How do you feel when involved in a social situation where a group of people are talking with each other?
Too shy to speak? Would you like to say something to add to the conversation, but are afraid you’ll be embarrassed if they don’t respond positively to your comment? Or worse, they didn’t hear you at all?
Do you avoid eye contact in the hope that you won’t be expected to say something? Have things happened to you that you know could have been avoided if only you had said something? Did you ever order a meal in a restaurant and they bring you what you didn’t ask for? What do you do? Do you tell the server or do you just eat what’s placed in front of you because you couldn’t bring yourself to say anything?
I was painfully shy growing up and it continued into adulthood and severely affected my self-confidence. I was fine with my family or in one-on-one conversations, but in groups I would freeze. I just didn’t know what to say and feared anything I did say would sound stupid or unimportant. Comments made to me by others were, ‘how can I get you to come out of your shell?” or ‘did you have to sit there ALL night and not say ONE WORD to my friends?’
I was so shy that when asked a question, instead of answering yes or no, I just would say ‘I don’t know’ to everything. Needless to say this annoyed the person trying to get an answer out of me. And worse, I hated myself for it. I wanted to be involved in conversations, I wanted to speak my mind and feel like a person who had something valuable to say. But I felt like a failure and a loser each time I couldn’t speak up and my self-esteem plummeted.
One of the hardest things to deal with was that people often mistook my shyness for snobbery. Nothing could have been further from the truth, but I felt powerless to say something that would change their mind. For me it was simply easier to avoid any situation that made me uncomfortable as much as possible. But doing this only perpetuated my discomfort. Avoiding social situations didn’t give me an opportunity to conquer my shyness.
I learned the hard way to overcome my shyness. For me it happened very, very gradually and painfully through forced social interaction while working at my job. I had job after job of working with the public where I had no choice but to speak to complete strangers. As the years went on my conversations with others would increase in length and would go from boring to interesting. It started to become easy to talk to people I didn’t know and fun too.
Once I realized that what I was saying was not being rejected and was not thought of as stupid or unimportant, the more confidence I achieved. Little by little I ‘came out of my shell’ and began to feel comfortable in group conversations and began to look forward to them. It didn’t bother me anymore if what I said was perhaps not heard or maybe no one took much notice or even flat out ignored it. I understood this to be a part of life and something everyone faces. To enjoy life, you have to be IN life