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Podcast Episode #1: Becoming Quietly Confident

Stacie Clark
Hi, and welcome to the first episode of the Quiet Connections podcast. I’m Stacie.

Hayley Stanton
And I’m Hayley. This podcast is for you if you feel anxious or panicky in social situations; or maybe you consider yourself to be shy, “too quiet” or socially anxious; or perhaps you just feel like you’re not good enough. Right now, you might be struggling with everyday tasks that other people seem to find easy, or avoiding social situations for fear of rejection and criticism. These challenges are actually really common. But because they’re things that people don’t tend to talk about, you can see how easily we can feel alone, broken and like we don’t fit in. Stacie and I have been there too. Held back by fear and anxiety, keeping ourselves small and quiet, afraid to be seen and heard. That’s why we feel it’s so important to start these conversations – and the whole reason that this podcast exists for you. We’re Speaking the Unspoken so that you know you’re not alone and you don’t need fixing. We want you to see that you can do more, achieve more and be more successful and connected than you probably think you can right now. You just need to collect a few puzzle pieces to help you manage those anxious feelings and start showing up…

Stacie Clark
Over the course of this series, we’ll be joined by some wonderful guests as we explore key insights and stories to help you reframe quiet, embrace imperfections, and love who you truly are. We’ll be diving into topics such as loneliness, self-rejection, mindfulness, managing criticism, connection, dealing with uncertainty, and letting go of the fears that hold us back, like failure and making mistakes. We’ll be gaining insights from those who have been where you are now that help us move towards self-acceptance and practicing self-compassion, to understanding how our thoughts are not our reality, and why how we are isn’t who we are.

You’ll pick up a variety of tips and tools so that you too can feel calmer, more confident and experience more joy, doing the things you really want to. In this episode, you’ll be getting to know us and hearing our stories and we will begin to share some of the key puzzle pieces that have helped us, and the people we have worked with, to move beyond anxiety and avoidance. You’ll be exploring with us what it takes to grow your confidence, so you can finally speak up, join in and feel like you belong.

Hayley Stanton
Now Stacie and I are both coaches and directors at our community organisation, Quiet Connections based here in Cornwall in the UK. Together, we help quieter people like you to feel more calm and confident so you can speak up when you need to; join the social group you want to; make new friends and go on dates without the panic; get the grades that you deserve; and actually enjoy talking with people. We run workshops and speak publicly to hundreds of people at a time. But it wasn’t always this way. Would you like to share your story Stacie?

Stacie Clark
No it wasn’t! So.. too shy, too sensitive, worries too much. These are some of the key things that that come up when I think about my childhood and what it was like for me growing up. So not only did I start to kind of criticise myself for these things but it was also the phrases I had a lot from those around me. Oh, you’re just you’re just too sensitive, stop taking things so personally, stop taking things to heart. Stop worrying so much. Speak up. You know all those types of things, so with that came a sense of feeling as though I didn’t really fit in and didn’t really belong, and I thought I was just wasn’t acceptable and it wasn’t okay and there was just this deep feeling of, I’m just not good enough, that there must be something wrong with me.

Hayley Stanton
I was always a quiet child. I can remember my parents apologising for me being shy and not talking to people. I would sit at the back of the class quiet, not speaking eyes down please talk to me. And when I was spoken to, I would tend to just freeze up. Go bright red. You know, I was a little redhead kid with a red face.

Stacie Clark
Yeah I know I remember being in primary school, and being forced into doing his poetry recital competitions because the teachers thought that it would help me with feeling more confident and weird speaking up in the class. And it was just horrific I just remember standing there terrified because you were judged and evaluated on how expressive you were and how you could bring that poem to life and I would just stand there completely lifeless. So that really just kind of reinforced some of these ideas and these beliefs that I had about myself already.

Hayley Stanton
My very first memory was when I was probably about six years old, and we were doing a carnival and I was a fairy queen attendant. And my first memory is lying about needing a wee, and asking my dad to get me off the float because I just couldn’t take people looking at me anymore, so I know that that real anxiety around people and around being centre of attention was there from a very young age for me. I grew up being a very shy child and I felt like I constantly received messages that I wasn’t good enough that I was getting things wrong. And interestingly, I was watching my mum with my nephew, recently, and they were just doing some colouring in, and she was saying oh no you can’t colour the face that colour because that’s not the colour of people’s faces.

