As I am sure quite a few of you can relate, I am often quite a shy and awkward person,and I have taken the Myers Briggs test, which labelled me as an introvert. In my head I struggle to maintain social interactions, and I find it draining most of the time. Sometimes I have difficulty speaking to new people, even close friends, and it is someting that has plagued me my entire life. Being shy, as I always saw it, was an inescapable hole that you could never climb out of - not even in your wildest dreams.
You have the ability to overcome this, and you have the ability to not let shyness, awkwardness, or introversion control your life.
I know that right now you are probably sitting there in disbelief thinking I have gone mad. But I promise you, anything is possible. Something that has helped me more than you can imagine is a simple mantra: fake it till you make it.
I'm not kidding. Don't think I'm crazy or silly, but this is a lifesaver. If you can fake any amount of confidence, and you can put on a brave face to the world, I promise no one is going to notice if your knees are knocking or your hands are shaking. When you use even the smallest shred of confidence in your manner of talking, or the way you walk, or anything then it is going to get you places.
I was a child who could not do Show & Tell in front of the class, I couldn't read out loud without stuttering over every second word let alone say a speech. In the lower grades of high school, like Year 8, 9, even 10, I could not say a speech. I would walk to the front of the classroom trembling and then I would take deep shaky breaths. My hands would shake and palm cards were the worst thing ever - they would always be dropped or messed up. I would say my speech, stuttering the whole way through, and finally sit down with my hands still shaking. Literally, that's what happened everytime.
But then, mid-way through Year 10, I thought: no, you know what? I can do these things. They aren't that scary. Even if I don't feel confident, I'm going to act like I am.
So, my first speech of Year 11 went okay. It wasn't brilliant by any means, but it was okay - it was a start. My teacher must have seen something in me though, and I was invited to say a speech at our school ANZAC Ceremony, along with a good friend Fiona. That went really, really well, and it was in front of a couple of hundred people. My knees still knocked and my hands still shook but I knew that I could get through it. I did.
And then, speech after speech for my classes rolled around and suddenly I was getting A's for them, and my teachers were smiling and my friends were telling me how well I spoke. Then, in October or so, I decided to go for School Captain. This process involved an interview, a speech to the staff, and a speech to the rest of my cohort. All these speeches terrified me so much that I nearly didn't do it. But I did, and everyone told me that it was one of the best speeches and that I spoke so confidently and that I looked so sure of myself. All I could think was: oh my god, I'm so scared, no I'm not confident, I'm just pretending.
But let me tell you: that prentending has helped in every way.
I can play on stage for concert band so much more calmly, and I play better. I gave a speech at the Year 12 Graduation in November, which was to over 600 parents and older students. I met the ex-Prime Minister of Australia, Keven Rudd, and could speak to him without stuttering. Hell, I'm School Captain now.
That pretending, that fake confidence that you think isn't going to do anything for you will. It will help you.
Don't hide behind your shyness, or awkwardness, or introversion for the rest of your life. I'm not saying that this cures you, nor am I saying that your knees won't knock and your hands won't shake - because they will. They will, and that is okay. The point is that you no longer let it control your life and how you interact with others.
So, please. Just try. I once read that if you choose what scares you more, then it is going to benefit your character more than playing it safe ever could.
Thank you, and be happy,