I’ve written about the flushed cheeks and blank mind I experience when suddenly finding myself the center of attention or when called upon to speak extemporaneously among non-friends. Many writers and introverted people seem to experience this freeze of words, awkward physical movement and self-consciousness while being observed. I would like to propose reasons why.
I did not, at heart, feel I deserved to be class president…and in protest at my false position my vocal apparatus betrayed me. — John Updike, “Self-Consciousness”
While reading John Updike’s appropriately named memoir, “Self-Consciousness”, I discovered a chapter titled, “Getting the Words Out”. In this chapter Updike describes his personal experience with stuttering or stammering and his life-long drive to understand it.
As Updike admits his stammering increases while pretending to be someone he is not, my head nods in recognition. I relate to this experience. Often when I’ve found myself at a loss for words or clumsily doing something, it was when I was trying to impress someone.
For example, I was at a Myers Briggs meeting in Minneapolis years ago. I did not know anyone and had only recently received my certification as a Myers Briggs practitioner. I remember easily listening to others and remarking upon their careers involving the MBTI.
Then someone asked me to describe how I use Myers Briggs in my practice. I barely had a practice or any experience applying the personality inventory. I started to babble on about how I hoped to use it, but noticed everyone looking at me intently. I felt my face turn beet red and my words slow down and get quieter. I went completely blank. I don’t even remember how I got out of that moment, but thankfully attention switched to someone else.
I pretended to be a confident have-it-all-planned-out career woman. My brain/body said, “Ah no. Let’s bring you back to whom you really are.”
That is only one instance of such a deer-in-the-headlights reaction. There have been many more. It’s as if my true self cannot bear to act out of character. My embarrassing behavior betrays my falseness, making me ultimately quite humble and not impressive.
Upholding that carefully crafted persona that protects my complicated and soft insides, requires a lot of energy. Sometimes the mask slips off to reveal my real imperfect self.
Interestingly, acting in a play has the exact opposite effect. I can speak my lines easily and rarely stumble. I think if my behavior crosses the line into getting too big for my britches (as my grandma used to say), I falter. It’s the posing that kills me.
Unfriendly and super smart audiences
I am afraid of New York audiences, especially; they are too smart and left-wing for me. And yet some audiences can be as comforting, with their giant collective sighs and embracing laughter, as an ideal mother… — John Updike, “Self-Consciousness”
Most people find judgmental and ultra-intellectual people intimidating. Highly sensitive and introverted people may find them even more so. Our hyper awareness of others’ thoughts and feelings makes their scrutiny of us that much more unbearable.
Updike talks about getting tongue-tied when reaching a brusque electrician on the phone. I can relate. The second I sense dislike, disdain or irritation in someone’s voice, my voice and/or behavior often shifts to awkward and weak.
I have made progress with this reaction. I’ve learned over the years, to not take a person’s directness personally. Having experienced, for example, East Coasters as family and friends, I understand and appreciate the style of different regions. Not to generalize, but many East Coast dwellers speak directly. I still sometimes find it off-putting, but then remind myself it’s their style not a reaction to me personally.
Ultra smart people used to intimidate me too, but I’ve learned to ask them questions or simply listen to them. They usually end up being rather human. If they come across as condescending, I steer clear if at all possible.
People pleasers painfully aware of others
It is an excess of delicacy, excess of sensibility to the presence of his fellow-creature, that makes him stammer. Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle to Ralph Waldo Emerson regarding Henry James
As I mentioned above, our sensitivity to the feelings and thoughts of others, keeps our own thoughts and feelings incredibly busy. All of the awareness makes speaking and even walking or eating more complicated. Our focus zings back and forth between our internal world, the external world, the reactions/feelings of others and our behavior. Coordination is complex and is sometimes sacrificed to the management of all of this awareness.
In our attempts to please others, we take great pains to anticipate their reactions, which causes us to be slower with our reactions and speech. We don’t want to let anyone down. We are very aware of their presence. We are not at ease, therefore we fumble.
The last possible reason for our high levels of self-consciousness, comes from Marti Olsen Laney and “The Introvert Advantage”. Dr. Laney describes the introverted brain as having longer channels of information retrieval. She says we put more information in long-term memory, which takes longer to retrieve when needed.
This explains the trouble with spontaneous speaking, but also makes me wonder, due to all the research pointing to brain elasticity, if we can change our brain pathways with behavior and improve our speaking skills.
