Thursday, May 17, 2012

Miss Shy

As a child and a teenager, I was always pretty shy.  I hated having to speak in class.  I dreaded being that student who had to work a math problem out on the chalk board for fear of making a fool of myself in front of my classmates.  I preferred to stay in the background. 

When it came time for us to do speeches in ninth grade, I remember making myself absolutely sick with worry the entire week before.  I was red in the face, sweaty palms, so nervous when I finally had to give the speech.  I can't remember what it was on, and I remember it was for only four minutes.  Longest four minutes ever.  Why did we have to give oral homework?  Why couldn't everything be written?  I was great at that.  But speaking in front of others?  Heck no.  Not for me. 

That's why sometimes I think it's humorous to those who knew me growing up when they hear about what I do.  I was reminiscing one day with my oldest friend, someone who has known me since fifth grade, and she laughed and made the comment that never in a million years would she have ever pictured me as an attorney.  Thinking about it myself, honestly, I kind of agree with her.  How could a girl who was petrified of speaking in front of a classroom for just four minutes possibly picture herself doing an all day termination of parental rights trial.  Or teaching a training in front of a room of about thirty attorneys?  No freaking way. 

I am honestly not sure when it happened.  It probably was my very first court hearing.  I had possibly the worst client ever.  It was a child support issue.  He was demanding, unreasonable, and completely difficult.  I walked in there not really prepared, and I was up against one of those types - the old, white man attorney in a small town who knew the judge, knew every attorney in town, was one of the good old boys, and here I was - a fresh, new attorney and a female one at that.  I was totally unprepared for it.  And trust me when I say the hearing was a massacre.  Baptism by fire is the only way I can describe it.  But it was my first hearing.  I ripped off the Bandaid. 

I didn't get too many divorce hearings after that before I was laid off.  My next job involved training attorneys on legal research software.  That was intimidating in and of itself.  I was training attorneys who had so many years up on me in practicing law.  Who was I to teach them anything?  But I did it.  And with each training it got easier and easier. 

But really, I think the kicker that pushed me over the edge of being petrified of public speaking was working with the Indiana Department of Child Services.  I worked in the biggest county in our state, and sadly, we had so many cases, it was like an assembly line of child abuse cases.  I had my own docket once a week where I handled 30 hearings at any given time, and I also handled a set of termination of parental rights cases.  My very first trial lasted me four days.  Eight hour days at that.  Again, baptism by fire.   It was shortly after that when I developed no fear.  You kind of had to when you were questioning a parent on the stand who did such awful things to their child.  You basically learn to do pretty much anything in terms of public speaking.  And somewhere along the line, I started to enjoy it.  (I'm not going to lie.  I got a great deal of pleasure from totally grilling a parent who abused their child and tearing them apart on the stand.)

It's amazing to look back and see that progression.  I'm no longer that scared little girl.  Honestly, if I went to my high school reunion, I would have no fear in talking to anyone.  Not even those "popular" kids who intimidated me so much in my younger days.  Because I just don't care what they think of me anymore.  They're just people.  No different than I am.  And if I can fight in the courtroom, I can do just about anything else.  No more Miss Shy.

I hope that, as a parent, I can give my daughter that confidence.  No fear.  You're as good as anyone else, and you shouldn't be scared of speaking up for yourself and presenting yourself in a confident and polished manner.  Someone asked on Twitter the other day what would be one of the best gifts you can give your child.  And I answered with the word "confidence."  Because that's what I hope to inspire in my daughter some day. 



  1. It sounds like you are the perfect example of that, and just having that as your goal to pass on, consider it HAPPENING.

  2. Awesome story! I have never had a fear of public speaking, but I've always had a fear of forgetting what I was supposed to say. That comes with the territory, I guess. I think the gift I would give Sprite is humility. Know when to shut up. (You can guess she has no fear of the spotlight either.) :-)

  3. This would also be a great suggestion for Spin Cycle, but you'd need to pass that Gretchen's way... :-)

  4. Confidence is what I hope for my daughter also! I was super shy like you my entire life. I even dropped out of college because it was so bad, I just couldn't take getting up in front of others anymore. I am definitely getting better at this now but I still have my moments. Thank you for sharing this :)


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