Ever since I was young, I have always been very shy and reserved. I've often been told: Why don’t you talk? Say something! It's okay if you have anything to say. Say whatever comes to your mind! I do not hear anything! Speak louder! It did not improve with time.
My social anxiety has always held me back from becoming the person I wanted to be. When it started to affect my professional life, I knew I had to do something about it. I joined a Toastmasters club. Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that operates clubs worldwide for the purpose of helping members improve their communication, public speaking, and leadership skills.
I remember my first time like it was yesterday. I absolutely hated it! It was pure torture. Until then, I have always tried to avoid social situations, because of my social anxiety. But I persevered, even though I would have preferred to be at home in my pyjamas watching Netflix, I went to every meeting, I took roles every time. After a month, I did my Ice-breaker. This project marks the beginning of your Toastmasters journey. It is your opportunity to introduce yourself to the group and share something about yourself. I was in front of 30 people who expected me to talk about myself. I hated it! It took me 4 months to do my next speech. After that, I started doing one speech a month. I even started to like doing speeches.
Toastmasters is a safe environment to fail and make mistakes, everybody is there to support you and give you feedback to help you get better. It has really helped me connect with like-minded people by sharing my story, by being vulnerable. I made some awesome friends. I realize that I was not alone. I learned from someone in my club to accept myself as I am, not try to fit in. It's okay to be different.
I am so grateful for the people who believed in me when I could not believe in myself. The kindness and support of the people I met in Toastmasters helped me realize that I could be more than the girl who did not talk enough in meetings. It helped reveal the leader in me.
Groups and clubs are great places to practice social interaction with others who share the same interests that you do. Many groups exist, and you're sure to find one or more that cater to an activity or subject matter you're passionate about. This makes conversations easy as well. Especially, in these times of social distancing, it’s important to stay connected to others, even if it’s virtual. Most Toastmasters clubs are now doing online meetings. No reason to wait to join!
Remember that your attitude and will to change makes all the difference. Get off the sidelines, pick a social situation you'd normally avoid, and use these strategies to overcome your fears. Turn social situations into opportunities to learn, grow, and experience all that life has to offer.
P.S: If you haven’t found a community of like-minded people, you can click here to join my community of women who are suffering from social anxiety.
Maybe that is the first action that you must take right now, to overcome it.