Unless you have been painfully shy, you will never understand how hard it is to say “Hello” first.

When I was younger, I was so shy, I found it even hard to say ‘hello’ to people. I always waited for someone else to say ‘hello’ first. Even at the checkout in the supermarket, I always waited for the cashier to speak to me first. Unless you’ve been painfully shy, you really don’t understand how hard it is, for shy people to speak up and take the lead and initiate a conversation. There are people that have judged me in my life and assumed what my self-worth would be, because I’ve been termed ‘pretty’ and weight issues were never really a problem for me. Unfortunately so many people think that these factors relate to self-worth. Well I’m here to tell you, from my experience, it doesn’t matter how others see you or how you outwardly see yourself, self worth comes from within and anyone can experience shyness, anxiety and self-worth issues. 

I was especially quiet and shy in group situations with people I did not know well, and the anxiety that gripped me if I even had to announce my name was overwhelming. On the scale of shyness, I was off the scale! People have even assumed that I was a snob because I never spoke much, not understanding that I didn’t speak because I had no self-worth, self-esteem and I always felt that my opinions, thoughts and perspectives would be judged and termed wrong if they were different to others. It took me a long time to understand that different does not mean wrong. It took me a long time to realise that my thoughts, feelings, perspectives and opinions are just as valid and are just as important as anyone else’s. 

In my experience, overcoming shyness is a lot about learning to like and accept yourself exactly as you are, and believing in yourself. it’s about learning to speak up and it means recognising your thoughts, opinions, perspectives and feelings are just as important as anyone else’s. It means starting to take those little steps every day to speak up. Say ‘hello’ to someone else first, initiate a conversation with a stranger and stop worrying about what everyone else thinks. It means recognising you’re equal to other people. And to treat yourself, like you would treat your best friend. We all have different strengths, unique qualities, and everyone has a story! A lot of people are actually very surprised when they take the time to listen to someone else’s story, and understand that person’s experiences and background.

So, Speak up and let your voice be heard, even if it’s so very hard to do so, even if your voice shakes, and even if you can just manage to speak a few words or even just one word to start off. It gets easier with time.

I learnt how to speak up, but I am in no way ready to do a key note public speaking gig in front of a 1000 people, and I still have degrees of anxiety in some situations. It’s not an easy road, but to understand the progress I have made, we need to take a look back into the past, and my experience was that I never spoke in a group situation if I didn’t have to, I stayed home in high school every time I was supposed to do a presentation in class, I never spoke in class unless I was forced to, and if the teacher directly asked me a question I would say ‘I don’t know’ even if I knew the answer, and sometimes I became so physically sick at family parties when I was kid, my Mum would have to bring me home. I was riddled with insecurities and I felt inferior to others all the time, and I was manipulated and taken advantage of by other people all of time. I was made to feel shame and guilt instead of being given love, support, compassion and understanding. I needed alcohol and a copious amount of it at that, to be able to socialise as an adult with other people in public situations and it was my confidence crutch back then, so as you can see I have come a long long way, and considering I didn’t start my self-love and self-confidence journey until around 10 years ago, I am extremely proud of where I am at. A friend of mine calls me the chasm jumper in the self-growth stakes.

I was around 39 years of age, when I ended my marriage, and I decided I wanted to be done with the shyness and social anxiety. Some of the steps I have taken in the past 10 years is, participating in presentation classes in public speaking, I joined Toastmasters for a very short time, I started writing, I learnt meditation and I joined meditation groups, I found good role models, I did workshops and classes learning about self love and spirituality, I took classes and workshops in activities that I’d always wanted to try, I started new hobbies, I undertook professional training and development, I did a few one on one coaching sessions, and I read a lot of self help books, to give you and understanding of how much investment it has taken to get me to where I am, and by doing so I learnt to love and approve of myself, faults and all. To be in the place I am today, and to feel the way I do, it has all been more than worth it.

It’s a journey, but the self-growth game is worth it.

I’ve also been through very challenging personal experiences, including surviving breast cancer and living through the horrific 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires, to name a couple, and these experiences changed my whole outlook and perspective on life. I am still working on myself, and I feel like it’s a lifelong journey.

My biggest goal is to become that motivational speaker who is ready to speak in front of those 1000 people.

If you’re reading this and you ‘get it’, my heart goes out to you. I want you to know that reducing social anxiety and shyness gets easier with practice, and you can learn to love yourself and believe in yourself, but results don’t happen overnight. It’s a journey where you decide to keep taking steps to reduce and overcome it, and you don’t give up. I want to tell you that if you resonate with what I am expressing, I believe in you and I know that you can find the courage to reduce and overcome your shyness and social anxiety too. 

If I can do it, so can you. xx

First published 17/12/2018. Updated 30/07/2021

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