Stacie Clark
Yeah, I received a lot of that as well when I was growing up.

Hayley Stanton
I thought that’s really interesting that’s just a really subtle way that we can start to receive the messages that we’re getting things wrong and that we’re not doing things right and we’re making too many mistakes and telling us that we have to be perfect really. So I grew up with this idea that I had to be perfect. If I wasn’t 100% that I had the correct answer, then I wouldn’t be giving an answer.

Stacie Clark
So, there were so many times when I was in school, and I would think that I had the answer. I was always so so doubting of myself so whenever there was a bit of doubt there I just didn’t put my hand out. I was just too afraid in case it was wrong and then yeah just that that fear of I would embarrass myself.

Hayley Stanton
And if a teacher would pick on me in class I would literally just freeze, I would go red in the face I remember one awful incident when I was in science and the teacher asked me as a teenager, about a question about the reproductive system. And I just froze and went red in the face and I couldn’t speak and this was my normal reaction, and her response was, “see this is what happens when you’re embarrassed to talk about sex”. And it was just so so shaming and, oh, I mean I still remember that now and I could still feel how I felt and feel the burning of my face and, and the laughter in the room.

I think my life has been a series of these moments where I have been in a situation where I’ve been centre of attention. And I’ve received these messages that I’m messing up and I am not good enough. And I’m not living up to the standards that I should be when I compare myself to other people around me.

I struggled with things like presentations. I’d go off sick usually if there was a presentation and if I really couldn’t avoid that then I’d be standing at the front of the class red faced, stumbling over my words. And I could just hear the whispering in the room like ‘why is she that red in the face?’

Stacie Clark
Yeah, trembling legs was always a big thing for me. They’d tremble like mad. And as always I’d just hope hope and pray that the teachers wouldn’t pick me to go next and hopefully run out of time and I’d be able to get away with it. Of course that never happens. So I can just remember just panicking my way through doing presentations, or even just like answering the register in class. I remember one time actually when I was in primary school, and the boy sat across from me… taking the mickey out of the way that I used to answer the register because when I felt nervous I used to giggle a bit, so whenever I answered register. I’d always giggle at the same time and I remember him sitting there one day and just staring at me with this like scrunched up face like ‘why do you do that?’. And I just remember not saying anything bad but just like looking down in this like sense of shame of like ‘why do i do that?!’ And that was a common feeling for me that sense of like, why do I do that? why do I act in this way? So, as I continued into my teenage years, I just completely disconnected from, who I was and I was really trying to hide myself. I struggled to speak to people, and to make friends, and when I did make friends it was usually because the other person was talking to me first and would continue to make that effort and I would just slowly really ease into that friendship. It was never me, I think who ever instigated a friendship with anyone, and the few people who I did then feel very comfortable around, almost became like my security blanket. And if I was like going to school, and if I found out that like one of those friends was in there that day I remember that feeling of panic of just like, oh my god I’m gonna have to get into the classrooms by myself to sit by myself. I’m gonna have no one to talk to, I remember that too horrible, absolute sheer panic like it was bad enough going to school in the first place because you know you had to be around so many people and you didn’t know if any teachers were going to ask you questions in class or anything like that but, yeah. When you find out that like your like one or two people that you actually felt comfortable with weren’t there, it was just like, Nooo, I’m not gonna be able to get through this day.

By the time I was like 11 or 12 I just started disconnecting further and further away from myself. And obviously what I’ve learned over the last few years is that actually showing up as who you were as very vulnerable thing to do. That sense of emotional vulnerability was not something that I learned growing up. So I didn’t really have the tools to be able to express how I was feeling what I was thinking, or even really express who I was, I had this belief that you know vulnerability was a weakness that it wasn’t okay to be vulnerable that it wasn’t okay to be sensitive that it wasn’t okay to feel all the emotions that I felt. It meant that I was really just trying to hide who I was so I found it hard to connect with other people or to allow other people to get to know me. And I just believed that everyone was going to reject who I was.

That my opinions were valid, or I would be criticised for them that nobody liked me, and even if someone did seem to like me I always kind of like still thought that it was just a joke. And that eventually that joke would come out and it would be like we were just pretending actually. Nobody likes you and even sharing my opinions didn’t feel okay, I remember, I would like bands or songs and if I had other people talking about them I felt like I couldn’t offer up my opinion, in case it was wrong or in case like what I thought about it wasn’t the same somebody else or if somebody asked me like what’s your favourite band or one I can’t answer that, because what if who I like Isn’t what they like?

