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I’M A TEENAGER AND VERY SHY
Q I’m a 16-year-old girl and lack the confidence to interact with others. In school, I never answer questions even when I know the answers because I’m afraid. I mumble and stammer if I’m asked to speak. Can you help?
Youare not alone in being shy and worrying about talking in front of others. From CEOs to actors, I’ve known people of all ages who become anxious when they feel they might be judged by others.
At 16, you are in one of life’s transition phases. You are feeling your way to becoming an adult and one of the most common emotions many adolescents have to grapple with is feeling self-conscious. At your age, you can put pressure on yourself, because you feel you fall short when you compare yourself to your peers, especially when they seem much more confident than you. It seems to me that the most important thing you can do to help yourself grow that confidence is to really focus on the positives.
What you need to develop is the resilience to deal with life’s knock-backs. The only way you can do that is to take yourself out of your comfort zone and set yourself a few challenges.
Start small so that success can be experienced quickly; the feeling of achieving something you never thought you could boosts your confidence and spurs you on to go further. You mention you never answer questions in class. Well, my first challenge to you is to put your hand up and answer one. If you get it right, it will inevitably make you feel really positive. However, though you might not think it, there is always something positive to take away from getting it wrong too – you will learn what that feels like and realise the thought of it is actually worse than the experience. It’s a win-win situation, so put yourself out there and give it a try.
You would also benefit from joining some extracurricular activity where you will interact with others in a more relaxed and sociable way.
When it comes to mumbling, I want you to dig deep. Use a bigger voice. Pretend you are a more confident person, even assume a character and step into that personality. Doing this will allow you to step out of yourself and you will find that your confidence grows.
Confidence isn’t going to come knocking on your door – you must go out there and put yourself into situations where you can learn to grow it.
RUSSELL HEMMINGS is a life coach, and clinical and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist