Have you ever felt your throat close up so when you try to talk, all that comes out is a harsh sound that barely resembles a voice? This happened to me countless times when I was called on in class during elementary school. As a young girl, I was extremely shy around people I did not know. Therefore, speaking in front of the entire classroom was my worst fear. I felt like they were all staring and making fun of me, while they probably were not even paying attention.
On the other hand, I was very comfortable talking around just my best friends. I wanted to become more outgoing, yet I could not get rid of the fear that confronted me in front of a large group of people. When I was forced to meet new people when I entered middle school, I became slightly more comfortable talking in front of a class, but I still would not voluntarily raise my hand. My shyness continued into the early years of high school, but I was able to make some new friends.
During sophomore year, I started working at my local Dairy Queen with my best friend Susie. A couple other girls began that season with us, but the rest of the workers were older than us. On summer nights, the college kids were left in charge of the place. Susie and I also worked with a couple of guys who were seniors in high school. All of these people were really fun to work with. Since the customers were on the other side of the window from us, all the workers could joke around without having to worry about offending the customers. The guys would sometimes just hang out in the back of the store playing games with each other.
I had an exciting time being in a new place, learning new responsibilities, and working as a team with my co-workers. When I began working cashier at the window I had to interact with people constantly, so I could not be shy. This meant talking loudly and clearly, and being friendly with everyone. Before long, I became comfortable enough to talk with customers easily. Since we were working together as a team, I learned to work the cash register quickly to keep the line down, leaving no time to think about being nervous about socializing with customers.
Throughout the three summers that I worked at Dairy Queen, my personality shifted. I developed the ability to communicate to adults, a skill I had trouble with before. When I went back to school, doing presentations in classes came much easier to me. I would raise my hand in class if I knew the answer or even if I had a question. When I came to college, I went out of my way to meet new people and try new things. I believe all you need is a change of setting to find yourself.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.