Hayley Stanton
Yeah it’s like… What music do you like? Tell me first and then I’ll tell you.

Stacie Clark
It was just really simple little things like that which go back to the music thing actually for for quite a while I pretended that I didn’t even listen to music, so that I could avoid kind of answering those questions because there is that sense of vulnerability and sharing who you are when it comes to like the things that you like or take some music or TV shows that you like watching so there was this feeling of I must hide. I need to protect myself. Like I said earlier, this really drove a sense of disconnection because the person that I was showing up as in the world really didn’t reflect the person that I knew I was inside, and for me that’s where a lot of the struggle came from – the conflict that I felt inside was really that push and pull of, I want to show up I want to be seen I want people to get to know me, I want to connect with people and yet, I don’t feel like I can.

Hayley Stanton
I went through life, keeping myself very small, trying to stay quiet and hidden. And I really developed social anxiety. That meant that I was feeling really sick, whenever I had to go to school. I sometimes I’d actually really make myself ill just through the worry, and depending on like what was happening in school that day. For example, like you said, Stacie having one of those friends to support you. Well, do you remember when the teachers would sit you boy girl, boy, girl and take away all your support?

Stacie Clark
Yeah! Yeah, at like the start like a school year or something, I just remember worrying that like I might have to ike, sit next to someone that I don’t know very well like I’m not gonna be able to ask for help or. Yeah, I used to hate that so much.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah, exactly. And I wouldn’t ask for help and I’d just be sat there, feeling anxious the whole time; thinking ‘please don’t talk to me, please don’t talk to me’ but also feeling ridiculous because I’m not talking to anyone. Yeah.

Stacie Clark
Yes, I would just sit there and like just my head down and it’d be like tunnel vision of just like looking at my workbook.

Hayley Stanton
I can remember this one awful incident where we were sat at the lunch table in secondary school, and one of the girls just started shouting about how much she hates me, how much I annoy her because I’m so quiet and I don’t say anything. And I had no response I was just, you know, tears in my eyes holding it back and I couldn’t say anything. I had one nice friend with me who was sticking out for me and saying well that’s not nice, but the damage is kind of done. This constant buildup of messages that you’re boring because, like you I wasn’t really showing up I wasn’t sharing opinions. I was afraid to share what I liked, and I would want other people to tell me what was okay to like.

Stacie Clark
And even if I didn’t like what everybody else like, then I felt too scared to say that I had like a different opinion on something. Again, it was just limit, and minimise my, my own self and what I thought and what mattered to me as the as a way to try and fit in with everyone else.

Hayley Stanton
And what I find very intriguing is that I could go through school with this intense fear, and nobody picked up on it, not one teacher pulled me to one side and was like are you okay or spoke to my parents, and even my parents didn’t really notice that there was an issue. That was just me, I was this quiet shy person and you know that’s just the way I was. And that wasn’t true. It was that I had some real challenging issues going on, and I needed help, and I needed support and I needed to know that I was okay. I needed what you had Stacie when you had your teacher take you to one side and say look we all feel this way at times..

Stacie Clark
That was a really high moment. And for me, there’s been three prime situations in my life that have really helped to shift, or start shifting, that within me, and first came when I was about 14. And when I first had those moments of other people actually telling me that they felt the same way that I did. I had a teacher at school, who after my mom read my diary and then we decided that I would go have some professional help and have some counselling and we had to tell the school about that because I would be leaving during class. And I remember my form teacher, one day, having a conversation with me and telling me that she had also felt that way. And that she still feels that way at times, I think that was the first time I had an, an adult, really express that sense of vulnerability with me, and to tell me that it was okay that I felt that way and that things can change. And I do wish that there was more of that especially in school I’m just going back to like what what you said at there about teachers not noticing. And I just remember that in about six months beforehand at this point. I was in an English class, and we had a poetry project that we were having to do. And my poem was literally about suicide. I handed in this poem about how I wanted to end my life, and gave it to the teacher and she just gave me an A and nothing was said. It’s like, wow, like that’s a cry for help, and it was dismissed and not picked up on.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah that’s heartbreaking isn’t it. So, I think, to me that disconnection that I felt was one of the biggest things and I know that that is a core driver to feeling suicidal; that sense that I didn’t fit in anywhere I didn’t belong. And, you know, I may have had a few people who were close to me at times. I certainly didn’t fit into the groups and when you’re in, when you’re in school, mostly you’re hanging out in groups of people and I never felt like I found wherever I fit in. I’d much prefer meeting with people one to one and I felt like I could be more myself and have fun. But I definitely couldn’t when there was a group of people.