Introverts, according to Dr. Laney, also tend to be more sensitive to dopamine. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that makes us want, desire, seek out and search. It increases our level of arousal and goal-directed behavior. A little goes a long way for introverts. We prefer a more calm neurotransmitter, acetylcholine.
The introverted brain makes more use of the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, which causes us to focus on our internal world more than an extroverted brain does. Acetylcholine affects attention and learning, influences the ability to stay calm and alert, utilizes long-term memory and activates voluntary movement. Not surprisingly, acetylcholine stimulates a good feeling when we think and feel, which makes our internal world so comfortable, we do not like to venture outside of it. When we do, we are more self-conscious.
Do any of these issues cause you to experience self-consciousness? Do you have social anxiety? If so, how do you cope?
Brenda, I think there is an intense struggle to be who we really are. I think most of us ask the question throughout our lives at different times: ‘Who am I, really?’
It’s complex, and I could write at length about it, endlessly really. The thing is, one thing leads to another to another. There are so many layers to who we are, to the lives we live. And no simple, single answer ever, it seems.
Social anxiety … Brenda, I guess I have experienced, and seen in others, deep depression. ‘Get counseling, and get drugs,’ seems quite often to the the advice. Instead of … go within. Who are you? What are you? What is going on inside, what is it about living your life, that depresses you? That isn’t true for you?
I think when we live a life that is not true for us, not true for who we are, we know it. We can tamp the voice down. We can fight with it. We can argue with it — ‘But look at all I have to be grateful for! I have so much more than so many! I should be happy!’ And we guilt ourselves into living an untrue life. True, be grateful! Yes, yes, yes! And … listen to the voice within. It always speaks to us. It’s our spirit. Sometimes it speaks to us through depression. Sometimes through illness, including cancer. Sometimes a keen discomfort with the life we have, how we are, what we do. All of it.
Of course, that journey is lifelong. It takes time. A lot of time. And most of us can’t, or won’t, take the path. We don’t know how to do it. We have no one to support us in doing it. People who care for us usually aren’t on that path, and they don’t want you going on it because it can threaten everything.
So … drugs. Or a diagnosis — you have SAD. Or ‘clinical depression.’ Or whatever. And the drugs shut up our spirit. Stifle it, smother it. Drown it as best as we can. But it’s always there.
If someone really really wants to be around other people and be comfortable, and just can’t, that is different than what I experience. So I can’t speak to that. I can’t speak to the struggle someone has with being able to talk easily with others. I just prefer solitude. Most people bore me, endlessly. I have a few who don’t. I treasure them. I just find it interesting how some people will do anything BUT go within.
None of it is easy. This life does not encourage us to find our true selves, or even introduce us to the concept. We are not taught about profound differences in personality — and one is not better than another.
It’s good to explore where happiness comes from — which is, entirely, our thoughts. It’s something to explore our thoughts, and the resulting emotions. Emotions always come from thoughts — thoughts which may be triggered by ‘out there,’ but still the thoughts cause the emotion. Always. I’m not sure there are exceptions. We seek to control our outer environment, because it has a profound impact, or can, on our thoughts. We allow people in, who say things, say words that enter our mind as thoughts. We agree with their words, or we don’t, or we’re not sure.
And on and on and on it goes, Brenda. The inner exploration is endless, just as the outer world exploration is endless. Endless new paths to explore. Or to create.
I love the quote attributed to Buddha: There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path. If we can somehow grasp that happiness, right now, this moment, and the next — if we can grasp and practice that happiness is literally moment by moment, and completely within our control, by the thoughts we choose or allow into our minds (TV shows, movies, books, friends), well, we can sloooooowly bring about changes.
Frustrating, really, to write about it, because for whatever I write, it’s like a few drops in an ocean of things to explore and try to understand.
I do realize that happiness IS the path. I do realize that my outer world affects my inner world, and I continue to learn how to craft my outer world so that my inner world is happy.
And I realize, too, that what works for me, who I am, is only for me.
Caveat to all of this: when we have kids, that responsibility, that sacred role … we do agree to sacrifice much of who we are for something sacred. We agree to forego things we might otherwise do and have, for a much higher good. Family, offspring, yes, we have a sacred responsibility when we bring children into the world. To abandon that role, to chafe at it, to shortchange the ones we bring into this world, that is wrong.
