During my second summer in Canada I lived with my only friend in a new town. She was a very busy woman and my partner worked out of town. I was alone most of the time. Phone calls to my family in Austria were too expensive.
Because my English wasn’t very good, I felt shy and timid and isolated. I wanted, needed human contact.
I’d grown up in a small community and had the same friends all my life. Now I was in a city, and only knew one person. I missed my friends. I set a goal to go out and say Hi to three people every day. I couldn’t even imagine having a full conversation with complete strangers in a foreign language.
Have you ever been truly terrified of doing something completely out of your comfort zone? That was me. Every day. I looked for excuses. What would they think about me? Would they criticise me, or worse correct me? I felt so lonely I just wanted to talk with someone.
I didn’t want to do it but I did it every day. Well almost every day.
Imagine my feelings on the days I accomplished my goal. I felt relief, pride, and surprise that it went better than expected and I even had real conversations.
Always worried what others might think about my mistakes. I wanted to improve my English and just talk with someone. That soon became more important than other people’s opinion of me.
I experienced a roller coaster of feelings like, being proud of myself, feeling accomplished, also doubt, despair and hope. Every day I felt more courageous and I noticed that it got easier the more I practised. I felt on top of the world after my knees didn’t shake and I was safely back in the house. I gained confidence.
Waking up the next morning it would hit me. I had to do it all over again. Every morning I felt nervous and scared but I also felt frustrated and down when I didn’t stick to my plan.
I started to like my accent, it helped me to connect and people remembered me.
I worried about someone being rude, and being so devastated that I would give up.
I realized that not everyone spoke a second language.
Often I would question why I had committed to do this. Then I would just smile at someone and if they smiled back I would say hello. I often felt like a total loser because I was so scared of something so easy.
Yet I kept persisting. My confidence grew the more chats I had in my second language. I still remember how delighted I was about my first english dream. Talking to a friend from ESL class in English over the phone for two hours felt like I had graduated.
What a big confidence booster.
Now it’s easier for me to chat with people and write about my experiences as a Highly Sensitive Person. Back then I would have never believed that I could do this. Yet here we are.