Stacie Clark
It’s interesting what you say because for me I almost prefer sitting in groups of people because it meant that I could just quietly hide, and everyone else would just kind of have that conversation and as long as like threw in a couple of laughs every now and then. It was almost like a way to disguise the fact that actually I’m not contributing anything and I was actually certain I was feeling more on the outside, but trying to fit in. I suppose like pretend that I was part of it. And if someone like if certain people then got up and left and I was left one to one with someone, I would just freeze. I’d be like crap, I have to speak to this person.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah! I mean, like specific people one to one really. Definitely I can relate to that feeling of being on the outside, and you know that intense feeling that I don’t fit in there, I’m flawed and I’m not like the other people in this group. That really was intensified when I was in a group of people for me. But there were just certain people throughout my life who were safe and actually felt really good to spend time with. And then of course when it came to boys, that was a whole other thing. I can remember there was this guy that I really liked for pretty much the whole of secondary school, and I heard he was gonna ask me to the prom. And I was like, no, that’s not going to happen. He’s definitely not going to ask me, I’m safe. And then he called my name and I literally ran in the opposite direction and pretended not to hear him. So he may have been going to ask me or he might not have, I don’t know.

Stacie Clark
You never gave him the chance!

Hayley Stanton
Yeah and that was kind of the theme that carried on throughout my younger life really. I never really gave anyone the chance, friends, relationships. I just kept the barriers up because I didn’t want to be seen. I always felt like if someone did see me then they would really reject me, and it was only going to be so long till I found out that I was boring, or I was just not what they wanted at all.

So I went off to college, from school, and I did healthcare because that’s what my friends were doing. I’d done quite well at that at GCSE, but it wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to do because, I didn’t really have my own mind. I didn’t even give myself a chance to think about what I wanted to do. It was more like, what does the world want me to do? What should I be doing? I want someone else to give me the answers. And then the same thing continued where I was avoiding speaking out, socialising and avoiding these presentations. I can remember walking all the way to college once because I went to college in my own town so I didn’t have to deal with public transport to, and because everyone else was going. And I yeah I went up sick for this presentation and I meant I had to do it in front of just the teacher and that felt just as horrendous to me as if I done it to the whole group, and of course on top of that I had the shame of not turning up to the group presentation in the best place.

And I can remember all of my reports were talking about me being quiet. There was a report when I was in college that said I was ‘quietly confident’ with my work and I thought that’s the first time anyone has used the word confident to describe me. That was nice. It gave me that sense like oh maybe you can have this different type of confidence maybe it’s not all about being that louder, outgoing, easily chatty person that I imagined confidence to be. So when I left college I was extremely isolated and disconnected. I didn’t have this group of friends who were basically just drinking buddies around me at the time. And I didn’t go to university because that was far too scary for me. I thought How am I supposed to be able to go grocery shopping house share with people that I don’t know, stand up and do a presentation to a group in university if I can’t even do these things when I’m in my hometown. And the alternative of course is to go out and get a job, but I couldn’t because I was like no one’s gonna want me. What can I do where I can hide in the background? If I get a job people are going to find out that I’m useless and I can’t speak to people. And so, I’m already sabotaging my job applications. I was missing off grades, so I was writing them with my non-dominant hand and you can imagine what a cover letter might look like.

So I did really, really well at not getting a job interview. Yeah. But it just meant that I felt like I was being a burden on my mum and I was under pressure to go out and get a job. And, you know, I was feeling isolated feeling disconnected. And I felt really hopeless I felt like this was just the way that I was, I didn’t fit in, I was broken in fact I called myself defective. And I just felt like there was nothing that I could do to change how I was, or change the world around me. I felt like I was destined to just be a disappointment and to live in this pain.

