Jennie is my next door neighbor. When I read her story I was shocked. One of my favorite things about Jennie is how comfortable she is with herself. I love being around her because she doesn’t try to be anything other than herself. It’s so refreshing! We can all learn a lot from her. Thanks for sharing Jennie!
Most of my friends today would probably have a hard time believing that when I was young, I was probably one of the most shy people on the entire planet. I talked plenty and was pretty normal at home, but I would hardly say anything while spending the entire day at my babysitter’s house, prior to starting school. It only grew worse in kindergarten. I spent the entire year of kindergarten not saying a single word to my teacher or any of my classmates. I would often get the lid of my cardboard pencil box stuck down inside the box and couldn’t get it out. I would take it to my teacher and just hold it out to her. One time she told me she wouldn’t fix it again unless I asked her to. Of course, it happened again, I wouldn’t ask, and she just had to fix it for me. Another time I was muttering something to myself while doing some work at my desk and was caught by the student sitting next to me. I remember them proclaiming, “She speaks!” I was horrified. At recess I would just walk around the playground and observe all the other kids playing because I refused to talk with any of them.
Luckily, this didn’t continue in 1st grade, but I continued to be quite shy the rest of my school years. I never raised my hand. I only answered questions if I was called on. I would offer the bare minimum participation if it was a class where my grade depended on it. I would get very nervous to give presentations in front of my class. I had friends and hung out with them at lunch, but usually offered very little to any conversations. I was the best listener in that period of my life. My friends could tell me anything because they knew I wouldn’t pass it on to others.
Sports have always been a huge part of my life and they were a haven for me as I grew up so shy. In elementary school I was usually found on the playground to be playing tetherball, handball, basketball or football. I could enjoy my passions without having to say a whole lot while participating. I played on softball and soccer teams every year and gained most of my friendships, outside of church, from participating on a team.
I also had an amazing friend that came into my life when I was a freshman in high school. Our ward boundaries at church were changed that year and I was super upset about it at first. My closest friend at church, who had been my friend since 2nd grade, was being moved into a different ward. I was already shy and was starting high school, so this was bad timing, or so I thought. However, after some new families were put into our ward, a girl from one of them really showed interest in being my friend. She pursued our friendship very hard and was really able to get me to open up to someone outside my family more than I ever had before. We became inseparable throughout my years in high school.
Besides this friend, my biggest joys in high school came from playing on our varsity softball team for four years. Our team was really good! We were named National Champions my senior year by USA Today. Spending four years on this team, playing with at least three future USA softball team members and winning championships really helped me to develop a strong confidence in myself despite my natural shyness. At the softball banquet at the end of each year, the seniors would give speeches. Of course, this really stressed me out leading up to my senior year, knowing I would one day have to deliver a speech to our team, coaches, parents, and whoever else was there. During my senior year I would sometimes be asked by teammates what I planned to say at the banquet. I would always reply that I wasn’t sure. The banquet arrived and the three other seniors all had their speeches written out and prepared and they were visibly nervous, which is normally how I expected to be. They were shocked to see that I didn’t have a speech prepared on paper at all! I had experience giving talks in church each year, as a youth, to the entire congregation, so I was blessed to have more public speaking experience than my other teammates. They had probably only spoken in front of classes, and therefore, were about to deliver a speech to their largest crowd. They all gave pretty quick speeches and then I took my turn last. I went to the microphone and just started speaking. I told stories and memories from my four years on the team, talked far longer than the others, and then ended my speech. The room was in complete amazement of what I had just done!
After high school, I left southern CA and went to Ricks College in Rexburg, ID. I didn’t know a single person who was going to Ricks College that year and I was about to meet five roommates I knew nothing about. I had gained confidence in myself through high school while playing softball, having a close friend and learning how to speak in public. I decided that I was going to completely change as I went off to college. When everyone knew me as the shy kid it was hard to change into anything else, especially when it was against my nature, and I was comfortable in that role. However, as I was starting from scratch in a new environment, where no one knew me or had labeled me, I was able to find the confidence to put myself out there, open up to others, and offer my opinions in classes, at church, or in social situations. I found my college years to be very rewarding as I made some great friends, continued to play softball on the Ricks College team, pursued new interests, and found new passions.
Today, I feel far away from that deathly shy little girl. Today, as many probably know, it is hard to get me to stop talking when I am roped into a conversation about one of my passions: sports, politics, the gospel, my family, my hobbies, etc. When I speak in public, give talks at church, or teach a lesson, I still don’t write the entire thing out. I just have an index card with some notes and a direction for where I want my thoughts to go. I am living proof that our weaknesses can become strengths! The more I connect with others, the more I have become my true self. I believe shyness may have been my true nature then, but I was meant to learn, grow, and overcome that nature so that I could reach my full potential. I have been on a few retreats with Get Out There Girl and I have never felt out of place or uncomfortable, even if I didn’t know a majority of the women there. I love that I can feel comfortable around others, especially those I am getting to know. Being shy was very restrictive, but leaving it behind has been freeing!