Coming from a history of chronic social anxiety, I’ve always been super shy. I’ve always felt nervous around other people and have a hard time being myself. I also always had a tough time talking to girls and I have always avoided putting myself out there for opportunities and new experiences.
I don’t know why I’ve always been shy, but I knew I had to take massive action.
So I came up with a challenge for myself: approach strangers on the street and attempt to sell them beatboxing performances for 100 yen (one US dollar) here where I live in Japan.
I was physically shaking, my voice was constricted, and my hands were sweating. As you might expect, I was rejected many times. A lot of people thought I was insane. But in the midst of all the rejection, some really cool and unexpected things happened. I recorded the entire experience and compiled a video showing the highlights.
I tell him to go for it and the dude begins freestyle rapping over my beat! It was totally unexpected, and turned out to be a fun improvisation.
Next, after struggling with fail after fail for the next half hour, I finally talked to a couple of college girls who were a bit reluctant at first, but equally giggly and intrigued. They decided to pay me and fire up the “beatbox robot”, and I gave them a show. Afterward, they gave me a big thanks for brightening up their day.
The final and most exciting thing that happened veered a bit from the original challenge of beatboxing for money. I saw a young man with a ukulele strapped to his back. I approached him and asked if he would like to do a short performance on the street with me, to which he obliged! We did a one minute impromptu performance on the street – I beatboxed and he played the ukulele and sang. Honestly, I felt embarrassed being such an amateur performing with such a professional. But hey, It was a great way to further challenge my shyness, and it also ended up being really fun.
The musician thanked me afterward for approaching him. Having a big show that night in Tokyo, he said he was glad to get the unexpected practice! Because I had decided to challenge my shyness, and do something fun and unexpected to get outside of my comfort zone, we both benefited from the experience.
From paralyzing social anxiety to beatboxing in front of strangers.
This actually isn’t my first social challenge. Around one year ago, I became fed up with the current life I was living – running from people and opportunities, and feeling like crap knowing that I was capable of more. I realized that if I was going to start living the life I wanted, I needed to change myself. I needed to finally face the anxiety that was inside of me so that I could start being more confident and go for opportunities as they arose.
Watching prank videos on YouTube, I was always amazed at how confident the people who ran those pranks were that they could subject themselves to so much social pressure and ride it out calmly. At one point, I thought, “that could never be me. I’m just too shy.”
Determined to challenge that notion, I decided to go out and intentionally subject myself to social pressure, like the pranksters I saw on YouTube. But I wasn’t ready yet. No matter how much I wanted to, at that time, the fear was too strong for me to face. So what could I do to get to the point where I could face that fear? I broke it down into smaller and easier challenges.
My first challenge was to simply say “hello” to 100 strangers in public. Yes, I felt so much anxiety that just saying hello to a stranger seemed like a nightmare. I struggled heavily but was able to finish the challenge in two weeks. My second challenge was to start conversations with 100 strangers. With strenuous effort and using accountability (a system where I’d have to pay money to a friend if I failed to achieve my goal), I somehow managed to start conversations with 100 strangers in four months.
Driving police cars, street magic, and singing “Happy Birthday to Me” inside McDonald’s beca,e ways for me to combat my shyness.
I then started getting into stuff I considered more difficult. I did challenges like singing Happy Birthday to myself in a crowded McDonald’s, asking police if I could drive their car, and learning a magic trick and immediately showing a stranger – challenges that put me in a position for strangers to judge me. That way, I could overcome that fear of being judged, which is the main reason I feel social anxiety.
Doing these social challenges led up to doing the beatbox project I did today, which has been the most rewarding challenge to date. Not only did I overcome my own shyness a little bit more, but I had a hell of a good time, made some new friends, and brightened up a few peoples’ days.
From this one year of doing social challenges, the road to overcoming my shyness and taking charge of my life has been slow and has required consistent effort, but the results that come each time always drive me to do the next challenge. As a result of systematically applying social pressure to myself, I feel I am much more confident, can talk to people and make friends more easily, and don’t feel as nervous about things like public speaking or doing job interviews. Oh yeah, and I don’t have trouble talking to girls anymore.
Let my story inspire you to force yourself to get out of your comfort zone.
For those who read this and feel that they too are on the shy side, and perhaps would like to get outside of their comfort zone and live a more quality life, I myself came from there, and have been slowly working my way through the fog. I know that it’s not easy. But if you commit to just one step at a time and take that one action that scares you but you know you need to take, the feeling you feel after, the one of I did it! will build up your confidence and further propel you into taking that next step in living more confidently and having a more fulfilling social life.
I wish the best for you and your journey. If you have any questions or just want to say what’s up, feel free to drop me a message.
Check out my social challenges on YouTube: https://youtube.com/c/tonymichaelhead
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