So, when I was 19, I actually overdosed ending up in hospital, And you would think that you would get some support when you reach this stage, but the response that I got when I was in ED wasn’t good. The nurse asked ‘did you do this for attention? And of course that the very last thing that I wanted. So I went quiet, and I didn’t respond. And eventually I was given a counsellor in my GP surgery, and she was guiding me to talk about events that she obviously deemed worthy of suicide. And whilst these things were upsetting. They weren’t the things that was driving me to want to suicide. What was driving me to want to suicide was that pure self hate that I had the fact that I really couldn’t see any good me I couldn’t see that I had any use like I was worth connecting with or keeping alive. And so, in counselling, obviously again I would just shut down I literally froze my body would not let me speak. And, and that’s what happened when I didn’t feel safe. And my counsellors response was, well, you obviously don’t want my help or you’d be talking to me. And then that was the end of my counselling support because, you know, I got my mum to ring up and say what happened and the doctor had said well, she is the best that we’ve got.

Stacie Clark
Yeah, yeah, yeah, it was kind of, you know, put back on your door like you were in the wrong.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah, definitely. And I kind of spent the next number of years struggling through. My mum connected me with an old friend, one of the ones that I liked spending time with one to one, we’d actually gone out and met a group of people that I used to hang out with and rekindled those friendships and I kind of got back into the like, I’m gonna be social and I’m gonna drink, and I’m gonna kind of have that connection, even if it is not really the deep connection I need, it’s a real surface level connection it’s something. And I ended up getting a job in healthcare, of course.

I quickly got a job in the NHS after that. A friend of mine, worked on one of the wards and I got a job with her, and I was put forward to do a foundation degree at the local college, so I decided to do that. Even though I was absolutely terrified, and I was panicking about it. And I can remember on one of my night shifts, I was with a trainee counsellor at the time we were both working together as healthcare assistants. And I can remember just breaking down and talking about how awful my school experiences were and how I couldn’t do presentations. And I think that was the first time that I was really listened to. The first time I was really heard, because, I mean, even after I had overdosed the response that I got was like ‘oh it’s time to pull yourself together’. And I guess what I really needed was for someone to listen to me, to validate those feelings that I was having. So I went along and I did the interview and I got on the course. And it turns out that I can do presentations and do them very well.

And it’s really using those more introverted strengths that I have that mean that I can, I can prepare really well. I spend a lot of time preparing for a presentation. And then I can show up and deliver it and at that time it was more, probably more stumbly and red faced and one thing that I did realise, was that even though I thought I was showing up with a red face. I actually wasn’t because I did a presentation when I did an internship with Cancer Research UK. And I did a presentation to maybe 400 people at a school, local to us. And in my presentation I’ve been talking about how this is really important and that’s how I can stand up here with, you know, a red face and shaking. And afterwards, a couple of the girls went I don’t know why you said that he didn’t have a red face. So I thought maybe the way that I see myself isn’t actually how I come across. And I got really good feedback about that presentation.

It just started me questioning about the way that I see myself, is that really how other people are seeing me. And the truth is it wasn’t. I was so focused on everything that I saw as a flaw. And I didn’t give myself a chance to recognise the good, that was in me and what I was doing well, I was just zooming in on the things that I felt hadn’t gone as well, which other people weren’t even picking up on.

Stacie Clark
Yeah, I think we have a tendency to do that. We’re just looking at everything that that we consider bad or that we don’t like about ourselves and miss so much of the good things, and the strengths that we have and the qualities that we might have.

Yeah. When I was about 21, I actually went back to the doctors again, because I felt like I needed more support but I also felt like I’d already had that support, and I still felt the same on many levels. And that really kind of reinforced this idea of like I must be broken. I can’t be fixed, that there’s something wrong with me because I really had that support and a lot of things still hadn’t changed, which I think is a really common experience that many of us experience like we feel like we have one set of counselling sessions, or we have that like one little block of support and we feel like we expect that things are going to magically change for us that we’re going to wake up the next day and everything’s going to be fine and what I’ve learned over the last like 20 years or so is that actually things take time. And that’s okay. And this is a process and it’s digging into some of this stuff which obviously we’re going to be exploring more throughout this podcast.

Hayley Stanton
And I think the big thing for me was when I started talking about my story. I heard a lot of people say, me too. And I realised that I wasn’t alone, and that other people will feel anxious, even though I couldn’t see that in them even though I might look at people and see them as confident. They had real struggles as well. And I saw this especially when I was doing my foundation degree, because there were people in class that I would have considered to be a lot more confident than me, who were struggling as much as, and sometimes even more than I was with presentations or speaking up in class. And this was the first time that I was really talking about how nervous I was about doing these presentations. And realising that other people found this too. Interestingly, I considered myself to be the quiet one in the class. And someone else from that class contacted me last year, they started their message with you probably remember me as the quiet one in the class. That’s not really how I saw her. She certainly came across as more confident.

