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How can I help someone when I'm so shy and don't speak?

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Question - (7 April 2011) 2 Answers - (Newest, 8 April 2011)
A female United Kingdom age 30-35, *ettyBoup writes:

Hi,

I think one thing holds me back in life, from being myself, and that is I am painfully shy. I am acutly aware of how awkward I am in many social situations, any involving people I do not know, always in groups, even with my best friends, and even sometimes with my best friends. It is like I am watching myself, I talk like a robot on autopilot, and I am not able to be myself, or even handle myself appropriatly. I don't know what's wrong with me.

The thing is, it holds me back. I really want to train to be an art teacher or a counsellor or something like that, but I just seriously doubt that I would be able to do this, because of this issue. SOmetimes I just can't speak! It's like i'm mute, but I'm not. I know I'm not stupid and I believe I am equal and have the same rights as everyone else in this world, but I always feel I am inferior, always.

I know many people would think this is pathetic, and lazy to be pitying yourself like this. I should just get over myself and get on with being an adult and hurry up with my education and get a job already.

I'm just afraid that I will end up having to work in a shop for my whole life, because I am not able to handle myself with people. Everyone who meets me, professionally recognises I'm shy, and I feel there is a misunderstanding and prejudice, which I can completely understand. If someone doesn't express themself, or talk much at all, or squeeks like a mouse when asked a question, how can you respect that person and have confidence that they will be able to do a good job? I feel so ashamed and embarrased, I just want to hide away from the world, which I know is pathetic, and won't help.

I really do want to work with people. I get a real buzz out of helping people and working creatively with young adults. But I always feel that there is a mental block, holding me back from being a competant professional human being. It's so frustrating. And I bet it sounds crazy. Everyone gets shy. I do have friends and go out and function. I just remember in some of my classes at Uni, which involved talking in circles of people, I was never able to do this, and I still have never done this. I would just stumble over my words and go bright red.

I think I am getting better at handling myself, but I still am nowhere near as competant as everyone else I've ever met. So I just don't know how I would be able to train as a teacher and as for being a therapist, if I can't have a conversation with a stranger, how would I possibly be able to help someone therapeutically? I just want to go out there and live my life, but I always hold myself back. It's like something grabs a hold of me and just won't let me be myself. I can't think straight and I keep focusing on my failings.

View related questions: best friend, confidence, shy

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A male reader, idoneitagain Australia +, writes (8 April 2011):

It sounds to me like you are affected by anxiety, and that you may not know that you are affected by anxiety. I may be wrong that you do not know, as you mention that you have an interest in becoming a therapist, so you may have undergone your own experience of therapy and may have been told that you suffer from anxiety, but you don't make any mention of it in your post. I could also be wrong that you suffer from anxiety, if that word doesn't fit your experience there may be another term that better describes your experience. If you don't know one, feel free to come up with your own catch phrase that sums it up better than I can, but for the time being I will write from the anxiety perspective.

Suffering from anxiety is actually a different experience from being shy, or lasy. People who don't know that they suffer from anxiety, or what it is that they actually are being affected by, often have the feeling that they should just get over it, or that the fact that they are not able to do the things that other people can do leaves them feeling embarrassed, ashamed, isolated, lonely, misunderstood, frustrated, and angry. You don't need to beat yourself up over this, even though other people might not understand, and that you might have a hard time explaining to people what your experience is like, it is good for you to give yourself a break and know that your experience isn't like other peoples, and that some things genuinely are more difficult for you, and often take more time and more courage to get through than most people.

The good news is that you can get better, meaning that you can learn how to diminish the impact that anxiety has in your life, and learn what to do when it comes up. In other words, there are skills you can learn which will help you to talk when you are feeling shy, or in a group, or become mute. There are ways to overcome it. It might not ever go away, for some people it does and for others it doesn't, but you can make things better and for many people, lead a close to normal life. If you seek out ways to manage and overcome the ways in which anxiety is limiting you, your dream of becoming a teacher or counsellor is not out of reach for you.

I would advise looking to see if there are any anxiety support groups which are available in your area, and going to one. Many support groups are run for free and don't cost anything, they are set up by people in the community. They are useful because you can meet people who have similar experiences to you, and people who also suffer from anxiety but in a different way. If you go to a group, you will be invited to speak if you want to, or have anything to say, but you will not be expected to speak, as many people who have anxiety find it difficult to talk in groups, as you have mentioned. Going to a group is a great way to find out more information on what is affecting you, and what has worked for people to help them overcome their anxiety.

Going for counselling is also a great option if you can afford it, and is very effective in treating anxiety. There are also effective medications to treat anxiety, for some people this works better than any of the other options, but for others they prefer solutions that don't involve medication.

If you have any other questions about this feel free to send me a message, I will be offline for a few days but will respond when I am back online.

Good luck.

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A female reader, lonelygirl11 United Kingdom +, writes (7 April 2011):

I am the same except i have no friends or social life. Spent my school and college days alone only speaking when i really had to. I have been workin in a creche for 6 yrs now and only recently am i getting real confidence there i could hardly talk to parents or even ring to kids am bit better now if i alone with kids in room im fine with singing etc if someone there i dont do it at all. I am very very shy so you are not alone pm me if u wanna talk

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