I was a shy kid. I remember a time my favorite person (non-family) in the world was giving a presentation and asked me to help him out by saying one word into a microphone. I couldn’t do it. I would have absolutely, without hesitation, done almost anything else for him, but I couldn’t speak in front of a group, especially into a microphone. Telling him no was extremely painful as well, so it wasn’t something I took lightly.
There were a few tortured incidents in high school where I had to give a speech. I think at least one was even videotaped in class. I somehow managed not to have to watch the playback. They were very short and I lived through them.
I wasn’t particularly shy in front of my family and others that I knew well, but there was no way I was going to contribute to any kind of formal conversation, presentation, or meeting where all eyes were going to be on me. One-on-one conversations, often with older adults, were usually a piece of cake. I could make conversation, although sometimes if I was the one having to keep it going, it could (and still can!) tire me out mentally.
As a young adult, through life experiences and job experiences and probably just natural maturity, I was able to slowly start speaking at meetings, contributing occasional ideas or answering questions and the like.
As a somewhat older adult, I’ve led meetings. Nothing high-pressure, but small club meetings and informal gatherings. I’m not usually even slightly nervous any more.
Fast-forward to the past month or two. I tried out for, and got a part in, a play in a local theater. My mom, who is also reserved, asked if we are even related. Ha! Obviously, given my history, I have not been in a play before, even as a child. I just felt it was something I’d like to try, and it has been a GREAT experience! 🙂 I’m not the best one in the cast, but I’m not embarrassing myself, so I’ll take it. There have been times when I have struggled with memorizing the lines (I have never memorized any written material prior to this) and facing forward and speaking up and all the nuances of stage acting that I’m trying to grasp. I’m working on being more dramatic in my delivery, too, because IRL I can be crazy-loud and have no problem acting silly, but on the stage, I’m trying not to be ridiculous and yet trying to emote. I have absolutely felt like giving up during the process, but am so glad I didn’t. It would have been disappointing to myself and a real inconvenience for the director and cast to find someone else to take on the role without much time to rehearse.
The weird part is, when we go on stage, I’m not very nervous. I am alert, for sure, because I don’t want to mess up my lines and I need to keep my concentration, but my stomach has been free of butterflies. One deep breath before walking out there has been sufficient.
I’ve heard that people like Dana Carvey, Will Farrell and Audrey Hepburn are/were actually shy people. I don’t really feel like I have any inner characters that are just dying to break out of me onto the stage or that my inner creativity is blossoming into this dramatic persona that has been in hiding. I just know that it has been a fun and rewarding and strengthening experience and I highly recommend getting out of your comfort zone if you possibly can. After all, we’re all just people that put our pants on one leg at a time, as the saying goes. It’s not life or death if you do it and mess up or do it and don’t like it.
PS: My family has yet to see the show, so I MAY ACTUALLY DIE. Still TBD. I’m more nervous speaking in front of people I know than in front of strangers!