The Shyness Project

Archive for the tag “shyness project”

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 Challenging Year of 2014

We all have our lowest points. Mine was Spring 2014. It definitely wasn’t all bad, but the hard times were indeed hard. I learned a lot and have been changed by it, but it did come at some big costs.

Before it started, I had had an incredibly rough first month at my new college away from home. I had a horrible roommate situation, and each day and night was so chaotic, noisy, and uncomfortable that I lost a lot of sleep, weight, and sanity. It was nearly impossible to do well in school and I was pretty distressed. And for the first time, I experienced the feeling of not having a home. I spent many nights wandering out on my own as late as possible in avoidance of the dreaded circumstances I might return to at my apartment. After a month of fighting with housing, I finally was able to move, and was very relieved.

By January, I had adjusted to my new school fairly well and had made some good friends. For this next semester, I was excited to challenge myself again by helping start up a brand new organization in addition to going to school full-time. Taking on this addition turned out to be a lot more stressful than I anticipated, however. The organization was pretty disorganized and I found this to be very stressful because I wanted to do a really good job but didn’t know what they wanted me to do. In addition, I was really worried about the programs I was expected to come up with and run. I kept imagining the worst occurring and the idea of presenting to a large group something I didn’t feel ready to present made me feel physically sick. I began experiencing intense and unrelenting anxiety throughout the semester. I couldn’t stop the thoughts and negative images from spinning about work and I felt like a prisoner to my own mind. Anxiety was rearing an uglier, more physical head than it ever had for me in the past. I felt very ashamed and embarrassed for panicking so much about the public speaking and for not being able to control my anxiety.

When it got to the point where I knew it was seriously affecting my health, I went to a school doctor and counselor. I was given some medication to try, but I started experiencing bizarre and uncomfortable effects. Then one day in class, I suddenly felt like I was about to black out. The edges faded black and I stumbled to the front to turn in my test before collapsing onto a bench outside. I wasn’t able to move for fear of passing out and was in such a distraught state. I ended up missing both of my midterms. My friend Matt came to my rescue when I called him and he helped me walk to my classes so I could explain to my teachers what happened. Even though I was thankfully able to make up my tests, it was a very scary experience and something that had never happened to me.

The rest of the semester was spent going back and forth between doctor’s appointments until it was figured out what was going on with me. My friend Elin took me so many times without hesitation and stayed by my bedside when I had to get an IV. I was extremely grateful and appreciative for her help. Ever since the near syncope, I had experienced constant pain in my head and had difficulty walking since I was so dizzy. I was told that I was experiencing vertigo and eventually it was determined that I had developed migraines with aura. I did my best to take it easier the rest of the semester, and was relieved when the job ended and I got to go home for summer break. Somehow I managed to keep my grades up even with all this going on. I did end up running my programs still, and they went great, and ended up being much more low-key than I had anticipated them being. Since then I’ve had some time to recuperate and I am feeling better.

Takeaways:

  • Sometimes you do have to remove yourself from a stressful situation if it proves to be too much
  • Anxiety and Stress is serious business and can really hurt your health
  • My anxiety got out of hand, and I need to build better mental barriers and work on controlling it again
  • You can see a beautiful side of people when you are at your lowest point

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

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!

Psychology Today Interview

shynessprojpsychtodaypostHi everyone! I thought I would let you all know that I have an interview posted on Psychology Today!  I was interviewed about the shyness project and have answered some questions on the site.

To view the article, click here. Thanks!

And feel free to leave comments on the site, I would very much appreciate it!

Speech #3 How to Make Banana Bread

Hey everyone!

This isn’t a post about trying new things, but I wanted to let you all know that I have my 3rd Toastmasters speech up on youtube now.   I gave it last week at Toastmasters and the week before that in my speech class.  It’s up for viewing if you’re interested!  Thanks! 🙂

Taking a Leap- Ziplining and Mechanical Bull Riding

My dad’s work was hosting a family fun day, and my family and I chose to attend.

Right away when we got there, I saw that a zipline structure had been set up near the entrance.  My heart raced at the prospect of going up that high and dangling in the air by a harness.  My mom hurried towards the structure though, eager to give it a shot, and she dragged us with her.

The line was short and I didn’t have but a minute or two to protest or change my mind.  My mom had me go first because she wanted to watch and learn before going on (thanks a lot mom).  So with a fluttering stomach I allowed the harness to be put on me, and waited at the base of the long staircase for my turn to walk up.  The gear felt tight and I began to feel a little light headed at the prospect of what I was about to rush into. I have mild discomfort with heights and I don’t like going fast, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about ziplining.  I hoped I wouldn’t faint.