Stacie Clark
Yes. Interesting. Isn’t that how I mean like we all have our own conceptions of how we think other people see us and then other people might see us in different ways that they think that we might be seeing them in certain lights and we might be thinking they’re complete opposites. When you start to look at things from that perspective, like, it just seems mad.

So, the second pivotal kind of moment for me in my life when I went to university. I studied fashion design, and this was really the space where I first learned the lesson that it’s okay to make mistakes, and embracing the parts of you that are different from other people are the things that actually are the most interesting aspects of who you are. And we were really taught to just explore and to play and bring out those qualities within you that, perhaps, you don’t actually like because that there was this whole idea around, you know, that ugly is actually beautiful so perhaps some of those things that you currently feel aren’t acceptable to you are like that, so explore those and let’s express those and let’s see what we can transform them into.

So by the time I left University at this point that was 24. I remember leaving and feeling like a different person than the person that showed up on that first day. Yeah. By the time I left, I felt a lot more confident than I had, I think it was the first time that I had really, I think, accessed a part of confidence within me and that was quite amazing for me. I didn’t know what that feeling was.

And then that final big shift that I’ve experienced so far in my life came after I met Hayley and we started working together on Quiet Connections and then I trained to be an NLP practitioner, and it was my NLP training that just turned my world upside down, made me question, so many different things. And all of a sudden I realised that I had been holding on to so many beliefs about myself that were just not helpful, and were just not serving me. And it gave me the tools as well to start kind of working with those and start shifting those. So there are still times where I still feel quite socially anxious. And I think the biggest difference now is that I don’t feel so ashamed of it. That sense of shame that I used to experience, you know, when I couldn’t speak to someone or when I started freezing up, or when I would go silent, it still does happen at times and that’s okay. I think it’s looking at it from a different perspective. And one of the biggest things that I learned throughout that training was how much I identified as feelings or behaviours that I had. Like, I’m an anxious person. I’m a shy person. I’m incapable, you know, it was very much, ‘I am’ those things. And over time, like, they became almost fused with what my sense of identity of who I was. And there’s the NLP training and doing some work around language and stuff really helped to start separating that and for me to realise that I’m actually not anxiety because anxiety is a feeling,

Hayley Stanton
You’re so right though, it’s that, identifying feelings more like clouds passing through the sky they’re not who you are and what we tend to do is pick them up and put them in a bucket and carry it with us and we go this is a part of me and it’s really not. We can put that bucket down, it’s not always with us, we just have to notice the times when we are putting it down.

Stacie Clark
Completely agree and that’s exactly what I was doing I was walking around carrying these buckets. This is who I am, I’m anxious, depressed, I’m shy. I can’t speak to people I am incapable of doing certain things or a lot of things, and looking at those things, as part of my identity was the thing really that I think led me to feeling like I was broken because those things were unacceptable to me, and from the way that I believed about them you know having those feelings of anxiety. Feeling shut down, freezing, like those things are unacceptable they felt shameful. And because I saw those as parts of my identity and who I actually was that meant that I was unacceptable that it wasn’t okay to be who I was and I think learning that, actually, those are emotions, feelings or behaviours and not who I truly am was really a first amazing step for me to start separating the pieces and start coming back to me.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah, and this is a really really powerful first step and we’re actually going to be digging into this much more deeply in the next episode.

Stacie Clark
How would you describe where you are now Hayley?

Hayley Stanton
Well, I am a million miles away from where I was and I definitely feel like I embody that quietly confident now, I’ve kind of made that my own. And I’m okay with that. I can feel confident in my own self. I’m very appreciative of my quiet strengths, whereas before I just didn’t even recognise them, I just thought oh you know these, these are things that everyone can do and the important things are the more extroverted qualities that I don’t really use.

