Heads up all you shy people out there! I have news for you. Being shy is not a disability.
I see you shaking your heads at me. “Easy for you to say,” you’re mumbling. Here’s the thing. I was the shyest kid on the block, at primary school, high school and university. Ask anyone who knew me then. And I grew into a shy adult too. No surprises there.
But at a very young age, I learnt a vital lesson. Anyone and that means you too, can develop a stage persona. How did I learn that? Well, I spent my whole childhood on the City Hall stage in Pretoria, dancing at every single eisteddfod. Ballet and Modern dancing were my reason for living. Dancing was my way of communicating. That and of course writing love poetry.
I didn’t eat on the day I performed. The most my mother could force down my throat was a milkshake, with a raw egg stealthily beaten into it! Backstage, I would sometimes be so nervous that I’d almost be sick. But when the first beat of the music cued me, I would go on. I’d dance as if the music had entered my body. As the years went by, I learnt to use every corner of the stage. I couldn’t see the audience, but I knew they were there and their energy helped me to perform.
Of all the skills I learnt as a child, this was the one most useful to me! Putting on a stage persona does not mean you’re fake. It’s like a magic cloak, which makes you invisible, or in this case, visible. Anyone can put it on. You just have to know it’s there. And all those pre-perfomance butterflies? I’ve found that if you harness them, they can work in your favour. I am not a great impromptu speaker, but when I’m pounced upon to do it, I pretend I’m the Sugar Plum Fairy and I wave my magic wand.
So what’s my point? It is this – shyness has its own rewards. Being a shy performer does not mean you won’t be as good as that really confident friend of yours. You’ll probably prepare more than most and rehearse your lines thoroughly. And that’s all positive.
So go ahead, do the spadework and then get out there. You’ll surprise yourself!