Social Anxiety to Public Speaking

//Social Anxiety to Public Speaking

Social Anxiety to Public Speaking

shy girl
by Genevieve Yellin

I had severe social anxiety (SA) as long as I can remember. I clearly had generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) too, but back then we were just called ‘really shy kids.’ I was afraid of everything, especially judgment, good or bad, (it was all bad to me) and any type of attention. In school, my sisters were asked if I could speak; not in a mean way — many kids in school never saw me open my mouth – it was a reasonable question. I used to wonder how I shared the same DNA with my sisters who moved through social situations with other kids and adults alike with a glittery charm, as I hid behind and tightly gripped one of my parents’ pant legs. By the time I was 6 years old, the family had developed a habit of pre-emptively stating that I was shy when introductions were made…
“This is Dawn, Kathleen, Constance, Gen-she is very shy-evieve, and Samantha.”

This was fine by me, as I felt the shield of my parents’ or sisters’ warnings. When friends of mine daydreamed about being a famous movie star, sports star or politician, I cringed at the thought of having a public persona – I could not relate to the notion of intentionally giving up one’s privacy or being in front of an audience. Being a wall flower and having the ability to slink through the day without notice became my primary focus in life.

I had a natural athletic ability and was able to pick up sports quickly. This was problematic as it drew attention to me, so when I started mastering one sport, I would move on to another sport. I recognized that being known as athletic and strong had a positive side too — the bullies didn’t pick on kids who could defend themselves – so I walked a fine line. I settled into a groove that showed enough prowess to be labeled “don’t mess with her” but not enough to get my picture and name on a bulletin board; I made sure I was absent or not in best form when it came to relays and competitions that would culminate with being publicly awarded a medal of some sort. Holding back in events to make sure I didn’t win was an art form and I never regretted letting others win — in my mind, I had nothing to prove, but everything to protect. People that live with Social Anxiety (SA) go to great lengths to avoid attention and getting noticed – only my fellow SA’ers can understand how all-consuming it is to manage this type of existence.

Let’s hit the fast forward button…I got married, had 3 awesome kids, became a scientist, found Yoga (but was ego based), got divorced, remarried which brought 2 more awesome kids into my life, had a nervous breakdown; stressor was removed, but I was still a shell of a human being and was left with panic disorder…I couldn’t find my feet. I dug deep into traditional Yoga, met my body, learned how to accept myself as I was without any fear or shame. I learned how to look inside and see that my past, my thoughts, my fears, my perceptions were completely separate from who I am and that I control how I handle life as it comes to me. I can’t control everything that happens to me, but I certainly can control how I handle it-that feels good and empowering. Grounding practices like pranayama and meditation became a part of my life – I developed a daily plan for myself, stuck to it, found myself, and I truly love her. I left science, never to return, as I found it far too narrow minded, ignorant, too driven by the need to publish (even if it was useless data and shoddy science), and too influenced by the almighty dollar. I found my home in Yoga Therapy-teaching others how to find their perfection and their own innate ability to self-heal through the beautiful path of Yoga.

I have never had such a fire deep within my belly to share and connect with others…being a wall flower just wouldn’t cut it anymore. I found my voice through teaching Yoga to people from all walks of life with all types of beautiful bodies-I found a talent that I didn’t know I possessed, and that is my ability to connect with others-to see myself in others and find common ground enough to communicate effectively. I have let go of most of my fears and softened my strong opinions – they felt divisive, combative and useless when it comes down to what is really important. Connecting with others, cultivating spirit, and enjoying the simple pleasures in life are what nurtures my soul and gives my life so much meaning. As my classes began to fill up and my private sessions were booked solid, I began to work with larger groups, focus more on Yoga Therapy for anxiety and panic, and move into teacher training. This Tapas, the internal fire, that has moved me forward in the past 9 years since my nervous breakdown has brought me in front of large audiences teaching not only asana, pranayama and meditation, but philosophy, energy anatomy, the koshas, doshas, kleshas, gunas, shariras and what all of that means in terms of our everyday living.

I often teach concepts through a story as that is my favorite way to learn. More often than not, they are about interactions and observations of humankind, but on occasion I put pieces of my story out there. The first time I did, I instantly felt this old sense of shame rise up, but could not believe the overwhelming response I received from that talk. I personally don’t care for “me” fests from lecturers, so I know I walk that line, but I love hearing people share; I so deeply admire their strength and that they allow themselves to feel vulnerable; I too allow myself to go there now and it feels right. I keep the focus on the end point-the joy, bliss, and fulfillment that ensues when we clear away all of the “junk” in the psycho-emotional body and just embrace ourselves as perfect as we are…not what we think others judge us as, or want us to be. Now whenever I briefly tell my story, so many in the audience make their way up to me after the lecture to tell me that they didn’t realize how much shame or fear they carried with their past until they heard their own story through my words. Finding my voice has been a big part of my journey — I had no idea that it would help others find clarity or their own voice, nor did I know that I would feel so much comfort and love from the brief connections that were made when others approached me. This is a gift that public speaking continues to give me. I am incredibly grateful to those brave souls and the gentle hug they give my soul by sharing and essentially reassuring me that ‘we are all one.’

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that I am still a very private person and do not choose crowds, but rather prefer to be surrounded by family and friends. Nor do I like attention, so telling my story in this blog is a little unsettling. I gain strength from hearing the stories of others who struggled and overcame social anxiety, and I hope this post will do the same. Would the scared 10-year-old Genevieve have believed it if someone told her that one day she would lecture to hundreds of people, fully embracing her faults and shortcomings with full acceptance and love? NO WAY… she would have run away screaming. I love that kid, she made me who I am today.

Speak your truth. We share each other’s’ story — we are all one.

Much Metta, Genevieve

By |2019-03-08T05:25:52-05:00May 15th, 2014|Uncategorized|

Search by Keyword and Location: