It shouldn’t be this hard to open my mouth.
Our elder has some tips on speaking up for an introvert who wants to stop holding back.
Q. Dear EWC
I want to stop holding back. I saw some people today – I want to greet them but I don’t. I went to church today, I wanted to greet the pastor – I wanted to but I don’t. I don’t why, if it’s fear or something. I don’t even know what am scared of. I go to do my hair. I want to talk say it’s not good enough but I don’t – my mind keeps urging me to but I don’t. They make the hair and I end up not liking it but I say nothing; just pay and go. I want to be social, I want to, but I am not, and I am not happy. I really want to stop. I mean it’s not so hard to open my mouth and let the words flow.
A. Elder Ms.Mary replies:
I’m sorry that you are afraid to speak up. You aren’t alone. Many of us have trouble saying what is on our minds. The main reason we are so self-conscious is that we worry about what others will think of us. We are afraid that they will judge us. It is a lack of self-confidence that holds us back. The funny thing is that most people are much more concerned with themselves than anyone else – they are giving you less attention than you’d imagine.
When I become self-conscious, I remember the title of a book I have – What You Think of Me is None of My Business by Terry Cole-Whitaker. That always makes me laugh and reminds me not to worry about it. It doesn’t matter what most people think; however, when you get right down to it, if they are a nice person and worth knowing, they will like you. If they didn’t, it would be a negative reflection on them, not you.
You may have heard the quote, “We all put our pants on the same way.” The meaning of that is that no one is essentially better or different than anyone else. When every materialistic thing is taken away, we are all human – equals (though special in our own way). Your pastor puts his pants on just like you do.
I have a few ideas that I hope will help you. First, make a list of all the things you appreciate about yourself. For instance, I like to think that I’m kind, caring, honest, funny, interested in other people, and I like my hair – lol.
Also, list your interests or things you like to do. For me, it would be animals, nature, walking, and reading, and art projects. The objective is to build your self-confidence and realize that you are a unique individual and have value. There is plenty about you that others will relate to. Look at your lists often.
Now for the nitty-gritty. My recommendation is that you pick one thing that isn’t too hard that you’d like to move forward on (e.g., greeting people or the pastor). Start simple, with just one thing. For several days before actually taking action, spend quiet time in your mind imagining how you want to feel when you do it (e.g., calm, eager, happy, satisfied, etc.). Visualize that until it feels good (and real). Also, imagine how you want the other/s to think or feel about you (e.g., you are friendly, pleasant, positive, easy to talk to, attentive, interesting, etc.). Picturing the situation ahead of time and savoring it will make it much easier for you when you take action.
At work, I was required to do some career development training for my colleagues many years ago. I was nervous and scared to stand up in front of the class. So, I practiced what I told you above. I imagined that I was confident and knowledgeable and that the individuals were having fun and enjoying my presentation. Other than my legs shaking the first few minutes, everything went smoothly. I use that exercise all the time now – even if I’m just going to get together with friends. In that instance, I visualize us all having a good time together. You could practice that before going to your hairdresser. Imagine feeling confident to tell her you’d like some changes and that she is eager to please you.
Another option that may be beneficial is writing affirmations. It is similar to the above exercise (though I find imagining/visualizing is more effective for me). Attached is a link if you are interested in trying that method: Writing affirmations The key to writing an effective affirmation is to make it present tense and about what you want, not what you don’t want (e.g., I am relaxed when I meet new people versus I don’t want to be nervous when I meet new people).
I hope my advice helps you. I’m happy to talk with you further if I can be of more help. Good luck opening your mouth and letting the words flow. I laughed when I read that, so I see you have a sense of humor. I’d love to hear back from you about how it goes if you feel like sharing.