If you didn’t already know (and I shout it from the rooftops so boldly that it kind of undoes the message), I’m a naturally shy linguist. In a community where confidence seems like a necessary prerequisite for being successful – at least in speaking – it can sometimes feel like a right old hobbling.
But sometimes the best way to tackle these things is head on.
In classic exposure therapy mode, I had the chance to hurl myself headlong at my social anxieties this week. I registered to attend a mass audition for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham. I hear your gasps; yes, I kind of surprised myself, too!
In terms of personal exposure, this was up there. As well as group dance routines, there were some pretty challenging individual performance tasks that took me far, far out of my everyday comfort zone. I had to think on my feet with each instruction, steeling myself to be entertaining in front of a hundred strangers.
Confidence – Fight or Flight!
In the heat of the moment, though, our brains have a special trick: do or die. I knew I had to do something – the alternative was to run away, and I didn’t fancy that look much. So I stifled my inner wobbles and chucked everything I had into it.
By the end of the audition, I was brimming. Whether or not I get a part in the live show, it was one of the most enjoyable, energetic evenings I’ve spent in a while!
That rollercoaster of emotions felt so similar to tackling shyness as a language learner. I got the distinct feeling that the whole experience had given me an overall confidence boost, and that can only have a positive knock-on effect for my foreign language confidence, too. It’s made me determined to keep seizing similar opportunities that come my way.
And apart from keeping an eye open for one-off events like this, there are plenty of practice grounds out there: language chat clubs, book groups, music jam nights, choirs and more. Meetup is a great place to start.
Put yourself out there and practise that confident self. Your languages will thank you for it.
Incidentally, if you’re around Birmingham and fancy a shot, the Commonwealth Games team is still looking for volunteer performers and more: click here for details!