Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Skip to main content

How Teaching Helped Me Overcome Social Anxiety

Have you ever played a game over and over again as a child? Mine was lining up some toys and, later, posters of Backstreet Boys, and teaching them whatever we were covering in school that week. I had a class roster, graded my students’ homework (aka my own practice tests), and gave out the Best Student award at the end of each semester. Brian Littrell won every time. Duh!

I have known at a young age that I wanted to teach in some capacity as a career. There is something incredibly gratifying about seeing my learners’ eyes light up when they have an “aha” moment about a topic or their own talents, skills, and abilities. Before you think I’ve lost my marbles – I am talking about my real learners, not the imaginary ones I had growing up. I LOVE playing a small role in helping people realize their potential. Problem was… the mere thought of speaking in public, even in front of a known audience, no matter how big or small, had me hyper-ventilating and breaking out in hives. Welcome to the world of social anxiety.

“Social anxiety disorder, sometimes referred to as social phobia, is a type of anxiety disorder that causes extreme fear in social settings. People with this disorder have trouble talking to people, meeting new people, and attending social gatherings.” Without getting too deep into Daniela’s Psychology 101, for me, the anxiety was stemming from the fear of embarrassing myself, being judged negatively, and being rejected. I logically understood that the fear was irrational, but the physiological symptoms felt overwhelming. Luckily, my love for teaching and innate stubbornness were stronger.

I started intentionally seeking out practice opportunities. In 10th grade, you could often find me helping my English teacher with her fifth-and-sixth-graders. By the time I graduated high school, I had a solid tutoring business going helping kids and adults with English, French, and Japanese. I began teaching a class at church and speaking in front of small audiences. Terrifying at first, each teaching opportunity turned into a rewarding experience – what people in my profession refer to as “facilitation high.” Except for that one time when, at the end of delivering an uplifting speech in front of 30+ people, I realized that the beautiful long white skirt I picked out for the special occasion was completely see-through when the sunlight hit it. And it was a very sunny day… But did I die?! Nope. That day, I learned that I was more resilient than I thought.

With learning all I could get my hands on about teaching, deliberate practice and experience, my confidence grew, and my social anxiety became more and more manageable. I will always be grateful for the dear friends and mentors who encouraged me to stick with it and introduced me to underskirts. I have since worked in various industries and roles, all the while seeking out opportunities to teach, coach, and facilitate. Several years ago, I landed in the talent development field full time. I could not be happier because it perfectly aligns with my personal mission of “being a positive force for good.” I recently got to present at a conference, ya’all! What once felt like an unreachable dream became reality. People often tell me: “You look so natural doing what you do! What a great talent to have.” Few know, however, how much effort went into getting to where I am today. And the learning continues every day.

To all who may be struggling with reaching a goal or overcoming an obstacle, YOU CAN DO IT!

  • Find the why for what you are aiming to achieve – the purpose will motivate you to keep moving forward.
  • Embrace your own version of character building “see-through skirt” situations – they will make you stronger and become a funny story you can include in your blog post someday.
  • Surround yourself with people who will cheer you on and lift you up, instead of bringing you down.
  • Start small, track your progress, learn from setbacks, and celebrate successes.

Now, go out there and Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of!



Image Source: Karolina Grabowska from Pexels