And so it seems to work that when that role of parent diminishes as our kids grow older and leave home, then all the time we invested, wisely and with love, into our kids — we now have time to explore who we are in ways we have never had time. And those years later, we are different. We have changed. So has our spouse. Did we find ways to talk about it all with each other, during those years? Did we know that our spouse was changing, as were we? Did we make time to go there, to who the other is, is becoming? Did we do that for each other?
On another note …
Have I ever told you that I detest conflict? of course I have! omg … if my choice is to be in a relationship of any sort, and I have to compromise and conflict on things, in order to be with someone … I will choose to be alone. I’m not lonely being alone. It would be fun to have someone who laughs easily, who can share who she is, and allow me to share who I am, and we allow for who the other is, and we understand, keenly, how the words we speak influence everything. And that we can choose words, speak words, that lift, that encourage, that inspire, that make us feel better for being with that person. And we do that for the ones we love.
Blah blah blah!!! lol … omg this is so fascinating, and so endless … I accept that it is that way. I love that it is that way. One day, it would be cool to have someone who loves that it is that way, and is excited about all of it. The infinite. All of it.
I sigh as I prepare to send this … lol … and my god it’s such a beautiful life.
Endless thanks to you for this place and space that you provide in a way that is so very beautiful and precious — which is a perfect reflection of who YOU are, Brenda. And I know that whatever you see in me, is in you. And the beauty I see in you, is within me.
A quote I have up on my wall: ‘We do not see things (and I would add ‘people’) as they are. We see things (and people) as we are.”
I am all about exploring what is within you and who you are. I think that is crucial to leading a rich and authentic life. I also think we need to share whom we are with the world. At some point, it is necessary to take action in the external world. As humans, we are meant to connect be it with other humans, with the earth, with animals, whatever. I just listened to a webinar on disrupting the patterns of depression. Several doctors said we have to empathize with someone with depression and then we have to help them take some action. Too much alone time or time within, for them, is dangerous. It allows despair to expand. Now, you seem like you are in a place of good perspective and mental well being Michael.:) Therefore, I think solitude is a positive for you. I agree, if we allow the external world to force us to play to its demands and those demands don’t suit us, we have to go within to figure out where we are betraying ourselves.
I don’t love conflict either, but I’ve learned to see that sometimes it is needed to move things forward. If we avoid it all the time, the suffering continues. Sometimes expressing ourselves to the contrary of someone else, is a relief. We don’t have to hid our true feelings anymore.
I could go on and on with this search for a fulfilling life. I have a post in mind for perhaps this week. It is about happiness and how it includes both pleasure and purpose. I think we often only see pleasurable experiences as what makes us happy. The purposeful ones (like raising kids) give us happiness over time. Stay tuned for this post…
Thanks for your wise contributions dear Michael. I’m glad you have this space to express yourself. 🙂 We are better for it.
I crave connection, Brenda. I just haven’t found many people I really connect with. That I can share all of who I am with. It always seems limited. Like I can go so far, and then that’s enough. I’m talking with women. Family and the couple of friends I have, it’s cool. Women, thus far, it’s different. And I crave a connection with a woman. I need a woman in my life, want a woman in my life. But man, I don’t kid myself any more about ‘how great I am’ … lol … or any of that stuff. I like who I am. and it would be nice to have a woman where it’s okay to be me, just as (I think) it’s okay for her to be her. I just want people to be who they are — and me to be who I am, and it’s all good.
I don’t understand why we can’t do that: allow people to be who they are, and we get to be who we are. which is, should be I think, ever growing (if we’re growing; not all people are), changing, becoming. Coming to be new versions of ourselves.
Joan Didion (I don’t have an opinion of her, I just like this quote) is quoted as saying, “I’ve already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be.” Sometimes it feels like that. Who I used to be. Or played to be, to get along and keep things together. It’s okay to do that, until it’s not. Until it doesn’t work. Until it’s basically sort of killing you.
We’re just such a mix of things. And it seems in most romantic relationships, we give up some or a lot of who we are to keep the peace, and keep the relationship together. I’m just not that into that any more. I’ve done that. It’s empty. It’s boring. lol …
Thanks for your words, Brenda. You’re cool … lol … you really are. I just like who you are. The conflict thing, I don’t mind conflict. I have it sometimes. I just like to always come back to … ‘and I love you and you’re beautiful, even if we are completely opposite on this!’ I mean saying and feeling that passionately and out loud.