Stacie Clark
I mean that’s that’s such a beautiful place to be isn’t that, when you start to see how much strength there is in us. I love that term quietly confident. I think that’s something that so many of us, especially those of us who are naturally more quieter. It gives us something to reframe our perception of what confidence can look like, and to actually be like, Oh, actually. Yeah, I don’t have to be loud to be perceived as as confident. It’s about me being grounded in who I am, like to me that’s what quiet confidence feels like.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah, absolutely. That, to me confidence is all about being accepting of who you are, and knowing that you have some tools that you can use to show up and be seen. And so I’ve been picking up these tools for the last over a decade now. I feel like I can trust myself to, to show up and to be able to cope with difficult situations now because I’ve got these tools, because I know these techniques that are going to help manage those anxious feelings. And I’m much more willing to, to make mistakes, I’m much more willing to let go of perfection. Now, I know that that doesn’t exist I am striving for something that just isn’t possible. And therefore it’s okay for me to just do my best. and that’s good enough. I’m also not afraid of criticism or rejection like I was before because I feel like I do belong. I feel like, yeah, I’ve grown up in a world that has sent me messages that I don’t belong. But that’s not the truth. I’ve certainly found belonging within myself I found belonging with certain people. And the more that I show up as the person that I am. Then, the more I feel that sense of belonging. It’s about owning it for me.

Stacie Clark
And that’s so so true, isn’t it. Like, we can’t belong, if we’re not showing up as who we truly are.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah. That reminds me of what Brene Brown says. Brene is a wonderful researcher into connection and shame are everything that gets in the way of connection. She talks about how our level of belonging can never be greater than our level of self acceptance. And really it starts from within, because quite often I know we can be looking externally and wanting things to change around us, but that’s really a cue that there’s inner work to be done.

Stacie Clark
Absolutely. And I think for me learning the difference between fitting in and belonging was was quite important because fitting in was all about that externalisation it’s about the validation, gaining approval from other people is very much about what can I do for other people to like me or to approve of me or to be happy with me. So, there was nothing in that around me, like asking myself like what what do I need to be happy, or what is it that I want to share what is it that I want to express, and then finding or just like stepping into that and then allowing the people who relate to that to come towards you. You naturally find your people when you start showing up as who you truly are, and that is what belonging is, it’s natural. It’s not about forcing or shifting or changing yourself in order to be approved or be validated by other people.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah. I think one of the challenges is that we don’t necessarily realise that we’re showing up with all this armour on and we don’t realise we’re trying to fit in. So this would be some topics that we’ll explore throughout this series as well. So, I guess it would be really useful to just pick out some of the key themes from your story and mine.

So in each of our stories you will notice that there’s a really strong element of connecting where we realised that we weren’t alone were broken and defective because we’ve shared our stories with someone who said me too, or because we’ve heard somebody else’s story, and it struck a chord with us and made us realise that other people feel the same way, and other people experienced similar challenges too. So a really vital piece of the puzzle is to begin connecting with other people. And this connecting with other people works so well for us because the thing that drives our sense of feeling that we’re not good enough and wanting to hide ourselves away, or hide parts of ourselves away, is that sense of shame that we carry with us, which is defined by Brene Brown has that intensely painful feeling of believing that we are flawed and unworthy of love and belonging.

This sense of shame that bubbles under the surface in the darkness, it doesn’t just go away. In fact when it’s kept hidden in the darkness is simply grows and grows until it’s let out into the daylight, sharing with people who can respond with empathy and Stacie and I still do this, we still have these moments where we feel this sense of shame and we pick up the phone and go. I need to talk to you.

Stacie Clark
It still comes up. I think it’s recognising that it’s normal. You know shame is an inherent human emotion. It’s normal for us to feel that sense of shame it’s not pleasant, it’s not comfortable, but it is a normal emotion and there are definitely ways that we can start learning how to feel more comfortable with that shame and start working through it but connecting with someone is definitely a great step to start working with it as opposed to trying to run away from it.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah. So, at Quiet Connections there are a couple of ways that you can do this we created an app, the Quiet Connections app, in response to the covid 19 pandemic. And we also have a Facebook group we can connect and support each other. But what we also do is just share stories and quotes from people who have similar experiences on our Facebook and Instagram pages, and also on our blog. And this means that you can clearly see that you’re not alone in your fears and challenges because there’s so many people going through something similar right now.

