The benefits of overcoming shyness

I used to be shy.

When I was in high school, I would have hated a teacher like me who made me get up and say anything to the class. I would have internally rolled my eyes to hear her say, “oh, don’t worry – it’s just us.” I just knew she had no way of understanding the horror of having people look at you while you are trying to say words and keep your face from going beet red (and trying to keep your voice from shaking, your lungs from  exploding because you keep inhaling but forget to exhale).

Well, I get it. But what I’ve learned is that allowing yourself to feel a bit uncomfortable in social situations, like speaking to a group, chatting it up with someone you don’t know or even making a phone call, you can overcome being afraid.  Just doing them a little bit at a time and recognizing that you didn’t actually die, you didn’t  say anything horribly embarrassingly wrong, and your lungs did not, indeed, explode builds up a sort of tolerance to that uncomfortable feeling, and before you know it, it’s not that big of a deal and you realize you had the power all along – just like Dorothy had with those ruby slippers.

I probably didn’t gain this perspective to the degree I now enjoy until I started teaching. To be sure, I had to get a lot better as a reporter and editor for my university newspaper, and then I moved on to work at my city’s newspaper. I remember being somewhat uncomfortable there, but what was more horrifying than calling up people I didn’t know for interviews was allowing those I worked with to know I was afraid. Motivation.

I LOVE chatting with people now. I’ve made great friends with new teachers, gotten comfortable talking with our publications’ ad clients, everyone at the school photographer’s studios, all the yearbook reps that come calling every spring trying to get my school’s business, parents of the kids I teach.

I met a new person this week who turned out to be fascinating, and I plan to get to know him better. When my three go-to substitutes were unavailable for a variety of reasons, I called on another gentleman who has been subbing at our high school this year. He worked out great with my kids, kept my freshmen in line and got them to work well in English, and he had some background in journalism, which turned out to be interesting for my news and yearbook staffs. What was also intriguing, I found out today, is that the man has two novels in progress. Oh, how I wanted to just chat instead of going back to classes after lunch. I made him promise to just come hang out sometime. Told him I had planned to be a novelist, too. Can’t wait to talk to him some more.

See, if I’d allowed myself to be ruled by my shyness, I’d never have met or gotten to know half the people I claim as friend today.

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About teachjournalism
I am a high school teacher of journalism, technology and reading. I advise the school's newspaper and yearbook, both student-led publications. Documenting and sharing my experiences is a way of reflecting to improve my own work and and inviting commentary so that we might all benefit. I believe, as I tell my students each year, that we all learn from each other.

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