I had a fairly volatile disagreement with my niece a few months ago. Boy did she get pissed at me. I just sort of laughed about it all, and said what I believe. The next day, I said to her, ‘Jennifer, I don’t care how much we differ on some things. YOU are beautiful, and I love you dearly.’ And she said the same to me, and we hugged, and we do love each other dearly. Conflict is cool — except when it gets cold and personal — like I can’t stand you because of what you think and believe.
Differences are cool. Can’t we love someone just as he or she is, without getting pissed about it? And we come back to … I love you. You’re beautiful. You’re awesome.
I think if every disagreement or conflict ended like that … well then wouldn’t that cool? Yes, be different. Yes, feel passionately about what you feel. And let’s remember that we love each other. Never let our differences change that we love each other. And let us speak that love and passion for the other, out loud.
Blah blah blah! lol … Brenda, you give me space to write, and I write! Keep sharing, asking questions, saying what you think and feel and have learned and are learning. You’re beautiful, and I’m grateful for you!
P.S. it’s late, 12:15, I have had coffee, a beer and a half … take that into consideration in assessing these comments! lol ….
I’m finally getting around to posting this…I’m not exaggerating when I say that everything you wrote here was as if you had crawled around in my brain and wrote about me. When I first found your site a year or two ago, I realized that there were others (even quite a few) who experienced much of life like I have, for as long as I can remember. Thank you for sharing your life and experiences and for giving us some healthy insight.
My pleasure! Thank you for reading and commenting. You are definitely not alone in your way of being. I’m in the boat with you. 🙂
This is Kat,
Please allow me to join you again here every now and then! I sincerely apologize for disappearing for so long!
On this subject matter, I’d like to say: It is a constant struggle of mine! At the same time, the situation is not what would jump to mind reading those words ‘It is a constant struggle of mine!’ Meaning, I’m very confident and can act confident amongst groups and in social gatherings! As long as _ here’s the trick_ no one asks me personal questions about my life, career etc! If that happens?! I find I always tend to give ‘I am smart but very humble’ answers! Answers that will come out vague and borderline incoherent! I might even fumble! I hate talking about myself.
I also find, when at social gatherings, I am completely comfortable and at my best, when the conversation is about business, ideas, social happenings (as long as participants are open to different point of views), even challenging opinions about human values, societal norms and traditions! Gossip, small talk, prolonged unhealthy complaining about personal situations without any sign of wanting to change and make them better, as well as, criticism of others’ way of thinking and behaving… makes me feel … ‘get me out of here! Where’s that bottle of wine?! Did I already have too much?! Well I still may need more alcohol to drown these voices’…
Yes I am a very sensitive person. Yes that comes with a hefty price-tag, where I find myself paying dearly for my high level of sensitivity! I sometimes pay with lots of unneeded and unnecessary anxiety! Other times, it’s through acting withdrawn! Then also there were times where it felt like I’m outside myself, looking at this woman ‘me’ talking and laughing nervously and wondering who she is?! I don’t know her! And I don’t particularly like her! She’s fake, confused, sad although she’s laughing and doesn’t seem to know how to get out of this awkward social situation with…’grace’.
I can write more about this.. :)…Did I mention it’s a constant struggle?!
Hello Kat!! Nice to hear from you! I love your honest sharing of your experience with self-consciousness. Why do you think personal questions make you uneasy? Have you built up protector walls that keep your soft self safe? I can understand your dislike of gossip and complaining, especially when others have no interest in working on improving the situation. That grinds my gears too! 😉 I tend to become judgmental regarding these inert people, which makes me unhappy with myself.
It sounds like you really don’t like yourself when you have your “social face” on. You know it is not authentic, therefore you are uncomfortable. I get uncomfortable when I have to ‘perform’ for others, be it telling a long story or having a quick smart answer. Does any of that resonate with you?
I hope to see your name more often in the comments dear Kat!