Stacie Clark
One of the other key components from moving from socially anxious to quietly confident is about stretching your comfort zone. It’s recognising that like the place where you’re probably feeling like you are right now, this is going to be your comfort zone, the things that keep us small that keep us hidden that keeps us feeling protected and safe, all of those things currently exist within our comfort zone. Quite often, what we hear from other people is in order to grow that you need to jump out of your comfort zone you need to step right out of it. Do something big. Be really brave, and for a lot of us, what we then experience is panic. So when we look at that comfort zone stretch, or just the comfort zone model, we have the comfort zone in the middle. Then there’s a learning zone and then there’s a panic zone around the outside. So, so much of the advice and the tips that, that we receive throughout society is to go from comfort zone into panic zone. What we’ve learned over the last years of working on ourselves and with working with clients is that the learning zone is really where we want to be. So we want to take those gradual steps, stretching the comfort zone and, in order to stay out for that panic zone and for that comfort zone to actually grow and myself and Hayley we’ve experienced this many times, you know practising how to speak up and deliver things like those podcasts and to do webinars and things you know started with us in small small groups just practice on how to do presentations, practising how to take those small little steps in and having that permission and that space to actually make mistakes and to get it wrong. You know, so the key word of this really is is that it’s all about practice. I think so many of us, we don’t give ourselves that permission, probably because we never received that permission in the first place, to just have a go, and to make mistakes, to just explore what something might be like without too much expectation as to what the outcome will be, and to take small steps like the smallest steps that you can possibly think of. enough to start stretching comfort zone so you don’t have to take big leaps and jump from like one cliff to another it’s, It’s about taking just a really small step. We have a comfort zone stretch guide on our website which is a free resource that you can download. If you go to www.quietconnections.co.uk/freegifts, you’ll be able to find that and it might be something that you’d like to just get started with, and just explore what some of those strategies are that you might be able to make.

Hayley Stanton
And then we’ve mentioned about having tools and techniques under your belt, so that you can more confidently be more trusting in yourself to show up and and just have a go at things, knowing that you can manage those anxious feelings and difficult situations. This is the third step and this is, this is the model that we use within Quiet Connections it’s ‘connect, stretch and grow’. So under the grow banner, it is all of this learning that we do that involves learning maybe about what is happening within our bodies when we are feeling anxious, or learning about tools and techniques that we can use to show up, manage those anxious feelings to bring about feelings of confidence to anchor those feelings of confidence from those moments when we do feel it. And it’s also about working with your body, because we find that when we are socially anxious we tend to have lots and lots of feelings that are built up within us, and we have to find a way to release these, to start moving our bodies, because most of us tend to keep ourselves very small and hidden in the way that we hold ourselves in the way that we move. And it’s important to start actually taking up space and changing the way that we are using our bodies and interacting with the world around us. It doesn’t just happen in our heads and this goes back to what you were saying about feeling like I should have all of this fixed, because it’s not just about having counselling, it’s not just about talking about what’s going on for you. It’s not just about having CBT. And on that note, I think it’s 18 sessions of CBT is recommended whereas usually we only get about six sessions of CBT. So it there’s no wonder that it doesn’t often have the impact that we expected or wanted to have. There’s all these different ways that we can work with our bodies as well as our minds. And this is just as important. Although, for me, I had to really learn the kind of science behind it. Take breathing, for example, I would think, Oh, I can breathe I’m breathing all the time, breathing isn’t gonna work for me I’m, I’m far too bad for breathing to work. But when I learned about how it actually influences the body how it changes what your nervous system is doing. It makes sense, and it gave me the motivation to actually try it and give it a go. Breathing is one of the most powerful things that you can do for your body to change how you feel. And it really gives you that ability to take control of your emotions.

Stacie Clark
Yeah, it’s about integrating the the mind and the body together, isn’t it, to become one whole system as opposed to those two separate pieces which I think is when a lot of us are trying to work on ourselves trying to you know support ourselves and help ourselves to grow and to make those changes that we tend to isolate those two things are either working on our minds, or we’re working on our bodies when the two simultaneously need to be together.

Hayley Stanton
Yeah. It is and we’ll leave it there for today. Thank you so much for joining us for the Quiet Connections podcast. In Episode Two we’ll be exploring the very first puzzle piece that often gets missed. This is the key to unlocking your ability to create the change that you want to see in your life. And it involves shifting your perspective away from seeing anxiety as part of who you are, just like we were talking about earlier. This missing puzzle piece creates the belief that you could change. And this is what propels you forward. So we really look forward to you joining us for Episode Two. And in the meantime, stay connected.

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