduating high school and entering college.

I had a little bit of a breakdown.  I couldn’t believe I really was going to be leaving high school. I was going to be an adult soon.  I would have to get serious about deciding on a major and a career, and I would have to have some sort of plan for college.

But what would my life be like after high school?  Would I find the courage to do the things I’d always wanted to do in life?  Or would I be doomed to live a safe, but limited life ruled by fears?

I wanted to travel to different countries, and maybe even teach abroad.  I had always felt like there was so much to learn from other cultures and I wanted to learn more about the world. Also, I wanted to write a book.  I’d read several one-year project books and felt very inspired by them.  I wanted to do a one-year project of my own.

But I doubted that I would ever be able to do either of these things.  I figured the interviewer for the teaching job would think I was too shy or quiet and wouldn’t want me to be a teacher.  And even if I passed the interview, I didn’t see how I was going to be able to muster up the courage to stand in front of the room and teach each day.  And for the one-year project and book, I doubted that would ever happen.  I didn’t think I would have the tenacity to stick with one goal and see through it all the way to the end of the year.

My future looked bleak.  Others knew me to be a high-achieving, confident, model student, but underneath it all I feared I wasn’t going to have the courage to live the life I wanted to live.  I was going to end up playing it safe and compromising my dreams for safety and security.  I was going to live a “shy” life.

So when New Years Day came, I sat down and really thought.  I told myself, if I could only choose one goal to focus on this year to improve my life, what would it be?

I realized that shyness had held me down the most.  I felt like it was something I would never be rid of, and it would forever define me and control my life.  What if I spent the whole year focusing on my shyness?  Could I be rid of it?  Would it free up my future?

And what if I shared my journey on a blog and then wrote a book about it?  Then I could finally write a one-year project book, and it would be on a subject I know very well.

But I realized that this was probably just some idealistic idea that I would never follow through with.  I’d never even talked about shyness before.  I avoided all conversations about it and would never mention when I felt shy or nervous.  I knew people would be surprised to know about the simple things that I struggled with.

I decided to develop a plan anyway.  I checked out several books on shyness and read many internet posts on the subject.  I brainstormed ideas of what I could do for the year and what fears I had that I could confront.  The mere thought of confronting any of them made me feel nauseous, but I kept researching and writing.

Then it was New Years Eve, and I had my initial plan ready.  I was scared to start the project because I feared failure, but I knew that I shouldn’t let the fear of failure keep me from trying.  I decided to take a chance and dedicate 2011 to overcoming my shyness.

And I’m very glad I did.  I’ve learned an incredible amount of lessons in a relatively short amount of time from doing this project.  I started with talking to strangers, then focused on improving my friendships, then I started actively participating in class, then I began dressing outside of my comfort zone, then I shared vulnerabilities with friends and increased my energy all the while with exercise, then I joined Toastmasters and practiced public speaking (as well as took a college speech class), then I made an effort to make new friends in community college, then I tried some new things, then I faced my fear of the phone, and then I shared the stories of several of the people I’ve met along the way.

I’ve gained a tremendous amount of confidence from taking myself out of my comfort zone this year.  On the last day of my career/life planning class this semester, we were asked to go around and write a compliment or something about the person that you’ve learned this year.  This activity made me nervous because I feared the “Q” or “S” word would dominate my list like it once had in the past in a similar activity. But in fact, there was no sign of either of those words from my peers.  The words they used to describe me were confident (which appeared twice), driven, changing the world, poised, great smile, nice, dependable, responsible, kind, patient, passionate, so sweet, honest, and respectful.  It felt great to know that I finally was allowing others to see the real, complex me.

From sharing my experiences with shyness and social anxiety, I’ve realized how incredibly common these experiences are.  I know it doesn’t seem like it- it didn’t seem like it to me before either.  But let me tell you why we think that.  We think that because people don’t talk about this.  It’s seen as embarrassing or shameful to have these experiences and by admitting to having them you make yourself vulnerable to criticism to get over it, or for someone to feel sorry for you or try to give you advice that you may not want to hear from them.  Others may not be very understanding or able to relate.  This is why I’ve never talked about shyness or anxiety.  But now I’ve written a whole blog on this, I’ve talked to friends and family about this, I’ve talked to strangers about this, and I’ve even given a speech on it.  And do you know what I’ve found?  Almost everyone I’ve talked to about this could relate in some way.  People I would have never in my wildest dreams thought of as shy or quiet have told me tales from their youth, or even tales from their present.  But I never would have been told or trusted with this information if I had never shared my experiences with them first.

And because I’ve made myself vulnerable and shared my experiences, I’ve felt more connected and closer to people than I have in my whole life.  I’ve gotten closer with my friends and made new friends even, I’ve become a better writer and speaker, and I’ve gained a lot of confidence.  I truly believe that I am not a person defined by labels anymore.  I believe I can do anything, and that nothing is holding me back.

