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How I Overcame my Shyness


I’m 10 years old, and I’m standing in the checkout line at Safeway, clutching a candy bar.


“That will be 33 cents,” the clerk repeats, giving me a strange look. I think she’s already said that once, and is repeating herself. But I can’t be sure, because my mind has gone completely blank. My heart is racing and my palms are sweating.


Finally, I manage to reach into my pocket and give her the money. I scamper away, holding my candy bar, which I have just purchased without saying a word.


The thing is, talking to people makes me nervous. Like, REALLY nervous. Strangers, classmates, teachers – pretty much anyone who isn’t a family member or a good friend. I have social anxiety, and it’s ruining my life.


I can’t do anything, because I am too nervous to do it. I can’t approach a cool-looking classmate and make a new friend. I can’t flirt with a cute boy. I can’t even buy a candy bar in Safeway without practically having a meltdown. What the heck is wrong with me?


“What’s wrong with you? Why are you so quiet?” People keep asking me these questions, over and over, as I grow up. I don’t know how to respond. But I keep thinking the same thing – “What’s wrong with me?”


When I reach the end of middle school, I’ve finally had enough. I decide that in high school, I am going to be outgoing. I’m going to make friends. I’m going to talk to people!


I have no idea how to do it, though. Despite all the people who have commented on me being shy over the years, no one has actually taught me how to overcome it. I don’t know if it’s something that CAN be overcame. And if it is, I don’t know how to do it. But I’m going to try!


I decide that I’m going to just start talking to people. I have no idea what to say, I never know what to say to people, but if I wait to figure that out, then I’m never going to talk to anyone. So I turn to the girl sitting next to me in my high school chemistry class.


“Hi,” I say.


“Hi!” she says.


That’s it. I don’t know where to go from here. Nervously, I fidget with my pencil. But then she says something else!


“What’s your name?”


“Laura!” I beam. I’m having a conversation! Plus, I know what to say next.


“What’s yours?”


This is where I came from. I came from a place of extreme shyness. I have no idea how or why I was so shy as a kid, but I was. And now I’m not! So how did I overcome it?




 

Well, in high school, I challenged myself every day to start a new conversation, until it slowly got easier and easier. I didn’t wait until I thought of the right thing to say, because if I waited for that, I would never have started any conversations. I learned that if I did it over and over again, it eventually became less scary. Eventually, starting a conversation became second nature, and by college, it had gotten pretty easy!


Then in college, I noticed that mountain biking made me feel less anxious. By the end of a long ride, I would be so spent that I forgot to feel anxious. Exercise – especially intense exercise – really helped me work through my anxiety. Plus, being able to crush those trails made me feel stronger and more confident. So I started mountain biking 4 or 5 times a week, and got really good at it too!


Then after college, I hired a life coach, because I felt like I was in the passenger’s seat of my own life, reacting to everything. I wanted to be in the driver’s seat – I wanted more control. He helped me realize that I wanted to start a meditation practice.

Starting that meditation practice changed my life. It got me more in touch with myself, and everything became clearer. I wasn’t just shy – I was a huge introvert, and that was okay. I finally became comfortable in my own skin.


Years later, I still mediate Every. Single. Day. I do things even if I feel shy to do them. I’ve continued my practice of extreme exercise to crush my anxiety – I mountain biked for years, then switched to skiing, then rock climbing, then weight lifting. These days, I practice martial arts and lift weights.


If I break down my progress on overcoming Shyness, here’s what that looks like:


  • I made a conscious decision that I wanted to be less shy – I made a goal.

  • To make my goal less overwhelming, I decided on a first step toward my goal – I was going to start one conversation.

  • Since that worked, I decided to continue to start more conversations – I would start one every day. So, I took one small step every day toward achieving my goal.

  • I engaged in a lot of brainstorming and self-reflection about my goal: What was working? What was helping me to become less shy? What wasn’t working? How could I remove what wasn’t working from my life?









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