Thank you for your reply :)! You have asked ‘why personal questions make me feel uneasy!’ Let’s see……Well, for starters, my ancestry story -although it may seem fascinating to others- makes me feel like I ‘stand out’! I am what you may call ‘a mutt’ ;)…a person of doubtful pedigree! I like to say that ‘Here’ as it sounds humorous! But in social gatherings! When meeting new people! I don’t feel it’s humorous at all! Instead, it usually feels heavy, complicated and needs ‘a lot’ of explaining! Explaining why I look ‘Italian but not quite!’ ‘Mediterranean but from where EXACTLY?!’ ‘Brazilian?!’ No I am not Brazilian either! ‘Then…where are you from?!’ I just hate all the questions that make me feel like ‘I don’t belong’! Then?! If others begin to ‘assume’ certain things that I feel show complete ignorance, or at least unawareness of which ancestry is which etc?! Or if they then try ‘summarizing me up’, or attempting to look like they have it all figured out when in fact they actually got it completely wrong?! I may act slightly defensively, but with a smile on my face to confuse them even more than they already are :)! I don’t enjoy that dance to say the least! It’s a sensitive issue for me. I admit it. I STILL have a ‘slight’ French accent! Which people ‘immediately’ pick up upon! It irritates me! I have resigned to the fact: it is rude, to ask ‘where’s your accent from?!’ And I have decided: I do not like that question! I don’t want to remember my Greek mother, with whom I do not have a great relationship and have actually never had! I do not want the flood of memories coming back, that have not been part of my life for the past 25 years! I have ‘zero’ relationship with my heritage! Throughout my life, my heritage only managed to confuse me! And it’s not because I do not love it! I love it! I do! And it’s beautiful!! It’s simply not a big part of me! I don’t really know it! Beside the food, I have no relationship with it! How do I explain that to people when they ask ‘where’s your accent from?!’. Every single time it happens, every single time the heads are all turned and focused on me, on my mouth underneath my nose atop my chin, ‘what’s gonna come out????’, I feel…awkward at best! I have tried keeping it short and sweet, with a sweet smile on my face! Didn’t work. I tried explaining it some! Didn’t work! It’s always awkward no matter what!
Add to all that, ‘extreme sensitivity’ to other humans’ subtle nuances: tone, certain looks that flash quickly but get disguised under a vail of insincere friendliness, jokes and nervous laughs that want to show self-confidence but only manage to confuse my sensitive radar, misunderstandings of my direct approach to certain issues at times, and yes I can be direct, I admit that…And I absolutely get the fact that, ‘they’ are scared of me too perhaps! I absolutely understand, they are ‘sniffing’ me too just like I was busy sniffing them! 🙂 I get all of that! It’s just…awkward.
That is not to say, that some people are incredibly easy to get to know and be among! It’s just not the case sometimes as we all know 🙂
I get what you are saying Kat. I hate it when people ask me what I do for a living, because, like your heritage, it’s complicated. I never feel I have the right most satisfying answer. I try to see it as others just curious about me as I am curious about them. I still feel awkward. 😉
You do get it Brenda! Aah what a relief! There’s someone in this world …out there..(can you picture me twirling around looking up with a big grin on my face?)…There’s someone who gets ‘IT IS AWKWARD and IT IS COMPLICATED’! /not yelling at all ;)/ Rather ‘chanting’! Chanting is completely different as it’s high pitch yes, but conveys joy :)!
Thank you ..
– That is not to say, that some people ‘aren’t’ incredibly easy to get to know and be among! It’s just not the case sometimes as we all know
– *slightly ‘defensive’. Not ‘slightly defensively’.
Embarrassing fact abt myself: I am obsessed with grammar . Can’t help it
Kat, you are funny! I love reading your notes. Keep writing! You have a great sense of humor, a lot of insights, write some very thoughtful things, and are just fun to read!
Thank you Michael! Appreciate that! I love this place here too! I get to be who I am! I get to share my thoughts and practice being open! It’s wonderful! Thank you Brenda for creating it for all of us!
Thank you for your kind words. So happy this site makes you happy. 🙂
You’re funny and a perfectionist. I like you.
I don’t have social anxiety. I just don’t like to be around people much. I don’t get anxious in a crowd, so much as “I don’t want to be here. At all.” I can interact with anyone, at pretty much any time, if the need arises. I can be social, gregarious, etc. Ask lots of questions, listen, laugh, say interesting / funny things to put people at ease. I’m self-effacing, never critical or gossiping or condescending. I’m easy to be around. People generally find me interesting and fun and easy to be with. And with a few people, I feel the same way toward them, and enjoy being with them. Just not very many.
