How I Overcame My Shyness
When I tell people that I’m a member of my school’s speech team, the general response is a look of shock. “But you’re so quiet!” people exclaim. I can’t blame them for this kind of reaction. I’m your stereotypical nerd: I wear thick-framed glasses; I’m on the board of multiple honor societies, and, yes, I’m very shy. Even I am pleasantly surprised to see myself still participating in speech as a senior.
It all began freshman year. A couple of my best friends had older siblings on the speech team and were excited to join. Since I had acted on a couple occasions and love to write, my friends persuaded me to join, too. I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into. I was excited to put my writing skills to use, but the thought of speaking in front of a room of people was enough to make me weak in the knees.
What I did sign up for was memorizing eight minutes worth of my own writing, staying after school for hours, and waking up at the crack of dawn on Saturday mornings to competitively give speeches against other high school students in the area. In other words, something totally outside my comfort zone. When practicing my speech with the coach, my palms would sweat and my throat would go dry. I was terrified. What had started out as a chance to hang out with my friends was spiraling into disaster.
The Friday before my first speech meet I came into school early, nearly in tears, to talk to my coach. I told him that it was all too much and I wanted to quit. Gently, he reminded me of what I’d already accomplished. I’d written a speech about increasing fine arts spending in schools, something I felt passionate about. It was completely natural to be nervous for my first meet; this was something new to me. But it wasn’t OK to give up before even trying. He told me that the choice was mine to make, but I could use notecards when giving my speech since my memorization was still shaky.
To this day, waking up at 4:30 a.m. to deliver that speech was one of the best decisions of my high school career. As I began to talk, confidence started to rise in me. Each of my three rounds was better than the next as I grew more comfortable with my speech. It was my eight minutes to shine, to show why fine arts mattered. For a girl who was used to being talked over, interrupted, and left out of group conversations, I had never felt more empowered. This was my space, and I owned it.
Had I decided to quit before even giving speech team a try, I’d still be the girl who didn’t let out a peep during Socratic Seminars. I definitely wouldn’t be President of the National English Honor Society, which I am now. Speech has given me an outlet to share my ideas and grow as a person. Sure, public speaking isn’t everyone’s thing, and that’s OK. But push yourself to try something new, even if it’s scary. Quitting means missing out on opportunities that could forever shape you as a person or help you find your true passion.
By Abby Miller, 17