How I Went From Very Shy to Less Shy

Confidence is not something that can be learned like a set of rules; confidence is a state of mind.

When I was a child, I was confident because at that time, I had no fear of the “unknown.”

In most cases, when we are young we just go with it and enjoy play, light conversation and meeting new people (making new friends) etc. There are no rules on how to be… we just are who we are at that moment in our young lives and we are not being judged by anyone. Perhaps the biggest decisions we make as children are; which toy to play with or which one of our friends are free to play jump rope with. (well.. in my day anyway)

Let’s talk about fear..  I have a very early example of this. 1973 aged 7- I was a Brownie and due to take part in a Christmas concert with my troop.. there must have been over 100 people in the audience (mainly proud parents.) We were performing “The 12 days of Christmas” and my part was.. “and a partridge in a pear tree.”

One line, easy to remember however; the act of delivering this was frightening. I was in the spotlight, which for most people is where they get stuck.  At that early stage in my life, I didn’t know about believing in myself or my abilities.. who would?  So I forced myself to sing to cue and almost missed my line once, before my troop leader gently tapped my shoulder to encourage me. The performance ended and I was relieved after many happy and proud parents applauded all of us kids. phewww.. it was over.

Why was I so afraid?  Why are people generally nervous and scared to be in the spotlight?  Actor’s who we perceive to be extremely confident also claim to be nervous every time they perform. Let me skip ahead to my working years and share with you how I overcame shyness.

So, “I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar” yes… really and this was the beginning of my confidence building because A) I was in the “spotlight” and B) I was “performing” in front of strangers.

My good performances resulted in rewards (tips) and when I was off kilter, not so much. 15 years in the hospitality industry overcoming public appearances face-to-face with happy people, grumpy people, celebrities and new event challenges, encouraged my   ability to feel more confident and so, I started a new challenge.

I began working for a globally recognised company and brand, where my people skills were valued even more. I rose from service advisor to sales advisor/ team leader and then technical advisor in less than 2 years. I was the go-to person for both customers and new recruit training and loved interacting with and helping people. As my training mentor has always said, “I could sell ice to an Eskimo” and had positive persuasion skills.  Positivity is a “state of mind” and so is confidence. So I soaked up all that I could in the 5 years that I was employed there before embarking on the adventure known as the next stage of my life. Hang in there, I’ll get to the point but if you’ve read my other blogs, you’ll know that I enjoy telling stories and taking you on a mental journey.

All aboard…. next stop North West, England.  A different culture and a new beginning. How did I prove myself to yet more strangers? My husband is one of the most confident people I know. Not arrogant by any means, but genuine and very approachable. He makes friends wherever he goes and I was never like that. He uses the “icebreaker” technique, which is such a simple concept, but one that you need to follow up and not be afraid to continue being yourself. I used to be the type of person that went to a party and stuck like glue to one or two people I knew in order to be part of it all, I didn’t have self-belief at that time or confidence in being myself to just mingle with anyone.  I was simply…ME. Me from the very beginning of this story. Happy to be a part of something but froze under pressure.  I must admit, with age comes a new kind of confidence and so I conjured up all of my powers and promised myself I would break down my wall.

After learning that a fair amount of companies   in the UK prefer presentations as a means to rate one’s confidence in an interview, I   swallowed my fear and came up with a plan.

During my first presentation, I decided to wear a mask. You think I’m kidding don’t you?  Well.. I wore my glasses, which provided a mask-like protection that physcologically helped my confidence, as I felt that I was not fully exposed. I performed pretty well and if it wasn’t for the lack of a driver’s licence, I would have gotten the job. Personally, I don’t believe in presentations as part of an interview because A) It’s not a natural   environment and  B) I believe in getting to know the person.

I’m a people person (as you’ve probably gathered) and generally have good feelings or intuitions. So, I played the game several times during my career, with no training just being me and spreading my passion about subjects, people and experiences.  I’ve created events, chaired meetings, started focus groups in order to share ideas and working   practices and find that focusing on liked-minded people, relationships and common goals is by far the best way to nurture   your mind and confidence. My state of mind has grown and so will yours if you’re true to yourself.

Some of the examples I’ve used might help you.  I’ll break them down briefly in 5 steps:

  1. Believe in yourself and take baby steps to master your fear
  2. Use a conversation “Icebreaker” and stick with the conversation
  3. Be yourself-It is much easier
  4. Wear or use something that comforts you or makes you feel more confident
  5. Be honest and talk about or do things that you know how to do (pretending is nerveracking)

I hope my story can help you in some way.

With love,

Hands-on

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