My pale skin didn’t only annoy me when it came to summertime and I had to lurk in the shadows with factor 50 on for fear of being a burnt red crisp but also because it would always give the game away if I blushed.
Which used to happen. A lot.
If a teacher asked me a question in class. If I accidentally did something wrong. When I was in an unfamiliar environment. If a ‘popular girl’ or – god forbid, a boy – spoke to me. My pale skin would flare up and my cheeks would stay crimson for a good ten minutes.
I don’t quite know when my shyness kicked in but I think it was around 10 years old and then lingered most of the way through high school until GCSEs. I wasn’t at all shy amongst my friends or family but anyone outside of that, well, they would have seen the full force of the blushing.
It’s not like I couldn’t talk to people at all but I would be constantly over-analysing everything I was saying, how I was coming across and worrying about what to say next. And of course, blushing all the while.
The trigger that caused me to change was actually hearing that someone thought another person (let’s call her Jane) was rude, when I knew the real reason was that Jane was shy too. As a people-pleaser, hearing that I could potentially be coming across rude too made me determined to try harder to battle my shyness and project a better image of myself. I vowed then to do something each day that would scare my shyness, for if I could battle these fears, then what was there left to be worried about?
It started off small. Perhaps reading aloud in class, answering a question I wasn’t sure about (and realising that it was no big deal if it was wrong) or starting a conversation with someone I didn’t know that well. Then it got bigger. First job as a waitress. Learning to drive. Travelling for a weekend abroad with a bunch of peers that I didn’t know.
Losing my shyness wasn’t an immediate thing but slipped away along with the more experiences I had and the more ‘fears’ I exposed myself to. By the time I hit year 11, I was ready to meet new people, make new friends and happy to be more vocal. And then when I left Uni, I began a career in PR, where my job is to constantly talk to people, sell the brand I am working on, network and confidently share ideas in meetings.
That isn’t to say that I don’t still have my shy moments and fears that still scare me – presenting still leaves me with a horrible jolt of fear in my stomach. But I think that naturally the older we get and the more experiences we have, the less we worry about ourselves and the more we put things into a bigger picture. These days, the thought of ‘what do they think about me?’ holds me back far less and instead I am more interested in the person I am talking to and what they are saying, not what I should say or do next.
Yes it’s funny that the blushing 10 year old me would end up in a career that is all about communication but it just goes to show that even if you are a shy person and don’t think things will ever change, with a little self-challenging, they can. Unlike my skin in the sun. A lifetime supply of SPF50 will be needed for that.
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