I have struggled with social anxiety throughout most of my life. It began right around the time I started middle school, and it stuck with me through high school, college and my work life. This meant that something as simple as striking up a conversation with a stranger was a mammoth task for me. It was also why I didn’t have many friends growing up. My anxiety peaked when I was faced with a group of people, and I avoided all parties, mixers, social events etc. This continued when I entered job life. On my first day as a teacher I marveled at how easy it was for all the other new teachers to talk to each other. I sat in the corner with my mouth shut.
It has been almost three years since then, and I am glad to say that I have, more or less, managed to climb out of that hole. It has been a process, but I particularly remember something one of my best friends told me that has helped me overcome my insecurities and anxiety. It was actually a picture he drew on my iPhone. He drew a circle in which he wrote CZ (abbreviation for the words ‘Comfort Zone’) and outside the circle, he wrote WTMH (Where The Magic Happens). He made me realize that in order to become more self confident and less socially awkward, it was imperative that I step out of my comfort zone, whether it was to meet new people, or do something as simple as voice my opinion in a group.
It was with this new found quest for confidence that I decided to go try out for a play at Theatre Wallay. When I found out that there was an opportunity to act in a play, I jumped at it. Before I knew it, I was one of the cast members of a short play by Chekov. It was an amazing experience for me, one that taught me many things, and one that I enjoyed to the fullest. (The only ‘theatre’ I had done before this was when I played Puck in our 7th grade production of a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream) Since then, I’ve worked on a couple of plays and other projects with Theatre Wallay, the latest being the performance we are rehearsing for currently, On Common Ground.
I still have a long way to go. I still freeze when I go on stage sometimes. I still get so self-conscious that its hard for me to immerse myself in the scene I’m working on; my heart starts beating, my palms get sweaty, sometimes I just crack up laughing. But I am learning, and I can see
progress in myself, both as an actor, and as a person. I am more confident, more social, less afraid of meeting new people, less afraid of voicing my opinions. I find myself less and less conscious about how I look, or what people think about me. All I did was to place myself in situations that would erstwhile make me uncomfortable, and it has worked wonders so far.