Sunday, March 23, 2014

Can they tell?

People would try to talk to me and I was too preoccupied by my own thoughts to hear them.

“Great. My face is getting red. Oh man...can they tell my face is getting red? I look so dumb...my face is bright red. What does this person think of me? And now it’s getting worse. Does what I’m saying even make sense? My face is more red now. Why does this happen so much? Now I just feel like a fool.”

During conversations with people I knew well, my face would turn bright red before I even interacted with them. The mere thought of talking with another person made my skin boil.

I went online. I read articles. I even thought about seeing a therapist at one point. I asked close friends. How was I going to fix this? I can’t live like this. It became worse the more I thought about it.

I was pushed around and bullied in middle school. I had a friend who used to tell me to “shut up Matt. Nobody cares what you have to say” for no good reason at all, which is likely related. I was a small guy, so I was a pretty easy target.

...Kids are the worst sometimes.

Anyway, after some years of struggling with this problem, I serendipitously stumbled upon a book: Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

“How to Win Friends and Influence People” is a guide to effective human interaction. All of the little things I once took for granted; the value of smiling, saying people’s names, asking questions, showing genuine appreciation, are all broken down in their simplest forms.


I followed it like a bible. The book’s principles forced me to focus on the other person rather than my own thoughts. I put myself in uncomfortable situations. I forced myself to be okay with my insecurities. I realized that if I wanted to fix the problem I needed to dedicate myself to solving it.

About a year later, I found myself having a conversation with somebody new. “And…wait a second...my face isn’t red. No way! It’s cause I wasn’t even thinking about it!”

Now I’m comfortable addressing crowds of hundreds. Some people even approach me afterwards and say how great of a public speaker I am. Crazy what can be changed in just a few years of intense focus.

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"Each one of us requires the spur of insecurity to force us to do our best."
- Harold W. Dodds

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What’s your story of overcoming insecurity?


@MattBilotti
matt[AT]bilotti.org
Boston, MA

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