How One Painfully Shy Moment Has Shaped Who I Am Today
I've always been on the quiet side.
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When I was little, I was the girl in elementary school who had to be asked by the teacher to speak up. I was the girl who was intimidated by social outings with large groups of friends and I was the girl who was always described as "shy" and accepted it.
But that changed one day in 9th grade AP English class, when I experienced an embarrassing moment that forced me to shed this ID and decide once and for all that I wouldn't let my bashfulness affect and even dictate the way I lived my life.
Here's how and why I defeated my timid ways.
Overcome With Fear
It was a typical day in my AP English class. I was sitting at my desk doodling my first and last name over and over, and my teacher, *Mrs. Evans, was at the front of the class explaining the lesson plan for the afternoon.
I was totally tuned out until I heard that we would be taking turns reading Hamlet out loud as a class.
One of my worst fears at the time was public speaking. No matter what the occasion, any time I had to speak up in a crowd, my heart would begin to race, my hands would clam up and my knees would wobble.
Mrs. Evans first asked the class if anyone would like to volunteer. I hoped and prayed that one of my peers would have the courage (because I knew I didn't) to raise their hand and save me from potential embarrassment.
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No one raised their hand, so, Mrs. Evans turned to her next best option, assigning the major parts.
"Hmmmm, Adam, you'll read the part of Hamlet," she said. "Sam, you will read for Claudius. Matt and Sean you will read for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern."
Mrs. Evans continued allocating the roles, and at this point I wasn't even listening to her. I was paralyzed by fear.
"Amy you will read for Gertrude. And….hmm, let's see here, Brittney, you will read for Ophelia."
My heart sank.
I was going to have to suck it up and read in front of the class, shaky voice and all.
As the other students began reading, I scanned through the play to see how many lines I actually had to read and when they would be. I had to prep myself for my big moment.
My lines at first were manageable—one or two sentences that I could rush through, and then quickly catch my breath as other students recited their lines.
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But then, before my eyes was my first long paragraph. I would have to build the stamina, courage and confidence to get through more than just one sentence.
I began reading, my voice trembling, "O, what a noble mind is here 'o'erthrown." I stopped and tried to take a deep breath, but my body wouldn't let me inhale or exhale. I was completely frozen.
I gasped and tried reading again, "The courtier's…" I murmured. It's all I could get out. I panicked. Why couldn't I breathe? Why couldn't I speak? Was I so completely self-conscious and nervous that my body decided to shut down?
I looked around the classroom in complete horror and reprimanded myself. "These people must think I am a total loser," I thought. "Am I really so shy that I can't even read a couple of lines out of a play. Pathetic."
I tried one last time to speak, "The courtier's, scholar's, soldier's, eye, tongue, sword…"
And with that, I was done. I had nothing left in me. I faked a couple of coughs and told the teacher I wasn't feeling well and wasn't going to be able to finish reading the remaining lines. I completely copped out.
The teacher assigned the role to someone else, and I sat there completely embarrassed and completely disappointed in myself.
So, What Happened?
That night I laid in my bed and replayed that humiliating moment in my head again and again.
I asked myself what had caused my body to react the way it did, and I came up with one answer: Lack of confidence.
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As I laid there, I came to the realization that the source of my shyness came from my inability to truly believe in myself.
Often times, I spoke quietly because I wasn't sure if I had the right answer. I didn't talk to new people because I feared rejection and I preferred keeping to myself, because I knew that was the one way I could avoid embarrassment.
What I recognized that night is that I am in control of my actions. Sure, certain people are born to be extroverts, and maybe I wasn't one of them, but I wasn't born self-conscious.
I have the choice to be confident, to believe in myself and to overcome my bashful ways.
That pivotal day, I decided to take charge of my emotions. I know I'm an easy going, talkative and goofy girl, and there's no reason I shouldn't share that with the rest of the world.
The following day in class, Mrs. Evans announced we'd be reading Hamlet again, and again she asked if anyone wanted to volunteer to read.
Guess who volunteered? Me.
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I knew that if I put myself out there, took control of the situation and knew in my heart and mind that I could speak to my peers, then I could! And I did.
I read without a problem, and even stayed after class to discuss what we'd taken away from the day's readings.
As a formerly shy individual, I know how hard it can be to get out of your comfort zone and take a risk, but, trust me, the moment you have faith in yourself, a world of opportunities open up.
Maybe you'll always describe yourself as an introvert, but that doesn't mean you can't have inner-confidence.
*Name has been changed.
If you enjoyed reading about my awkward school story, then you'll love THIS piece on my cringe-worthy first kiss.