New kid in town
When Alexis Hamill was in second grade, she moved to a new school where she would stay inside from lunch and literally count beans five days a week.
While this was boring, she was more than happy to do it because it meant she didn’t have to go to recess.
“Recess meant socializing with people or standing there by myself,” Hamill said.
Hamill was very shy during her childhood, and her teachers often could not tell if she understood their material because she was so quiet. Bean counting was a way for her to demonstrate her mastery of the material.
Soon her teacher realized she needed to go outside and socialize, which Hamill dreaded.
“It was painful and scary, but it ended up being exactly what I needed to do.”
By being pushed into the new social situation, Hamill ended up making her first friends, a group of girls who enjoyed the task of showing the “new girl” around.
Now a clinical psychology graduate student and a counselor at Bowling Green State University’s Counseling Center, Hamill recognizes the importance of social confidence.
“When you’re shy, it’s hard to share yourself,” she said. “Then the world misses out, because you’re not confident enough to express your opinions and share your views.”
Chaz Ludwig, a former Telecommunications student at BGSU, said the world is a “cutthroat” place and speaking up is necessary to get ahead.
“People who don’t exalt themselves are not going to accomplish the things they want to accomplish,” Ludwig said. “People are left behind, and that’s unfortunate.”
Hamill and Ludwig said social confidence is especially crucial to landing jobs, and Hamill commented that showing discomfort in a job interview is contagious.
“If you’re not able to express who you are to somebody who doesn’t really know you, and is judging you … you’re probably not going to get the job,” Hamill said. “Have confidence to say: ‘Here’s a bit of who I am.’”
Ludwig said the best way to deal with social awkwardness is assuming responsibility to improve, because society at large does what it can by simply letting people exist in it.
“Society is not a broom,” Ludwig said. “It’s not going to sweep you into a pan and let you be OK.”
Walker Reynolds, an English major at the university, said lots of people would describe themselves as shy and views it as an early stage of development.
He added that people are usually only shy in situations where they are uncomfortable.
“They can usually interact, at least minimally,” Reynolds said.
Hamill said that most people are shy in at least one aspect of their lives, whether it is in front of potential romantic partners or giving a public speech.
“People can relate to shyness if they put themselves in certain situations,” she said.
Ludwig used to be somewhat shy and a chronic worrier. One way he has dealt with this is taking advantage of his job at Video Spectrum, a local rental outlet.
“I do like talking to people, especially about movies,” he said.
By playing to a common interest, Ludwig has been able to talk comfortably with people who often come into the store for its friendly atmosphere and conversation potential.
By focusing on one’s strengths and positive attributes, Hamill said it is much easier for people to gain confidence.
And even when people don’t respond in the desired way, it is important to stay positive.
“A lot of that is out of our control, because a social interaction involves you and another person,” Hamill said. “You can’t control what they’re going to do.”
Hamill encourages people to just try talking, because that is something everyone can control about themselves.
“If it all bombs, that may happen sometimes,” she said. “But you’ve done what you set out to do, you’ve met your goal, and that’s still a success because you took that risk in talking to somebody.”
ABOVE: Max Filby, the summer editor-in-chief of The BG News, plans stories for the next paper.
One of the other interviews I conducted was with Max Filby, a longtime newspaper reporter at the high school and collegiate level. This summer, he decided to lead BGSU’s newspaper by becoming its editor-in-chief. In this interview, Filby describes how the job of reporting and leading an entire staff requires people to be comfortable in their own skin and have confidence, even when uncomfortable situations arise.