So you may be wondering, did this project “cure” my shyness and social anxiety?  Well, that is not a simple question to answer.  I don’t believe it’s something that can be cured, nor does it need to be completely cured.  I’ve come to learn about all the benefits of having these experiences and all the positives and not just the negatives.  These experiences have allowed me to genuinely connect with people, to be more understanding and empathetic to others, to be a better listener, to be humble, and to find inner courage when experiencing fear.  I am confident, passionate, and driven, though there will always be a part of me that can relate to those considered shy or quiet.  There will always be things that I can improve upon and will have to keep working on to maintain my progress.  But I am in control of my life now, and I no longer doubt my future.  I’m excited and ready to truly live the life I’ve always dreamed of- free spirited and out to make a difference in the world.

I know that for many people, a year might not be enough time to experience the results I did.  But just because it was a success for me does not mean that I won’t get nervous for a speech, that I won’t get nervous for making certain phone calls, or that I won’t feel somewhat uncomfortable in certain situations.  For me, the biggest success was not in completely overcoming my fears, but in proving to myself that I could overcome them when needed.  This belief was strengthened throughout a year of building confidence and gaining positive experiences in situations that I once had very little confidence or experience in.

In 2012 I will be writing The Shyness Project book. I’ve never written a book before and I’m excited for the chance to get to share this story with more people. There were several things that I didn’t have time to post and elaborate on and I’m eager to share those additional experiences there.  I’ll keep up this blog along the way to share more of what I learned to try and help others.  I want to build a support network and community for all those struggling with things I and many others have struggled with.  Because I think what would have helped me most growing up was realizing that I wasn’t alone. Thank you for reading and supporting my journey of personal growth.  I can’t express how great it was to meet and truly connect with several of you who I would have never gotten a chance to meet before.  I feel like I’ve made real and meaningful friendships.  And I want to emphasize that this project would NOT have been possible without you and your support.  This project was bigger than me and by supporting and interacting with me through this blog, we made this site a valuable resource for many people to come.  I look forward to sharing what we’ve created here in a book so more people can be a part of this experience.

I hope you all have a Happy New Year and that you take a chance in 2012 and aspire to do something you’ve always dreamed of doing.  We are all capable of accomplishing great things if we dedicate ourselves to something we are passionate about.

“The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.”  ~Sarah Ban Breathnach

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

The Shyness Project Title

So as you know, I titled my blog, “The Shyness Project: The Year I Confront My Crippling Shyness.”

Notice two things:

One, I used the word confront.  This was a carefully chosen word.  It may sound passive compared to “overcome” or “conquer”, but really, shyness isn’t something so terrible that it needs to be entirely eliminated.  Although it may feel like it at times, it’s not a weakness.  Even though there seems to be a message out there in Western Culture that it’s not ok to be shy, I don’t believe that is entirely true.  Shyness isn’t necessarily cowardice, and although you can say that a shy person fears negative judgement, you can also say that a shy person wants to do well.

Two, I added the adjective crippling to shyness.  There were some parts of my shyness that were positive and healthy, while the excess, or crippling shyness was holding me back.  That was the part of my shyness I wanted to focus on.  Beyond that, I’ve realized that what I really had to face was the mistaken belief that I couldn’t do certain things I wanted to do in life.  I felt limited by the shy label that I had allowed to define me.  I thought that others saw me as shy, so I felt like they expected me to act a certain way.  When I discovered that several people were surprised when I told them that I thought I came off as shy, I learned that I had felt confined because of what I thought others thought of me.  When you stop labeling yourself and stop trying to mind-read, it is a big relief.  You’re then free to just be yourself without feelings of burden.

I used to wish I was anything but shy, and I hated my shyness so much.  But now that I’ve become more aware of all the good my shyness has brought me, I wouldn’t have been born any other way.  I’m glad that I have gone through all these feelings of shyness because if I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t understand them as well.  I wouldn’t be able to truly empathize with those who are facing similar obstacles.

I hope to help change some of the negative messages that are sent out in our culture.  Maybe the image of shyness as a timid shy girl or guy quavering in the corner will change into to the image of a brave girl or guy having the courage to look fear in the face daily and confront it.   Maybe shyness will have less of a negative image then, and it won’t be seen as something to pity.

Shyness is often associated with many respectable and admirable qualities, such as thoughtfulness, sensitivity, kindness, and modesty.   Often those of us who struggle to keep a conversation alive are the ones who listen the best.

The steps I am taking aren’t about overcoming every ounce of shyness in my body.  They are about expanding my comfort zone, and challenging myself to do things that I believe I have the ability to do.  This blog isn’t meant to support the idea that if you are shy, you have to “break out of your shell”.  It’s a learning experience of what shyness is, what it feels like, and how you can push past those feelings when you feel as if they are holding you back.  I’m not trying to become a person who never feels shy, I’m simply trying to change the choices I make so I can be open to more opportunities.

I have also come to learn that I am an introvert.  I prefer one-on-one or small group conversations than larger group ones, and I prefer to talk about more meaningful subjects.  I like to listen and I am a deep, insightful thinker. The thing I want most in life is to have strong, intimate relationships with people.  Love is everything to me.

I see the value in introversion, and I hope more people can see it too.  Shyness and introversion may be very different, but they both seem to not get much respect.  I think it’s about time that they do.

