Overcoming Shyness: Pinar & Sara’s Journey From Fear to Freedom

August 15, 2022
By Jaimie-Lee Elvery
“We’ve been there before, and we overcame our shyness. I know it’s hard to believe when you see and hear us talking without any hesitation or any shyness. It’s really hard to believe unless you saw us years ago! We really want to share our experience with anyone else who is going through the same thing… I believe that if we did it, anyone can do it!” - Pinar, former member, now Community Manager

Pinar and Sara - two introverted best friends who met inside our community - recently did an interview with Emma (Hey Lady! Founder), where they shared their inspiring story about overcoming shyness, and what steps they took at Hey Lady! to become confident, assertive English communicators.

When Pinar and Sara joined our community, they were both incredibly shy, nervous and uncomfortable speakers. They found it particularly difficult to meet new people and express their thoughts, feelings and opinions in English. 

Perhaps this is something you are feeling right now? Perhaps your shyness and nerves are holding you back from opportunities to speak English? If so, keep reading!

Pinar and Sara have been where you are. They remember the feelings - the nerves, the uncertainty, the self-doubt - that you are feeling right now. And they’re here to tell you that it’s possible to break free of them!

The challenges & fears before Hey Lady!

One of Pinar’s greatest challenges was finding people she felt comfortable to speak English with. The thought of speaking English with someone she didn’t know made her very anxious. So, despite desperately wanting to practise and improve her speaking skills with others, shyness held her back; quite often, she would get ‘stuck’ mid-sentence and lose her train of thought completely (even though she knew she had the right words inside her!).

Sara’s greatest challenge was the fear that people would judge her if her English wasn’t perfect. So, she simply refused to speak in front of others. In fact, this fear held her back so much that, even when given the opportunities to practise, Sara pretended she didn’t speak any English, to avoid the embarrassment and shame of making mistakes. 

“I remember being in Turkey and someone asked me, “Do you speak English?” And I said, “NO!” I was really shy, and preferred to stay in my comfort zone. I was a perfectionist too. So to me, if I wanted to speak English, it had to be perfect, with perfect grammar, and zero mistakes! That’s just one example, but there are plenty of other memories just like that, because I always used to refuse to speak English!”

Fast-forward to 2022: replacing fear with freedom!

Now, Pinar and Sara proudly (& confidently!) say they no longer identify as “being shy”.

"I’m not shy anymore, I am confident & I can share my thoughts easily and express myself… Now I can boldly say “YES” to new opportunities,” Pinar said.

They’re not only joining English conversations and expressing their opinions; they’re regularly hosting conversations with people they have never met before. In fact, they have both since become integral members of the Hey Lady! Team - Pinar is part of our Community Experience Team and Sara is one of our incredible Big Sisters!

And now, they use their experiences and newfound confidence to help other women all around the world to find their own version of confidence, just as they have. 💖

And that’s exactly what they want for YOU!

“This topic has huge importance for us because we’ve been through it ourselves. We know how challenging it is for a shy person to learn a new language. If you feel shy or if you are an introvert, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it!”

“Pinar & I are the proof that it is possible!"

So, how did they go from being shy, nervous speakers to confident English communicators? 

The BIG moment when it all changed (Spolier alert: the ‘big moment’ is a myth!) 

We have a tendency to ask people, “So when did it all change for you?” We like to think there are specific, significant moments… An important event that splits time into “before” and “after” the ‘big transformation’.

The truth is, the concept of one “big moment” is a myth - something we’ve seen in movies and expect to see happen in real life. So often, we’re all waiting for our own “movie-worthy” event, something that will change everything for us. 

Perhaps it’s waiting for the one conversation when you stop feeling shy and suddenly feel confident. Or the one teacher that will magically transform your English pronunciation in a single lesson. 

But while we wait for our own “big moment”, we’re actually missing all the little moments - all the small opportunities to practise and improve. Opportunities to show up, to make mistakes, to learn from them, and to slowly (and permanently) build confidence, one conversation at a time.

