“William, you’re up first,” the teacher said excitedly.
I was instantly anxious when my ninth-grade English teacher announced I would be the first person presenting. As I walked to the front of the classroom, I was fidgeting and could feel my face turning red. My classmates’ eyes followed me, looking like they were planning something. I started by introducing the title of the poem I was going to recite. I included some hand gestures and facial expressions while reciting the poem to make it better and less awkward, but I was still stiff. I felt like I did a solid job of engaging the audience and helping them understand the poem. People started applauding for me because they didn’t expect me to be that good because I was a shy dude. I finished by making some personal connections to the poem I chose. I went back to my seat, my face feeling hot because of how red I was. A classmate who sat next to me told me I did an outstanding job. This compliment really made my day because I thought I did OK. This experience was the moment I realized I had some hope of overcoming my social anxiety. At the end of the presentation I felt like it wasn’t that bad, and I overcame something that was always with me throughout middle school. Now, it could change.
Social anxiety has especially affected me during middle school. I probably first realized I had social anxiety when I had to present in front of the class in seventh grade; I felt a little weird as soon as my classmates’ eyes were on me. In the middle of my presentation, I started crying because my teacher insisted I continue after pausing multiple times because of my nervousness. Since I refused to present in front of the class again, my grade was an automatic zero.
I finally overcame my social anxiety after joining a program called Minnesota Business Venture, which was recommended by the college counselors. I signed up for it because it was going to help me feel and live a little bit of that college experience at St. Thomas by staying in dorms and learning on campus for a whole week. This program helped with my social anxiety significantly because I was able to see new faces and meet really kind people. Being in an inclusive environment allowed me to express myself better, without being judged or teased. I realized I have had some friends in the past who made me feel like I was kinda worthless. But since my peers from the St.Thomas program helped me and complimented me on my work. I felt like I had worth and confidence in expressing myself.
I noticed how having this social anxiety and awkwardness had really taken a toll on me and prevented me from making friends and feeling comfortable talking. I feel confident now that I’m opening up more. When it’s time to start college, I will be facing many obstacles, but I feel like I just took my biggest obstacle away. Joining a new university will help me start fresh. As I’m becoming friends with the right people, I will be able to feel more comfortable because I know I am able to socialize with strangers.
Through this program, an experience of meeting new people, I felt relieved and free. I interacted with random people and made new friends. Now, when I am connecting and collaborating with my classmates, teachers and relatives I am confident, feeling like I’m a new and improved person. What I learned is how putting yourself out there not only reduces your shyness; everyone can go far if they push themselves out of their comfort zone.