So it turns out that the days my blog is most popular are usually days on which I’ve written about something slightly scandalous or some kind of deep, secret confession. Fortunately, I seem to really enjoy baring my soul on a regular basis, but unfortunately, I don’t live a very scandalous life. But whenever I write about my secrets, it seems to appeal to people.
One of those posts was written just a few weeks ago, when I confessed to being very uncomfortable in big groups of people. Guess what? It turns out that there’s a whole bunch of you out there who feel exactly the same way! Isn’t it funny to think that we could all be in the same big group of people, all feeling uncomfortable, and we wouldn’t be able to tell that we aren’t alone? People hide their insecurities and weaknesses as far down as they can stuff them, and put on an act. Or else they avoid the situations that makes them feel insecure or inadequate.
So that means we’re all walking around, living life, with our secret, hidden feelings of not measuring up to the perfect standard. That sounds unnecessary and uncomfortable to me.
I shared in my post that I was going to take some steps to change how I act in big groups of people. I wasn’t sure how to do that, so I googled, “How to get over being shy in big groups of people.” And I found some fantastic results! It’s given me lots to think about. You can check out my favorite find here. It has 20 steps to overcoming shyness. (I love numbered steps. Why is that?)
But the most useful thing I learned is that there are three different reasons for feeling shy, and it turns out that mine is “pre-occupation with self.” Doesn’t that sound nasty and self-centered?
But it’s true. I’m not actually shy, like I thought. I love people. I love talking with people. I love talking to large groups of people, as long as I have a mike in my hand, and everybody has to listen to me. The only thing I don’t like is being in a room full of people, on my own, needing to approach somebody to talk to. It’s kind of silly when you think about it.
The article I found describes it like this:
When we’re around other people, we become extremely sensitive to what we’re doing, as if we’ve been put on center stage. This creates anxiety and makes us question our every move. Our focus centers around ourselves and particularly on “what I was doing wrong”. This can cause a downward spiral.
Yup, that pretty much sums it up. I’m extremely comfortable on center stage when I’m speaking publicly, but for some reason, when I’m one of the crowd but all on my own, I think that everyone is watching me in all my awkwardness. I don’t know exactly why this is, but I can think of some pretty scarring experiences from my past when my mistakes were brought to attention in front of a large group of people, so it probably has to do with that.
So now I stand there thinking something like this, “Who can I talk to? I’m standing here all by myself – I need to find someone, quick! People are going to start noticing that I have no one to talk to, and they’re going to think it’s lame that I’m all by myself. No one wants to be with me! Where’s Ben? He’s busy talking with people. Should I go stand by him, just so that I feel safe? I want to go home! My clothes don’t look as cool as everyone else’s. That girl has extremely beautiful hair. I don’t think my hair looks very good right now. I’ll go get a drink of water, because then I’ll look like I have a purpose, and it will disguise the fact that I have no one to talk to. No one else looks as uncomfortable as I feel. Everyone else is having a great time. I’m having a terrible time. Where can I go hide?”
So I go for lots of drinks of water, or I go to the bathroom when I don’t really need to go. Anything to avoid standing there all by myself.
There. All of my silliness, exposed. I’ll regret that tomorrow. I might delete that all later, we’ll see.
Anyway. I’m guessing (…hoping?) that I’m not the only person in the world who feels that stuff and thinks like that.
I don’t enjoy it. And there’s another problem with it. Someday, I really hope to have more opportunities to speak publicly and stuff. And write my book and go on book tours. Things like that.
And chances are that it will be necessary for me to be in large groups of people. Possibly without Ben to save me. And I’m really tired of feeling inadequate and insecure in that setting.
But the biggest problem with it all is that I’m thinking only of myself. I’ve never actually taken the time to think of other people who might be feeling really uncomfortable. And I’ve missed out on potentially fantastic one-on-one conversations because I avoid approaching people.
Enough of that. If it is true that developing a skill gives a person confidence, I want in.
This has been on my mind a lot, and then just this week, Jon Acuff wrote a fantastic post about fear that you can find here. I loved it. Here’s my favorite part:
When we’re afraid of something we often think we should be awesome at it right away. We’d never assume we’d run a great half marathon without training first, but when it comes to public speaking, or asking for a favor, or writing, we assume we’ve got to be great at it right away. That’s not true though. Part of the reason I’m afraid of asking for favors is that I rarely do it. I’m not good at it because I’ve never done it that often. But what if I practiced? What if I gave myself the grace and patience to get better at it? What if I looked at every no I got as one more coin in the “getting better” bucket instead of as an abject failure? I think that would change things. Fear hates practice because it tends to kill it.
So there you have it. I’m going to practice. The good news is that the busy season of camp starts in one month, and I will get plenty of opportunities to practice my large-group-of-people skills. The bad news is that now, whoever reads my blog will know why I keep getting drinks of water, and going to the bathroom! Shoot, my cover is blown.
What’s your secret fear? Are you brave enough to leave a comment and let us know??