Think about your family, your friends, classmates, and even strangers on the street. Each person is completely different- a unique personality makes that person exactly who he or she is.
Some love to be the center of attention, laughing and carrying on. Others give off more menacing vibes, averting the attention of others. Then there are the ones who prefer to be obscure, keeping to themselves and just taking in their surroundings.
As I was growing up, I fell into the latter category- I was the “shy girl”. I barely talked in classes, presentations and standing up in front of the class was my worst nightmare, and I was extremely awkward when it came to talking to my crush at the time.
When I was in Kindergarten, however, the teachers could never get me to shut up. (My report cards even mentioned how talkative I was!) I loved being the center, which was evident from watching all the home videos I was in. I was constantly talking or dancing, trying to get in front of the camera screen.
As I have grown older, near the end of my high school and during my freshman year of college, I have started to grow out of my “shyness” and become the confident and talkative (just ask my friends, they can’t get me to shut up) person I currently am.
For those of you who can relate to the extreme shyness, you aren’t cursed with it forever. Unless you prefer it, then by all means, you do you. Yet, for the ones looking to get out of their comfort zones, there is plenty of ways to do so.
Join clubs, organizations, or volunteer.
The first way I started to get out of my comfort zone was by first joining clubs in high school, and then by doing the same thing in college. Both high schools and colleges have a huge variety of clubs that basically cover any interest you could think of.
Depending on the club or organization you choose to join, you may be faced with tasks pertaining to dealing with strangers, talking in front of groups of people, or putting on different events.
Forensics was one of the teams I was apart of in high school, which helped build my public speaking skills and fight my fear of speaking in front of strangers. Forensics meets are welcoming environments. Plus, everyone is there because they willingly chose to speak in front of a bunch of strangers, so that alone says something.
Other big organizations that helped me grow out of my shell were Student Council, National Honor Society, and in college- the Campus Activities Board (CAB). All three of these organizations pertain to either putting on events, community service, or serving a cause.
As I spent more time in these organizations, I started taking on more responsibilities, communicating with other members and outside contacts, and held a leadership position in each one.
Long story short, joining clubs gives you an opportunity to talk to others who have similar interests, give you valuable skill sets to take with you in life, and can put you in positions you normally wouldn’t put yourself in.
Get a part-time job or partake in an internship.
A few weeks before I turned sixteen, I got my first (and technically only) part time job at a McDonald’s in my town, and I credit a lot of my experience there to helping me overcome shyness.
Again, I was the quiet girl who barely talked to anyone at work when I first started. Three years later, I hold the position of Crew Trainer, where I have to talk to and help train the new employees. Not to mention, numerous managers have commented on how much more talkative I am.
Now before you wrinkle your nose and say you don’t want to work a sometimes-unpleasant part time job, there is more than McDonald’s (and any other job I’m sure) then flipping hamburgers.
In a fast-food atmosphere, you are practicing communication skills. You communicate with customers to ensure a pleasant visit and you communicate with your co-workers in order to provide accuracy and effectiveness. If one detail isn’t communicated correctly, it can mess up the whole order or process.
Through a fast-food service job you learn both the positives and negatives of customer service. In my three years of working at McDonald’s, I have had really good experiences with customers, where they say something that makes your day or proud of the job you’ve done. But I have also had very bad experiences where customers will do anything out of their way to be negative and unpleasant.
Through these experiences you grow a thicker skin, and learn to bite your tongue and act pleasantly (even though your thoughts aren’t as pleasant).
Internships are also a great way to learn different skills and make new contacts in a short period of time. Internships often only last for a couple weeks to a year, so if the job is a not a good fit for you, you won’t be spending a lot of time there.
During my training with CAB, we were told countless times that we would be put outside of our comfort zone during our time working. While working outside your comfort zone is often not the ideal feeling, myself and the rest of the Executive Board easily changed this into a positive goal- we wanted to be put outside of our comfort zone, as it would be a challenge and would help us grow.
Take risks, do something you consider to be out of the ordinary for you, or even just speak up and voice your opinions more often.
You know yourself the best, do the things you think will impact you the most, and even the most minuscule thing is progress.