When it was my turn to go, I trudged up the countless metallic silver stairs, getting further and further from the ground.  I kept going until I reached the top, trying to not look down and see how high I was.

Once I got to the top, the man operating the zipline attached a clip to my harness and instructed me to stand on the circular platform.  Then once I was standing on the platform, he removed the barrier blocking the edge of the platform.  The way was clear and I nervously looked down below.

“What do I do now?” I asked, uncertain.

“Anything you want,” he said. “You can walk off the edge, jump off, whatever.”

I gulped. I’m not one to just go off an edge into the air at a high elevation.

I exhaled.

Then I jumped.

I went sliding down and across the line, feeling like Batman going after the bad guys.  It wasn’t as gut wrenching as I thought it would be, and I could see it being more fun once you get used to it a little.  When I reached the end of the line, I stopped a little short, but there were several guys there who helped me down.  I ended up whacking my face with my hands and knocking my sunglasses off when I landed from the force, but other than that it went smoothly.  At least now I can say I’ve been on a zipline.

Then the rest of my family went too, and I think they had a good experience as well.

Later on we all rode a little mechanical bull that was set up too, which was something they had offered at my grad night but I had been reluctant to try it.  I thought it might be embarrassing if I couldn’t last long or got thrown off right away with everyone watching.  But my family and I all did it, and I lasted a good amount of time, and it was kind of fun actually.  Luckily there wasn’t too big of a crowd around and that helped.

My brother and I also rock climbed later on, and I’ve done that before so it wasn’t new to me, but still it makes me a little nervous being up that high and having to take leap of faiths now and then.  I fell once trying to get to a rock but luckily the slack was kept tight and I didn’t drop too far.  I eventually reached the top and rappelled back down.

All in all it was a day that took me out of my comfort zone, but it was great to be able to experience some new things.  I would do them again!

Trying Salsa and Latin Dancing for the First Time

One of my plans in trying new things was to sign up for a Salsa & Latin Dancing class.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect out of this class, but from what I’d seen on Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance I knew it would probably be a little out of my comfort zone.  I expected a lot of shimmying and shaking to say the least.

I figured I could handle it though, and my love for dance would get me through any moves I might find out of my element.  I’m an avid swing dancer, but salsa and Latin dancing were completely new to me.

And as it turns out, for a while I actually preferred my Latin dancing class over my West Coast swing class!  I really enjoyed the music and the movement, and surprisingly was better at moving my hips and getting into the rhythm than I thought.

It’s been a lot of fun learning Latin dancing, and has been a great workout as well.  So far I’ve learned Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, Rumba, and Cha-Cha.  They’re all pretty fun, and Rumba is a nice break from all the faster dances.  My swing background has actually carried over to the Latin Dancing a bit too, and funnily enough some of the more advanced people in the class are convinced I’ve done this type of dancing before!  I’m just a quick learner.

At some point I am hoping to try going out to a salsa club and seeing what it’s like on the real dance floor.  Should be interesting!

Try New Things

Although I have yet to write on my blog about this, I have been making an effort to try new things lately.

Even though I’d like to say I’m an adventurous person, the truth is that I’m not really.  At least, I don’t think I can say that I am right now.  I like routine and certainty more than I’d like to believe.  I often do a lot of the same things, because I know I’ll enjoy them and be comfortable with them.

And I especially like to eat a lot of the same foods.  In elementary and middle school I’m pretty sure I had the same lunch everyday- crackers & cheese mix and apples or grapes.  Even in high school I ate a lot of the same foods, with the addition of a sandwich for lunch, then apples or grapes, and then crackers or chips.

This isn’t a bad thing.  It’s perfectly ok to like routine and to like simplicity.  But for this experiment I want to see what it’s like to try some new things.  I want to switch things up a little.  I’m an open minded person when it comes to attitudes toward most things, so that should at least help me in my goals.

I have already tried several new things just by starting and running this project as well as in other areas of my life, but I think a time focused on this goal will be beneficial.  Fear of the unknown can be a contributing factor to shyness and anxiety, and by trying new things I think that could bring about a lesson or two on the unknown.  Some of these endeavors will put me outside of my comfort zone and may be things I don’t like, but it will be interesting to see what I find and come across.  There are a lot of opportunities out there to try some new things and switch up daily routines.

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.

Post Navigation