Of course, there are always points on our journey that we can look back on and identify as a moment of impact. But often, we don’t realise how significant they were at the time

For Sara, one of those small steps was joining our community and realising there were other women who were just like her:

“For me, I was mostly scared of being judged by other people. But meeting women at Hey Lady! who were so kind to me and so supportive - they didn’t judge me - that was really relieving to me! And meeting Pinar, who was nervous just like me, gave me POWER and the courage to go on, to learn English, and to become more confident speaking.”

“Conversation after conversation, I felt a little bit better, and a little bit better, and a little bit better.” 

So, it wasn’t one, big, massive moment. It was actually all these tiny things. Tiny, incremental steps outside her comfort zone. Sara may not have even noticed the small changes taking place at the time, but every single one of these small steps were contributing to the confident, powerful speaker she is today! 

Pinar’s experience has been very similar. “You don’t even realise when you’re in it. The progress is step by step, and you only realise it after months or years. If I look back now, I can see this huge progress. But if you asked me maybe three years ago, the changes and progress were subtle,” Pinar said. 

“One of my favourite quotes is, “When you’re in it, you can’t see how beautiful it is. But when you look at it from above, you’ll see how beautiful that place is!” I think it’s similar with English. When you’re in it, it’s not easy to see it. But when you achieve many things all together - when they become a pile - then you can see it clearly!”

Genuine transformation - like Pinar & Sara’s - doesn’t happen overnight. As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”! Genuine, meaningful and sustainable transformation comes from an accumulation of smaller moments - of tiny, micro-decisions.

Pinar & Sara’s Top Two Tips for Genuine Transformation

There is so much wisdom we can take from Pinar & Sara’s journey, but there are two really key points that stand out:

  • There’s no shame in being shy: If you’re feeling it, say it (out loud)!
  • Take baby steps that align with your goals, and celebrate your progress!

1. Don’t try to “fake it until you make it” - if you’re feeling nervous, admit  it!

As Pinar and Sara spoke about the shyness, nerves, fears and self-doubts they had at the start, I found myself thinking, “Yup, I can definitely relate to that feeling!” (yes, even as a native speaker!) and “I thought I was the only one who felt that way”.

But then I looked at the chat box in Zoom.

And I saw over 100 (yes, 100!) Hey Lady! members, all sending messages about the experiences they have had with shyness and self-doubt. About the fears that hold them back. About the opportunities they have missed out on as a result of these fears.

And suddenly, I felt seen. Understood. Like I was in the right place, with the right people.

Because there’s something so powerful about realising that other people have experienced the same insecurities as you… Realising that you’re not alone (even though we have a tendency to convince ourselves that we are!).

It was refreshing.

Encouraging.

And most importantly, it created a safe space - it gave us permission - to acknowledge and talk about the feelings of shyness, inadequacy and comparison that are very rarely spoken about. 

Looking at the messages in the chatbox, it was clear that everyone feels alone in these feelings. We have all felt like shyness is something to be ashamed of. Something that should be hidden and masked, not spoken about with others! 

And yet, these feelings impact SO many women!

I began to wonder… If these feelings, doubts and fears are experienced by so many women, why don’t we acknowledge them and talk about them more? Why do we feel the need to hide them? What good comes of pretending to be confident, if it means we miss out on genuinely connecting with someone in moments of shared vulnerability and fear? It made me wonder how many times I have missed the opportunity to connect with someone simply because I was pretending to be confident or to be something I’m not. 

And then Pinar & Sara shared the most wonderful, simple piece of wisdom - a “golden tip” that I am going to take with me into any situation or conversation where I feel a little uncomfortable or nervous. 

JUST SAY IT!

“Recognising that you’re nervous or shy is perfectly okay! As soon as you say it to others, you will realise that many other people feel that way as well!” Sara said.

“The moment you admit it out loud, you will start feeling a little bit more comfortable. Because if you don’t, you are taking on the additional pressure to be something that you’re not! It’s hard enough learning a language - we don’t need any additional pressure, right? But once you say it, you know that the people you’re speaking with know how you are feeling. They can help you overcome it and make you feel more comfortable. You are taking the pressure off yourself!”

