Guest post by Justin Harmon
Growing up can be a real challenge. Add in an inner battle with a constant fear that comes with social anxiety doesn't make it any easier.
I’ve always been a socially awkward person. I never really knew how to talk to people. Except for a small group of close friends and my family, I always had a really hard time conversing with others.
It wasn’t always this way though. It used to be a lot worse.
Shy, Awkward, and Consumed by Fear
As a child I was extremely shy, nervous, and awkward. I did my best to make it through the school years without being noticed.
I never raised my hand in school, cried the night before having to give a speech, and when it came to talking to girls…forget about it.
When I got to high school, I had a close knit group of friends, so I wasn’t a complete mess. The shyness subsided some by then. I could actually make it through a day without someone discovering how pathetic I was.
Like I needed their approval.
Of course it was all in my mind, but there was nothing I could do to change it. I was too consumed with my own thoughts. Thinking about what others thought of me. Scared of being rejected. I wanted no part of it.
It felt a lot easier to hide in the shadows rather than risk the chance of being embarrassed, rejected, judged, or burned at the stake. That’s how serious it felt.
The Truth is Hidden
The truth is, of course I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to experience the feeling that came with being popular, good at sports, and smooth with the girls. I wanted other kids to notice me.
I just couldn’t find the courage to attempt any of it. I didn’t know how to change and really never tried.
I was so locked in my own mind with the fears of not being good enough, good looking enough, or cool enough, I just came to grips with it as my reality. And so, I made it through my school years without being noticed, just like I wanted.
Finding Some Relief
Graduating high school was a tremendous weight off my shoulders. Something about being in that place where my greatest inner fears were realized really did a number on me.
As soon as I was out, I started to come out of my shell. Out in the “real world”, I was able to be more myself and no longer carried the burden of being in a place that drew out my worst fears. I still carried the fear of being the center of attention and talking to people, but it was a little easier.
I wasn’t holding on to those fears on a daily basis like before. The more time went by, the better I became at letting go of my fear.
The fact that I wasn’t constantly consumed with the anxiety that came from thinking about my fears on a regular basis, made things easier. That’s until I was confronted with situations that brought them oozing to the surface of my thoughts.
When that happened, I turned around and ran as fast as I could. As long as I didn’t have to speak in front of a group of people, open up to others on a personal level, or do anything that drew too much attention to myself, I was good.
The problem with that was, it just wasn’t realistic. Unless I wanted to move to the mountains and became a hermit, which I didn’t.
Opportunity Presents Itself
Life went on and I slowly gained more confidence in social situations. The fears were still there, but I put them on the back burner, and carried through when I needed to.
When I was 23 something happened that led to facing my fears head on and gave me the opportunity to overcome them. I had just come back to Wisconsin after living in California for three months. The trip was meant as a chance to start over, but ended abruptly, and I had move back to Wisconsin.
It was that or live on the streets.
Growing through the Fear
I took the first job that was offered because I needed money to eat and had a car payment to come up with. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The job was working as a direct sales marketer. It was 100% commission based, so what I earned depended entirely upon me.
In order to make money, I had to go business to business trying to sell promotional products, which involved not only talking to people, but talking to as many people as I could.
I will admit, my greatest fears were realized, but it was my only option. I had to eat. I took it as a challenge and didn’t give myself a chance to be afraid.
I put all of my focus on what I needed to do and soaked in as much knowledge and advice as I could from my trainer. I mimicked his approach and just got to work. The first few days really helped build confidence in myself.
There was so much positivity and energy in the office everyday that really pumped me up, inspired, and gave me the courage I needed, and set the tone for each day.
Without even thinking about it, the fear of talking to people and the anxiety that came with it was gone. I was able talk to anyone without any worries. The more people I talked to, the easier it got.
It seemed my social phobia had finally been conquered. I was feeling more alive and sure of myself than I ever had. Here are some of the main points I feel contributed to pushing through my fears;
- Courage Stays With You
My days as a direct sales marketer eventually came to an end, but the courage I found within to face my greatest fears, changed my life.
These days, I’m following my dreams of living life on my own terms and making a difference in the world, which I don’t think I’d be doing right now if it weren’t for the growth I experienced during my time as a peddler.
I still get a little anxious, nervous, and awkward in certain social situations, but I now have the courage to face it head on, rather than hide from it.
Like most things in life, overcoming fear is a growth process. It’s not about how fast you move forward, only that you do. What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts. What fears have you had to grow through? What helped you move forward? Please share in the comments.
Author Bio: Justin inspires and empowers people to create more growth, wealth, and freedom in their life and business. He collaborates and works with those on a journey to live their dreams, follow their purpose, and change the world. Grab a free copy of The Road, a bi-weekly journal to inspire you to move forward on your journey.
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