It's Normal to Be Nervous

Have you ever had a moment when you wanted to just get up and walk out in the middle of a lecture? Or wanted to take off your shoes and put your feet up in the middle of class? There are plenty of things that we want to do, but don’t because they are not socially acceptable. The classroom especially has all kinds of social rules that we follow. Don’t talk when the teacher is talking, stay in your seat, don’t do anything disruptive, etc. These social rules can be important for the lesson to go smoothly and to ensure that everyone can pay attention without distraction. However, they can also be incredibly draining to the point that it feels exhausting to simply sit in class for an hour. Because you aren’t just sitting in class. You are also following a million social rules at once. If this sounds anxiety-inducing to you, you are not alone. A classroom is a place that sparks anxiety for many. But, what most can probably agree on is that the classroom is at its most stressful on the first day of school.

It’s the first day of classes. There are a million things running through your mind. Your teacher says the dreaded words, “How about we all go around and introduce ourselves? Everyone say your name and a fun fact about yourself.” Your heart starts racing. Oh god, not again, you think. How am I supposed to think of a fun fact that is interesting but not too weird? All you want to do is blend in with the crowd. If you say something outlandish, people will take notice of you. You wish you could refuse to give a fun fact, but all that will do is draw even more attention to you.

You start to hope that hearing the fun facts of the people who go before you will give you some ideas. The first girl happily says, “I’m a twin!” Well, I can’t exactly use that since I’m not a twin. You consider making something up for your fun fact. But what if they ask me follow-up questions that I can’t answer? It’s too risky to lie.

The second student introduces himself and jokes, “My fun fact is that I hate fun facts.” The class laughs. Maybe I should tell a joke, too. But what if no one laughs? That would be the worst-case scenario. Perhaps I’ll just say something boring, like my favorite color. Ugh, but that might make me seem so lame. Your turn is coming up and you still haven’t remembered a single interesting thing about yourself. Surely, you lived a fun life, right? Your friends tell you you’re funny. So, why can’t you get yourself together and just say whatever you want?

The teacher motions to you as it is your turn. You decide to go with something safe, so you nervously state your name and your favorite TV show. The teacher comments, “Oh, that’s a good one!” and moves on to the next student. Well, that’s over with. It seemed like the teacher thought your fact was fun, but none of the other students smiled. You start to worry again. Do you have bad taste? Do you just come across as odd? You worry that you stood out too much. Did you talk loud enough? Too loud? Could people tell you were nervous? Were you blushing? Fidgeting? You wonder what you could’ve done differently and this thought stays in the back of your mind for the rest of the day.

For many readers, this type of scenario happens every year. Introducing yourself to the class can be enjoyable for some, but dreadful for others. The funny thing is that most of the time, the other students aren’t even paying attention to everyone else introducing themselves. Instead, they are either thinking about what they are going to say or wondering how much longer it is until lunch. But, this doesn’t change the fact that classroom introductions often feel more important than they actually are.

Firstly, the introduction is your first impression for about 30 people. You want to look good in front of your peers and the teacher. Mix that pressure in with the fact that you have to do some public speaking, you have social anxiety, and the other thousand things you are stressed about on the first day of school, and it can be a lot to handle. The fact is that it is very normal to be stressed out by classroom introductions. Everyone wants to fit in and it is natural to have your guard up around a completely new group of people. The important thing is to keep in mind that your classroom introduction is not the end-all-be-all of who will be your friend or who likes/dislikes you. Just keep in mind, next to no one will even remember your fun fact the next day.

Question: How do you feel about introducing yourself to the class? If you do get anxious, what are some methods you use to calm yourself down? Any advice you could give is appreciated.

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