This post is dedicated to those that knew me in high school, when I was so shy and quiet that a couple people affectionately referred to me as “Quiet Girl.”
For those of you naturally shy and quiet individuals looking to step outside your comfort zone and develop a little more confidence, I’ve outlined how I went from “Quiet Girl” to “Slightly Less Shy And Definitely More Confident Girl” (who’s very aware she’s bad at coming up with new nicknames).
I’d love for you to try some of my methods, let me know how they worked for you, and share some of your own ways that you push yourself outside your comfort zone.
You see, when I was in high school, I was the stereotypical shy, smart, and, well, quiet girl. I talked to the people I was friends with, and otherwise kept to myself. I didn’t like speaking up in class, and when it came to giving presentations, I stammered and shook through so many of them it’s honestly amazing I never passed out from pure embarrassment during any of them. I preferred to hide behind my textbook and give absolute minimal class participation.
Somewhere between sophomore and junior year of high school, I decided that my dream in life was to work in marketing. You can imagine the dilemma I faced when I realized that meant I needed to become more comfortable talking to people, pronto.
In order to do so, I’ve learned that each and every day I need to push myself out of my comfort zone by consistently putting myself in situations where I have to talk to people.
I didn’t wake up one day with the sudden ability to communicate better with others, there were small steps I took each day, some of which were as simple as:
- Striking up conversations with people standing near me in lines.
- Asking grocery store clerks how their day is going.
- Introducing myself to people sitting next to me in class.
- Attending networking events and talking to at least one new person.
Once I started feeling more comfortable talking to new people, I stepped it up and pushed myself outside my comfort zone so I could get used to speaking in front of large groups of people, by:
- Making a point to speak up at least once in class or meetings.
- Taking the lead on any and all group projects.
- Going for leadership positions in clubs I was passionate about.
- Signing up to be a peer mentor (teaching assistant).
Doing all of this helped me develop enough confidence to go for internships, where I learned to prepare and present information for my employers, cold-call potential contacts, and make new connections at every event I attend. I no longer cringe at the thought of meeting a new person or giving a presentation.
In every single one of the situations I put myself, I had (and often still have) the intense fear of messing up, looking ridiculous, and being rejected by my peers, but I never gave up. I kept putting myself into these situations until I was almost completely comfortable with them.
That’s the key to stepping outside your comfort zone. You have to face your fears head on, and keep pushing. You don’t have to do it all at once; you can take baby steps. After a while, it becomes natural to you, and you find yourself doing things you might have once thought were impossible.
“Our brains are wired such that it’s difficult to take action until we feel at least some stress and discomfort. In fact, performance peaks when we’re well out of our comfort zone.”- Dr. Travis Bradberry
The trickiest part for us Quiet Girls (and Quiet Guys) is the feeling that we need to have our thoughts completely in order before we can offer our opinion. That’s a problem, because often we don’t feel ready until the conversation is already over.
“Sometimes, by the time I have my thoughts together, the moment has passed.” –Nicole Booz
Here are a few last tips to help you overcome that feeling and develop the confidence to speak up:
- Think out loud. Talking through an idea with a partner (or partners) can help you develop a better understanding of a situation, leading to more effective and efficient resolutions.
- Do your research. Come prepared with information you can refer back to if you need to, so if anyone directs the spotlight on you, you’re not left with a deer-in-the-headlights look.
- Make a “to do list.” Outline all of the points you want to address in a conversation or meeting. Use them as a checklist and make sure each point gets addressed.
- Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Many of us remain quiet because we are afraid of being laughed at or judged. Embrace who you are, and don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through.
Again, I challenge you to try some of my methods. They may work for you, they may not. If you have other ways that you push yourself outside your comfort zone, I’d love to hear them. Share your comments below!