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Linda Writes:

Question:

My problem is performance anxiety. I mean specifically, an inability to stand and speak in front of an audience of one or more. As a result, I am basically non-verbal. I rely on diverting attention to others by using wise cracks and facial gesturing. But the truth is that this problem has held me back. I have a clerical job that I far exceed the standards for, and I have just gone back to college, after quitting over 20 yrs ago, because I couldn’t stand and speak. I dread the thought of another semester where I may be “called upon.” My grade point so far is 3.8, so again, it is not a question of being able to perform intellectually. I see a therapist weekly, that I have a hard time speaking with one on one. I find my voice drops so low that she can barely hear me. I have tried another psychiatrist, but again, I will speak of anything except myself. Is this just SHYNESS? so live with it? Why do I hate myself so much because I cannot overcome this problem. I have taken Paxil and BuSpar, but these do not address my original problem with the performance anxiety. Being drugged up does not take away the fear. Is there any hope?

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Answer:

You are not alone in feeling shy — but it probably feels that way. Shyness is a form of social anxiety, but it can be overcome. First of all, accept yourself for who you are. Being shy isn’t a personality flaw. Many people feel just as you do when they must perform in front of groups. It seems that you just need to practice a few fear inducing situations when you feel least vulnerable. Start small; imagine yourself just answering a question in front of a dozen people. Remember who you are and what you are trying to say. Try not to think about what the other people are doing and focus in on yourself. Then keep changing the situations in your imagination so they become more difficult. As your social skills become sharpened, you can rely on these and forget the shy person underneath it all. And don’t forget that almost everyone has a shy side! Good luck to you, Linda. – Anne

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