There are two things that can inevitably make me sweat: an hour long spin class and public speaking. The former makes me sweat in a good way – I am exercising, so sweat is bound to be produced from my glands and that is a sign of a great workout. The latter, however, has made me sweaty in the worst way possible (I promise I will stop talking about sweat now). I spend days, sometimes weeks, before presentations psyching myself out and essentially, freaking out about the fact that I will have to present a project to a group of 22 students and a teacher. Right before the presentation is the worst time; I get these horrible butterflies that gnaw on my stomach and fly up my throat, and I sometimes shake. This is not very unusual, because from a young age I have been considered “shy.” I have been called “reluctant to participate” by at least one teacher every year since elementary school, and large social gatherings sometimes made me nervous.
Stepping up to a podium and trying to form words in front of a group of people terrified me, and I could not understand why I was not like other kids. You know, the kids that are naturally well-spoken, put together, and most of all, outgoing. Unfortunately, we live in a society where being outgoing, whether in public or with a small group of friends, is commended, and anything less than this is considered shy. Sometimes introverts (including myself) need to remind themselves that being “shy” is OK, and most people are not naturally incredibly outgoing and overtly friendly.
One of the main concerns I have before I speak in front of a crowd, or do mostly anything in public, is what people will think of me. I am constantly worrying that people are judging me for my appearance and my personality. I was once doing a presentation in Media Studies class this year and I tripped over a desk. I didn’t fall or anything, but it made a loud noise and a few people laughed. All I could hear inside my head for the rest of the day was echoing laughter from the five people who laughed at my clumsiness. Never mind that I did very well on the presentation, a few people thought that what I did was stupid/funny/embarrassing (which is clearly more important than my actual mark). I have since learned a few things that have given me some confidence, or have allowed me to “breakout”, if you will, and I would like to share them with you.
1. People do not care as much as you think they do. We, as humans, often live in our own head, and think that everyone is judging us constantly. Personally, when someone else is presenting something in front of the class, most of the time I am only half-listening, and if they make a mistake, I for one do not usually notice.
2. If they do care so much as to laugh at you/make fun of you/etc. then they are not even worth your time. People like that find joy in bringing others down, and you do not want to be surrounded by people like that.
3. Be yourself. I can practically see your eyes rolling to the back of your head, but you have to trust me on this one. When you are your natural self, people are attracted to that. Whether you are meeting new people or giving a lecture, just relax, breathe, and remember that you are just doing your best. Your best may be different than that charismatic kid’s best but that’s OK.
I try to remember these three things on a daily basis, and I can honestly say that reminding yourself of these elements truly helps with overcoming shyness. I also realize that being an extreme extrovert is not necessarily better than being an extreme introvert; it is important to find a balance between the two and walk that line.