Thursday, November 1, 2012

Shyness and social anxiety

“Nerves and butterflies are fine - they're a physical sign that you're mentally ready and eager.  You have to get the butterflies to fly in formation, that's the trick.”  ~Steve Bull

Last Saturday morning I knew my body’s fight or flight response had headed into overdrive as I woke up feeling nauseous at 4am with a little too much adrenalin coursing through my bloodstream. The day of the Red Carpet Evening’s Dancing with the Stars had arrived.

Shyness or social anxiety is something I’ve struggled with since 1978; the year I started attending primary school. Growing up in splendid isolation at Red Hill Station 55km from Hay, the first two years of my schooling were completed at home via correspondence school. My mother taught me and my brothers and my sister to read and write and then in grade two and for the rest of our primary school years, we caught the school bus into town and attended the Hay Public School.

Suddenly confronted with a large group of strangers, I felt painfully shy and self-conscious. Did I look like them? Did I look okay? Would the other children talk to me? Would they want to include me in their games? Would I be any good at playing those games?

Everyone wants to feel that sense of belonging, to feel wanted and included but I found it hard to initiate conversations and mostly waited until someone spoke to me.

Social anxiety is the fear of evaluation or judgment in social or performance situations. In a one on one situation at work or around people I know well, I’m relaxed and can be quite extraverted but with a group of people I don’t know or don’t know well, I am usually quiet and aloof and I feel socially awkward and nervous.

Meanwhile back to last Saturday… there’s nothing like having your hair done for boosting a girl’s self-esteem so off to visit the lovely Natalie at Scissors Hair Salon I went. For the very first time in my life I had my hair curled and set, and to complete the look I had booked in to visit future makeup-artist-to-the-stars, Ruby Oster.

At nine years of age, young Ruby has a far better idea on how to put on makeup and does a far better job of it than me and not only that, Ruby has a far more extensive collection of makeup. My makeup routine consists of using a basic moisturiser/sunscreen, occasionally dying my eyebrows and lashes, lipstick and nothing else (much to my mother’s despair). Ruby’s collection included eye-shadow of every shade under the sun, foundation, concealer (I was hoping for a Harry Potter invisibility cloak but I digress… ), blusher, eye-liner, mascara, false eyelashes, powder and sparkily stuff.

Roll on to last Saturday night; by the time I was frocked up, with my hair and makeup done and covered in sparkily stuff, I was starting to feel like a true glamazon. Even so, the first thing I wanted to do upon arrival at the Golf Club was head straight to the bar for a glass of rum and coke (so I did). Bearing in mind that as an adult, I find a couple of alcoholic drinks calms my fear and helps me to relax… too many would have had the exact opposite effect and would certainly not have been conducive to my salsa routine.

Once Courtney had introduced us and the music started, I felt as though I had those butterflies flying in formation. It also helped that I was wearing professional high-heeled dancing shoes on loan to me from last year’s Dancing With the Stars, Dancing Queen, Vicky Lowry from Wakool.

The crowd seemed to fade into the background and rather miraculously Shane and I managed to (pretty much) remember our steps for the routine.

My fear of falling over and/or completely stuffing up our routine (and publicly humiliating myself) never eventuated, the dance was all over in a few short minutes and we had a lot of fun being participants in the competition. Once again the Barham and District Medical Centre put on an excellent and entertaining evening all round. Thanks to the donations of many people from both our local community and further afield, the Barham and District Medical Centre raised an impressive $14,000 to put towards replacing the heavy doors of the medical centre with automatic ones – Well Done!

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