I am insanely shy. Some people who know me well would beg to differ, but if I was meeting you for the first time, I’d be reciting in my head what I was going to say to you. All 22 years of school, I was deathly afraid of raising my hand in class, and the absolute worst was having a professor who was known to just call on people at random. Pretty sure I had ulcers all throughout sophomore year of college. I have crippling anxiety if I’m forced to make small talk with mere acquaintances or people I just met. The type of clinical anxiety that makes you sweat. [Tip: Never wear grey when you’re nervous.]
We all know people who simply have the gift of being able to hold conversations with anyone anywhere, at any given time. The types who probably have countless life stories hidden in their memory banks. The centers of parties and heads of cliques in high school.
So what’s a wallflower to do? In our outspoken Gen Y world where success is seemingly driven by who you know and building connections, how do introverts compete with all those extroverts? Having been in many situations where I’ve been forced out of my comfort zone and overcome embarrassing moments of tripping, stumbling, and stuttering, I’m here to give you some tips.
1) Force yourself out of your comfort zone. I’m truly sorry for this one. Really. I am. It totally sucks; I’m just going to be real. But it’s how you grow. In college, I took a business class where we had to give a Powerpoint Presentation every week simply to help me overcome my fear of presentations.
2) Believe in yourself. Yes. Just do it. Stop letting Mindy Most Popular get to you. Break out Space Jam and belt I Believe I Can Fly if you have to. Don’t sit back and wish you were someone else or you had someone else’s talents. I’m as guilty as the next person for doing this, but it wastes time. You know that already. We have to believe in ourselves before anyone else will, and you’re probably pretty golden already, so you have nothing to worry about. Be happy to be you.
3) Smile. A shy person with a piercing straight face is a bad combo. People will end up thinking you’re just mean. Smile! A smile says it all when you’re too scared of stumbling over the words you’re struggling to find.
4) Challenge yourself. You may think this fits with number 1, but it goes further. Once you’re out of your comfort zone, the instinctive reaction is to turn around. Nope. Don’t allow it. In college, I took what I thought was going to be my dream internship at the San Diego ABC affiliate. It was pretty much a shy person’s nightmare. I wanted to quit the first day. I ended up sticking it out, and I’m so happy I did. It forced me to grow in ways I never would have otherwise. [So what if I wrote down what I was going to say before I had to make a phone call?]
5) Laugh it off. So you stopped at the bathroom on your way into a job interview and sported toilet paper on your heel all the way into the big guy’s office. Make a joke. No, you won’t find it
immediately funny. But you will eventually. On the bright side, the funniest people are the ones who have a lifetime of experiences such as this one. And everyone loves a Mindy Kaling. There isn’t anything more freeing than laughter.