Monday, February 6, 2012


for today's post, i wanted to share a story of shyness.  this story made me reconsider how confident we are vs. how confident we may appear to be.  

in Dr. Broomhead's choir class, he has all of his students do something to get out of their comfort zone.  he shares a story (anonymously) every class period.  i think his reasoning is that we will be better singers if we don't worry about how we are perceived.

what i have come to realize is that by looking at someone, you cannot tell how comfortable they are.  you can't see the hidden anxieties and little quirks that people have.  what may be easy for you can be painfully uncomfortable for others.  

while reading this story, i want you to think about this person.  they have a really hard time trying to sit and eat with a stranger.  what makes he/she uncomfortable with the situation?  why is it any harder to do than sitting with friends or eating alone?  If you have your own shyness story, or if there is something funny that causes you anxiety, share it.  also give your comments on the story:

For my comfort zone assignment I decided to do something I have been wanting to do for a long time: eat with someone else at the Morris Center.  Every day after class, I eat dinner there.  I don't know many people, so I always eat alone.  When we started talking about getting out of our comfort zone, I realized that this would be the perfect opportunity to do what I already wanted to do.  

Tuesday after class, I was pumped up and ready to go.  I started making plans as I walked.  As I got my food, I was going to look for other people who were eating alone.  I didn't want to interrupt an important conversation, or make a date situation super awkward.  I figured the easiest thing would be to ask some other loner if I could eat with them.  As I approached the Morris Center, my stomach began to turn in anticipation.  My earlier excitement had abated, and I began to be fearful.

I got a tray and started to get some food, scanning the room for people that were eating alone.  There was a girl near the entrance, a guy with headphones near the fruit, and another guy who looked really serious all alone at one of the long tables.  I didn't want to sit with any of them!  I just wanted to sit alone!  

"I always sit alone!" I told myself.  "Why should today be any different?  Can't I do something less out of my comfort zone? Something I'm comfortable with?"

"No!" I told myself.  "If you do something you are comfortable with, you're not getting out of your comfort zone."

I knew I was right.  I argue with myself a lot, and I'm always right.  I decided to sit with the girl by the entrance--the least intimidating of my options.  I walked towards her---and right past her--and sat at the next table.  

I was furious with myself.  Why couldn't I do it?  I wanted to get up and move to her table, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.  How awkward would that be, to sit at the table next to her and then move to her table a few seconds later? What would I say, "Uh, excuse me, but I meant to sit at your table, and I accidentally sat at this one."  So instead of subjecting myself to that awkwardness, I spend the next 45 minutes (far longer than it usually takes me to eat) beating myself up about it.  Because of my inability to face my fears, I was angry at myself.  Wasn't I strong enough to talk to a stranger for a few minutes? What is the worst thing that could have happened? 

I imagined a worst-case scenario: I walk up and say, "Hey, do you mind if I join you?" Girl: "Yeah, I actually eat alone because I like being alone.  You better not sit here you weirdo.  If you try it, I'll move to another table."  How bad would that be?  I continued to think about it.  I guess there is another scenario that could be worse.  I walk up and ask the same question: "Hey, do you mind if I join you?" Girl: "No problem, go ahead.  But watch out--I'm a dangerous psychopath, I can read your mind, and I have several highly contagious diseases."  Though it seems unlikely, I imagine that could be a possible outcome...

In the end, the girl finished her meal and left.  After several more minutes of increasing frustration, I also left, thinking of something else I could do for my comfort zone assignment.

I could end the story at this point--I felt like I had gone quite a way out of my comfort zone just considering sitting with someone.  However, the very next day, I found myself walking to the Morris Center after class.

Long story short--I did the same thing, and again experienced the torment of determining who to sit with.  I actually walked two or three laps around the cafeteria before making up my mind.  When I decided to sit down, it was mostly because my arms were tired from holding my food-laden tray.  Besides, I was afraid that the staff would notice me wandering around and ask what I was doing.
I sat with this guy right by the entrance.  He was kind enough to allow me to sit with him.  We talked about his missionary service and swapped stories about our jobs. I ended up spending about 45 minutes at dinner (again, much longer than I am accustomed to) because I had such a great conversation with him.

In the end, I am glad I stepped outside of my comfort zone.  I'm not sure if I want to make it a habit--the idea is still terrifying--but I had a good experience, and despite my initial failure, I proved that I am capable of facing my fears.


  1. Hahaha did you write this for me? :) Just kidding i know you didn't. But, anxiety is the worst.

  2. So I had been in Dr. Broomhead's section of chorale because it fit better in my schedule, but I dropped it as soon as he mentioned this assignment.

  3. This is basically what my final show was about and something i'm really interested in. In contrast to the example given, I have a hard time being alone in pubic/social environments. My solution is either to avoid them, or brave them but feel completely unsettled. Rationally I know nobody really notices, but somehow I feel everyone does. It makes me want to shrink or disappear. Hence:

  4. J, I am so surprised that you had a hard time with this. As a little boy, you used to talk to strangers everywhere we went, and make friends with all of them. I guess you don't remember that anymore... But you did! And you weren't shy at all. Besides, you never know...that girl may have been THE ONE!!! Love you, Mom