Only Seeing the Tip of the Iceberg

There was a deep and honest discussion today in 6th period that ended up continuing all period.  Apparently an event called “Challenge Day” occurred yesterday and two of the students in our class had participated in it and were reporting back.  Basically about 100 students were selected and they each had to talk about their troubles and things that were going on in their life that others probably didn’t know about but would help others understand you better.  The boys reported that everyone thought it was kind of a joke at first but after a while they realized it was serious and learned more about why some people act the way the do, especially some of the meaner people they didn’t get along with before.  They learned why they might act mean and more about what was going on underneath the personality they displayed to others.

Our teacher drew a picture of an iceberg on the whiteboard and sectioned off a really tiny piece at the top and said that was the part we showed to others, our personality.  The rest, the majority of ourselves, was underneath the surface and was what he considered to be our character.  Most of us show very little of our true selves and we are mostly judged on that teeny portion that is above the surface.

The boys said the biggest message they wanted to share was to be open-minded about others because you don’t know what they’re going through underneath the surface.  They talked about name calling a bit and labels a while too.  Our teacher had us raise our hands if we’d ever been talked down to or called something you didn’t like by a guy, and then by a girl, and nearly everyone raised their hands for both.  He explained why people do that and why they call you something you don’t like or pick on you.  He said if you’re the one being picked on, then the others in that group join in because they think “at least we’re safe” and at least the focus isn’t on them.

I can definitely see that being true and I thought of my 6th grade experience where I was the one being singled out and picked on by the group I was with.  The people in that group didn’t want to be the one targeted so once one of them started picking on me the others added to it and continued it all year. They were really just acting out of insecurity though if you think about it, and it wouldn’t have mattered what I did or what I liked or how I acted, they still probably would have done the same to me for the purpose of making themselves feel safe.  One of the girls who was a part of that group and the one who did the most betrayal and hurt to me is in that class awkwardly enough, and I glanced at her when the teacher was talking about that and wondered if she was thinking of how she had acted that way in middle school.  It’s hard to tell though because she acts like nothing ever happened between us and I never got any sort of admittance about it or an apology.  But oh well, I’ve moved on.

Another thing the boys brought up was compliments actually.  At the challenge day event the instructor was telling people to compliment pretty girls or something like that instead of seeing a pretty girl and making assumptions about her that she is a slut or whatever else people often think.  This sparked a debate and one girl said that she would not want to compliment a pretty girl especially if she knew she was pretty because she wouldn’t want to fill her head with air and she doesn’t like cocky people.  Another girl said she would compliment a pretty girl.  Then one guy brought up that if you compliment one girl and tell her she’s pretty but then don’t compliment the girls next to her then it can hurt their feelings, so he thinks it would be better to not compliment them at all otherwise you’d have to compliment everyone then and tell them that they’re all pretty.  It was an interesting and lengthy discussion. After class I walked out with the same guy and a few other of our classmates and we talked about the compliment thing some more.  I said to avoid the hurt feelings it would probably be best to compliment peope’s outfits or things they do well on rather than complimenting their personal looks.  If someone is wearing a fancier top or did really well on a test or something it’s easier to compliment that than something more general, and if there are others around it’s probably good to try and think of some nice things to say to them too.  One girl said that she dressed up nice one time and her friend dressed up nice too, but only her friend got compliments all day and no one said anything to her, so she felt kind of hurt and felt that she looked nice too.  So compliments can be tricky I suppose, but I think the main thing to remember is to be aware of others and try to spread the love so people don’t feel left out.

Compliment Central

On Monday I wore a long flowery green, white, and pink top with a green jacket that I’d never worn before with jeans.  It’s been getting cold all of a sudden and our previous week of the great summer weather has disappeared.  It’s been really windy now and it’s supposed to even rain tomorrow unfortunately.

But I managed to dress fancily despite the cold.  Emily and Ashleia said “You look cute today!” as soon as I came over to join their little group in the morning.  Ashleia liked the long flowing shirt especially.  I told her she looked cute today too and that she always dresses so well.  I also said that it’s harder to dress up now that it’s cold, and they too were mad that the warm weather had just suddenly vanished and the cold had come out of nowhere.

First period I told Sue that she looked cute today and looked good in blue.  She was surprised because she didn’t think she was dressed up, but the dark blue sweater with white stripes did look really nice on her in my opinion.  After I said that she complimented me and said she liked my jacket and shirt and felt the fabric.

When I saw Pearl when we met up after 4th period I complimented her sandals which I liked and was the kind I was actually looking at yesterday when I was trying on shoes looking for ones for prom.

When we went to lunch and met up with Annie, she noticed what I was wearing right away and loved the jacket and shirt.  She gave me lots of compliments once again, she’s always very kind to me.

So it was a good day, and I gave out several compliments and received several compliments.  I notice that the same friends seem to compliment me each time and I’m grateful for their support.

It is getting harder to dress up as it’s getting colder though. How do you dress up when it’s cold?  It feels like instinct to want to bundle up in a warm cozy jacket no matter how plain it is on certain days.  I think most of my prettier tops are short sleeve or sleeveless and the jackets thin so it makes it harder…and wearing skirts or dresses right now would make me really cold.  Hopefully it will heat up a bit more next week!

 

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