For as long as I can remember, I've been incredibly shy. I've always been outgoing with my family and close friends, but if you put me in a setting full of strangers and any group setting I rarely say a word. Public speaking? No way. The thought of it gives me anxiety.
When I was in elementary school, I remember purposely not doing projects that required an oral presentation because it freaked me out too much. During parent-teacher interviews, my teachers would always tell my parents how I would never participate in class discussions or raise my hand. From about the first or second grade, I realized that I could express myself through writing and would constantly write stories or in my journals. It was the one form of communication that I seemed to thrive at. There was always a form of comfort I've felt by writing my feelings down on paper and sometimes writing things I would have otherwise been too shy or ashamed to actually say in person.
My timidness improved when I met the Walsh twins when I was 12. Sam and Des' outgoing personality was infectious and helped me become much less shy, but there was always an underlying lack of confidence that I could never shake.
The older I got the more I realized that my shyness, particularly my fear of public speaking, stemmed from not wanting to sound stupid. I would rather be the person who sat quietly and didn't make a peep than the disabled girl who said dumb things. As I write this I see how ridiculous this sounds, but this is a deep-seated fear I've had since I was little.
Unfortunately, the problem with being as introverted and quiet as I am and being physically disabled is that people have assumed I'm either non-verbal or mentally delayed. I remember when I was kid people would ask my parents questions about me, assuming I couldn't answer for myself (i.e. "How old is she?") and I would just sit there and say nothing. In a sense, my need to blend in quietly in the background gave people a perception of me that I tried so desperately to avoid - that I was an unintelligent, disabled girl.
At this point in my life, I accept that being shy is part of my personality and that it's a coping mechanism that I have when I'm in group settings or around people I don't know. I have learned that there are benefits to being shy. I've been told that I'm a good listener and I think that's because I enjoy learning about people and truly listening to what people have to say. This doesn't mean that I've stopped trying to be less introverted, but it's an ongoing struggle that I try not to beat myself up over.