From Shy To Shine: Stepping Out Of My Comfort Zone

April 16, 2024

Overcoming my social anxiety has been quite an adventure. I have struggled with feeling awkward and self-conscious in social settings for as long as I can remember—whether it was mumbling as a kid or avoiding eye contact as an adult. Now in my twenties, I am ready to tackle these issues head-on. From seeing a therapist to taking public speaking classes, I have picked up strategies that have slowly been helping me feel more comfortable and confident around others. This blog is all about the steps I have taken to get better at handling social situations, from learning new breathing techniques to reshaping how I think and look at myself.

How Breathing Affects Confidence

It might seem trivial, but the way we breathe can profoundly influence our mental state, especially in social settings. I used to find myself taking quick, shallow breaths whenever I was in a group, which only amplified my anxiety, sometimes to the point of feeling dizzy or on the verge of a panic attack. Recognizing this pattern was the first step in learning to manage it.

I learned to shift my focus to deeper, more deliberate breathing. This not only increases my oxygen intake, improving my overall blood flow but also helps stabilize my thoughts and reduce physical symptoms of anxiety. Additionally, I began to practice speaking while maintaining these deep breaths, which helped prevent my voice from sounding strained or breathless. The result has been remarkable; now, when I engage in conversations, I do so with much more confidence and less physical discomfort, making each interaction less daunting and more enjoyable.

Practicing With Close Friends And Family

Transitioning from managing my breaths to actual conversations, I started where I felt safest: with my family and closest friends. These are the people with whom I can be my true self, without the fear of judgment if I stumble over words or lose my train of thought. Lately, I have made it a point to engage more frequently with them by sharing stories, jokes, or simply discussing how our days went. This practice has been instrumental in boosting my confidence, helping me to feel more assured in my ability to converse smoothly.

Interestingly, I have kept quiet about the fact that these are, in essence, practice sessions for me. I wanted to preserve the genuineness of our interactions and the results have been rewarding. Not only has this strategy been a cornerstone in my fight against social anxiety, but it has also deepened my relationships, enriching the time we spend together and reminding me of the joys of close, personal connections.

Public Speaking Classes

Building on the comfort I developed with family and friends, I took the next step to broaden my social horizon by placing myself amidst larger groups. The push to expand my comfort zone led me to public speaking classes—a suggestion from my therapist that initially filled me with dread. Yet, these classes have proven to be a safe space to experiment with and refine my communication skills, especially in environments that previously seemed a little too much for me. The structured setting helps mitigate my anxiety, offering a gradual path to ease into group interactions without the immediate pressure of socializing freely.

This strategy of incremental exposure has been transformative. In each session, I am learning not just to speak but to listen, respond, and engage in ways that feel increasingly natural. As I interact with fellow class members who are equally eager to overcome their hurdles, I find encouragement and real-time practice essential for my growth. My previous tendency to withdraw from group settings is slowly giving way to a newfound eagerness to participate, signaling a significant shift in my journey toward overcoming social anxiety.

Addressing My Most Prominent Insecurity

Amid my social interactions, one persistent barrier has always been my own discomfort with my nose. Its prominence has long been a source of self-consciousness, often drawing my focus during conversations. The nagging thought that others might fixate on it as much as I do only heightened my anxiety in social settings. After years of feeling hindered by this aspect of my appearance, I have decided to embrace a change that could not only enhance my self-esteem but also alleviate the mental burden it imposes.

Deciding on rhinoplasty was not a decision made lightly, but it represents a step towards aligning my external self with how I feel inside. By addressing this longstanding insecurity, I aim to remove a significant distraction from my social interactions, potentially making engaging with others less stressful and more enjoyable.

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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