‘Social anxiety disorder’ is a psychologist-created phrase, right? It became a disorder to not want to be around people much. Rather than being okay with being alone, or with one person, and being okay with just not liking being around a bunch of people, it became a disorder. There was something wrong with you. You had a disorder, didn’t you know? And we have ‘treatment’ for that.
Much of it is bullshit. They basically created feelings of guilt in people for — gasp — preferring your own company over the company of others. It’s not a ‘disorder’ to want people around as much as possible. Only if you prefer solitude.
People who prefer solitude, who spend more time alone, don’t fit the norm. They can’t be made to conform as easily. They’re not around to judge, to gossip with, all of it. They actually think for themselves, and do what they want to do: be good with being alone, or with just one person. That’s enough. It makes people uncomfortable to say, “I like to be alone.”
The desire for solitude is, I think, far more widespread than is allowed to be acknowledged. But people feel they ‘have to’ go to parties, ‘have to’ interact with people they don’t like or don’t want to be around. Part of being ‘normal.’ No. It’s part of selling yourself out. They ‘have to’ sell themselves out, be untrue to who they are — this is being a ‘normal’ human being. We compromise and sell ourselves out, and live forever with a sense of unease about our lives.
We become ‘depressed’ … oh no!
But not to worry — there’s a pill for that, treatment for that. You CAN go to parties, and feel wonderful! Don’t worry that you’re completely disconnected from who you are any more. Take the pills! You’ll forget all of those true feelings! Now your spouse is more comfortable, you’re becoming dead inside, but there’s no more conflict!
“I’d rather be home by myself than be here” is not a disorder for most who feel that way, I think. It’s just who we are. How dare we?? lol … How dare we be happy being alone, and actually prefer that to the company of people who talk about other people endlessly? How dare we go, ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ to being around a bunch of people.
Social anxiety? A disorder? Only because millions of dollars in advertising made it so. Even an attempt to make introversion a listed diagnosis that needs to be treated.
Maybe we’re a threat to the ever increasing falseness and shallowness that pervades our society. Fed by things like Facebook, that often deal with the most trivial of things that we’re supposed to ‘like’ and ‘comment’ on, because that’s what friends do.
As you said, Brenda, it’s when you’re not being true to who you are, where you become anxious and words don’t flow. I can’t say I’m ever at a loss for words around people. People are cool. I see them as beautiful. I also see most people as, for me, boring as can be. And less and less do I feel any compulsion to interact with people, or find opportunities to do that, or put myself in situations where it’s needed.
Introspection is not valued in this society. Shallowness is. Conformity to prevailing values is. ‘Being nice’ is. Being polite is. And I by all means believe in being polite. An impolite society — as we have become in many areas — is a vicious world. Politeness is an important part of a civil society. We don’t need to be impolite. Nor do we need to act outside of our true nature.
Let us be true to who we are, above all else. Or strive to do that. It’s not easy. It’s worth every effort.
And Brenda … lol … thank you for allowing me space to write these things!! You provide the ONLY space that I have for it! And I am grateful for you!
Your comment made me think Michael — as your comments often do. I think of introversion as a desire to recharge, create or reflect in solitude. Social anxiety disorder to me, seems like a dysregulation of our nervous system when we want to avoid everyday interactions. I believe the two are different. Social anxiety is a fight or flight reaction to socializing. Introversion is a temperament that thrives in introspection. Introversion, as you said, is not an affliction that needs to be cured. Social anxiety inhibits normal life by having us avoid so many aspects of it. I think there are ways to manage social anxiety. Introversion needs to be understood more than managed, in my opinion. Just my two cents. Any further thoughts Michael?
I’m glad I am not entirely alone with this kind of self-conscious episodes. So thank you for this enlightening post. I struggle even just introducing myself among new people (i.e. work-related chapter meetings or classes). I always, ALWAYS have to rehearse in my head what I want to say out loud. (Sometimes jot down keywords if there are writing tools nearby.) I want to sound as witty and as confident as the other 99% of the group. As consolation, I remind myself that maybe others feel self-conscious too, and, as further internal pep talk—my little speech should last less than 60 seconds if all goes well. Sigh. I simply dislike being the center of attention at all, AND simultaneously having to vocalize the awesome, brilliant flow of words floating inside my head. Not even for only one harmless (not!) minute.