I wrestled with shyness most of my life, and to a certain extent still do. To anyone who has never felt the pain of such a powerful anxiety, let me tell you the affliction can render you into a state of paralysis like nothing you’ve ever experienced. You know what to do, but anxiety stops you dead in your tracks.
In anxiety’s grip the simple act of taking the first step might as well be the equivalent of jumping out of an airplane without a parachute.
But somewhere along the line a friend inadvertently clued me into conquering the potent grip shyness held over me.
In an odd way around to the subject, he explained the power of compound interest. Yes, we were talking about money, not shyness. But in life, you never know where or when the light bulb between your ears will ignite.
My friend was trying to help someone understand about how to invest a modest sum of money and put it away until one day later in life when he might need it.
“The first step in the most difficult,” he said. “Put the money away in an interest-bearing account or investment and let time do the work for you. Nothing works like compound interest.”
Yes, as he spoke about the magic of growing one’s money, my brain sparked to life of how this applied to me in painful social situations.
If you’ve ever found yourself playing the role of the shy person standing alone in the corner of the room during a noisy party, you know what I’m getting at here. You brain tells you to go up and speak with someone — anyone — but your feet don’t move. Anxiety holds a powerful grip over not only your emotions, but also your physical body.
But one day I thought of my friend’s investment advice, about how the most difficult step is making that very first move: put the money away in an investment tool and get the ball rolling. Think about the result, not the pain of the moment.
Step by step, I taught myself to focus on the positives of what can result from walking across the room and extending my hand to a stranger. Soon I found myself meeting very interesting people I’d never meet standing alone in the corner of the room. The result, I learned, dramatically outweighed the brief moment of pain.
Soon I found myself applying this very same attitude to everything from picking up the phone, sending a letter or making an appointment. Once I put the brief moment of pain behind me, the entire experience began to take on a life of it’s own — rolling magically along.
To this day when I walk into a room filled with strangers, anxiety still holds a grip on me, encouraging me to do nothing. But today I realize once I get past the temporary pain of the moment, the benefits far outweigh those split seconds of pain I feel as my feet move across the room to make a new friend. All I had to learn was how to get the ball rolling in the first place.
Woolsey is publisher of the Douglas County Sentinel.