Can I Overcome My Social Fears?

By Haley G

I have spent most of my life as “the quiet one.” I probably said about 100 total words in school before the sixth grade. Talking to people terrified me. People would ask me questions and I would inaudibly mumble a response, hoping they might not hear me and also maybe forget I existed. I had things to say; I just couldn’t seem to make myself express them. I thought that almost every person disliked me, all awkwardness was my fault, and people generally avoided me because of how boring I was. This may seem dramatic, but I struggled with this for years. It affected every area of my life.

A key turning point came when I was about 12 years old.  I received a call from one of the church leaders asking if I would speak in front of the congregation. My turn had come. I immediately burst into tears the moment the kind, old man on the other end asked the question. The thought of speaking in front of people was too much for me. My parents looked at me as I stood there sobbing and shaking my head while I clutched the phone. I managed to choke out why I suddenly went into hysterics. My mom came over and said we would call him back soon. She hung up the phone and asked me a simple but important question, “Are you going to allow your fear to keep you from doing good things?”

I felt desperate and completely helpless. Not knowing what else to do, I used my instinct to pray for help. I began to offer earnest prayers to God every day. As I cultivated what I still value as a personal relationship with my Creator, I came to realize that I could feel supported in all of my struggles. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, suffered not only for the sins of all mankind, but also for all our fears, burdens, and pains. Somehow, He suffered for ME. He knows the emotional weight of feeling shy. He knows the frustration that comes from constantly feeling inadequate and misunderstood. These experiences provided me with a new hope that enabled me to push away the negativity and just let that love fill me up.

My fears did not immediately melt away once I gave that talk in church as a timid 12-year-old, but it was the first step in years of hard work. I put myself in new situations; I felt insecure; I tried harder; I fell short; I remembered my Savior; and I grew. The opportunities that came, such as having the chance to speak and teach, were important. Also, knowing that I had a divinely-guided purpose eventually led me to college, where I flourished in my passion for anthropology. I worked at jobs that pushed me to speak up, and made friends of all different backgrounds.

Things have changed for me. Coming to know others’ perspectives, dreams, and opinions has become what I live for. I love getting lost in good conversations. It is still difficult for me to get up the gumption to start new conversations, and yes, I would still count myself an introvert. But the question my mom asked me all that time ago is still incredibly relevant. I never want to sacrifice an opportunity to help another person because of fear. I feel like the sun is rising on my life as I work at overcoming this struggle. Jesus Christ can heal all that is broken and make strong all that is weak. I am living proof.

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