Shyness: Take It One Step at a Time

Yes, I’m a member of the introvert club. My older brother threw himself into the extrovert club early on in his academic career. Being 4 years ahead of me, I felt like I had to establish my own identity, which can be very hard when the standards are set sky high. I think as a result I became more of an observer and listener, only gaining comfort after getting to know people well.

In middle school we had an annual celebration of Memorial Day, and one of the English teacher believed I was ready to give the infamous Gettysburg Address. In front of the entire middle school population as well as family and friends. Nervous? You bet… so I spent weeks working on the speech. Practicing. Memorizing. I figured it would be better to concentrate on making good eye contact with the people rather than reading the speech from a piece of paper.

The standing ovation I received from that speech gave me more confidence entering high school. I was willing to do more public speaking through Model Congress, Boys State and Model U.N. meetings. I continued to do Memorial Day speeches for the town I lived in. I spent more time taking chances in meeting new people and striking up conversations. I realized that you have to be willing to put yourself out there, practicing your skills. It doesn’t matter if you fall down from time to time- the point is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and go at it again, learning from what didn’t work and coming at things from a fresh tact.

I still have fears (false evidence appearing as real being one acronym), but I’ve learned that I don’t want to be consumed by them. I take areas of my life that don’t seem comfortable to me one step at a time. When it comes to learning new subjects, you don’t become an expert in a moment or a day. My best friend that I deejayed with for 20 years helped me to realize that if you make other people feel important and the center of attention, chances are more people will gravitate towards your energy.

So if you worry about people liking you, or what people think of you, break out of your fears by getting around your friends and having them introduce you to a new person or a new field of their interest. You can start by discovering other people through social media, then go out for an evening with them to dinner or a small gathering. Compliment or notice people doing something right in the world. You know the easiest way to get someone talking? Through your smile.

I developed a unique group of friends because of my varied interests. I don’t mind the fact that the people that I bowl with may not have much in common with the people that I go to concerts with- or the people in my family. I respect people for who they are and genuinely enjoy getting to know more about them. You don’t have to become an extrovert to break out of shyness. You only have to be willing to show people that you care about them.

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