For the most part I have always been a shy person, until I really got to know someone.
I have also had issues with anxiety that have at times been crippling.
Over the years I have missed out on many wonderful social opportunities because I was just too uncomfortable to venture out into the unknown.
People have mistaken my shyness for snobbishness and incorrectly thinking that I was either bored, annoyed or too good to be in their presence, when in actuality, I was just nervous, insecure and unsure of what to say to people I didn't know.
This happened quite often when I was dating my husband, when he would take me places where his friends gathered.
While I enjoyed listening to their reminiscent stories, I always felt excluded by default, as I had not been part of their lives during the fond times of which they spoke. Since I was unable to chime in, I just sat there like a bump on a log.
I also learned that when you are shy or insecure, it shows in your body language and can send a message to people essentially saying that you don't want to be bothered.
Several years back, my children and I went to check out a local church. It had a very small congregation and my girls and I quietly slipped into the back row.
Within seconds, several elderly women came over to us to extend a wholehearted welcome and asked us our names.
I was a little taken back as I didn't know you were allowed to talk in church; however, those women made us feel so welcome that it was as if we had known each other for years.
Their friendliness was strange to me, but I really liked it.
In a few short months as more and more new people came to visit the church, I felt it was time for me to suck it up and bestow the warm welcome given to me when I arrived.
Still not knowing how to start a conversation, I simply dipped into my memory bank and replayed the conversation from my very first visit there.
To my delight, I received the same results and the people seemed to be as happy as I was to have received a friendly greeting.
As time went by, I took a huge leap in my battle to overcome my shyness (and other anxieties) and tried out for the praise band, which is like a modern version of a choir.
I remember the sheer horror I felt the first time I sang before the congregation; my mouth was dry, my heart was racing and I was trembling.
All of my insecurities and neurosis kicked into high gear.
I did it anyway and I felt really good inside for doing it, even though it was hard and I was scared.
I was really excited when I became a stringer for the TIMES NEWS.
I thought it would be easy and fun to simply take pictures and write.
What I did not take into consideration was the fact that I had to go and interview total strangers.
My first interview was with an awesome young woman named Samantha Zlock, who was in the process of obtaining a scoreboard for the Panther Valley girls' softball team as part of her senior project.
I remember being dumbstruck as to what questions I should ask her to create the story and had much anxiety in the hours leading up to the interview.
When the time came, my mouth was dry, my heart was racing and I was trembling.
I told her she was my first interview ever and that I was nervous.
What I didn't tell her was that what I really wanted to do was run back to my car with my tail between my legs and give up this crazy idea of being a journalist.
Thank goodness she had such a warm personality and was able to put me at ease.
Since that time I have made great strides in attempting to overcome my shyness and anxieties.
My determination to push through things when I am afraid has spilled over into other areas of my life.
I have flown in an airplane, and look forward to doing it again for vacation (albeit with a little help from my doctor), I have zip-lined across a canyon and climbed an ancient Mayan ruin (even though I was certain I was going to die).
I have even learned that I can sing a solo in front of many people, even though I know that I will undoubtedly tremble.
Now, I make it a point to talk to strangers and to try to say something that will put a smile on their face and brighten their day and I am no longer afraid that I will say the wrong thing or pass out cold on the floor.
I have met so many wonderful people and made new friends by stepping out of my comfort zone and reaching out to others with a handshake and a warm smile.
Fear is a funny thing.
While it can protect you from potential harm, it can also hold you back from that which is good.
What scares you and keeps you from enjoying the wonderful things that life has in store for you?
What unfulfilled dream lingers in the back of your mind, but remains stifled by your fear?
Today is a great day to break free from those bonds of fear that hold you captive.
Whatever it is that you have been longing to do, take a deep breath, pull up your sleeves and go do it; and, if you find yourself feeling scared, then do it afraid.