I LOVE this advice. It is so simple, yet so powerful! 

It is absolutely okay to say “I am feeling a bit nervous” at the start of a conversation, whether it’s at Hey Lady! or anywhere else. 

You may have heard the expression, “Acceptance is the first step to healing”, and it sounds like the same is true for overcoming shyness or nerves - admitting, acknowledging and accepting that these feelings exist is not weak; in fact, it takes strength, humility and courage!

So, next time you find yourself feeling nervous or uncomfortable - whether it’s with a teacher, speaking partner or someone you meet in a breakout room at Hey Lady! - try saying the words “I’m shy” or “I feel nervous about speaking”  out loud, and see how you feel! I believe that you will immediately feel more at ease & comfortable, because people will be understanding (or they might let out a sigh of relief and say “me too!”)  - and you never know, they may be feeling the exact same way! But you would never know that if you didn’t say something!

2. Take BABY steps that align with YOUR goals (and celebrate them!)

Everyone’s English journey is unique.

Yes, we may all feel nervous or shy, but what scares you may be entirely different to what I am afraid of doing.

For example, Sara mentioned that her two biggest fears when she first joined our community were:

  1. Speaking with people she hadn’t met before; and 
  2. Seeing herself on camera (on Zoom).

“It sounds silly, because I am on camera all the time now, but back then it made me really nervous; it was a huge challenge at the time,” Sara said.

She knew that, in order to take the first step, she would need to step out of her comfort zone a bit, but rather than diving into the deep end straight away and joining lots of large group conversations with people she didn’t know, she decided to take one small step at a time

“So, I started with one-to-one conversations at Hey Lady! Of course, I still needed to be on camera, but it was just with one person. It was a really good first step for me and it helped me overcome my fear of being on camera. So, I kept doing one-to-one conversations until I felt comfortable; until I was ready to take the next small step out of my comfort zone and join larger group conversations.”

It’s not about taking the plunge and doing something that absolutely terrifies you straight away. It’s about identifying what your fears are, and working out what small step you can start with to begin breaking that fear down and overcoming it one step at a time! 

“You need to know what you want to achieve,” Pinar said. 

“Maybe the first step is joining a video chat like Sara mentioned. But once you do that, you need to stop and be proud of that."

"Always be proud of the small steps! Do what makes you feel a little bit uncomfortable, not too uncomfortable.” 

The idea of taking small, incremental steps to slowly expand your comfort zone reminds me of a quote from Alex Honnold, one of the world’s greatest free solo rock climbers:

“My comfort zone is like a little bubble around me, and I’ve pushed it in different directions and made it bigger and bigger until these objectives that seemed totally crazy eventually fall within the realm of the possible.” - Alex Honnold

Put these tips into practice!

If you want to start putting Pinar and Sara’s tips into practice, we would love you to join us inside Hey Lady! for a free 10-day trial! 

From the moment you join your first conversation at Hey Lady!, our team will be there to welcome you and introduce you to other like-minded women, who you can feel comfortable speaking English with and building your confidence alongside.

In fact, Pinar and Sara both host conversations on our platform that are specifically for shy and introverted members, to give you a safe, enjoyable space to express yourself and connect with other women in a way that is comfortable and meaningful to you. They will introduce you to other members and give you an opportunity to speak one-to-one with someone who could become your speaking partner and genuine friend - just like Pinar and Sara! 

We have created events, resources and practical tips purely for shy and introverted Hey Lady! members, so that you can start to build your confidence, step outside your comfort zone and say “goodbye” to shyness, one small step at a time!

Pinar and Sara’s success is proof that it is possible.

It wasn’t just because they got lucky.

It wasn’t because they launched themselves outside their comfort zone in a terrifying way.

Or because they have super powers!

It was because they took small, intentional steps to build their confidence, bit by bit. And they want to help you do the same. 

So, are you ready to get started? 

Join today with a 10-day free trial!

We can't wait to see you inside ✨

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