Joining a youth group can change your life
It may be outside your comfort zone, but it can help to build your confidence
"I would strongly urge anybody who wants to meet new people and make new friends to join a youth group. It might just change your life!"
When I was younger I was bullied constantly because I didn't follow the crowd and didn't fit in with the "social norms". I was extremely awkward, quiet and shy. Because of this I hated leaving my house. I hated trying new things and I became extremely isolated. I rarely talked to anybody outside my family except when I was in school.
My brother is a huge extrovert and he was involved in a lot of youth groups. My Mam was extremely worried about me and wanted me to make friends so she made me go with my brother one night.
I was absolutely terrified because I hated being around groups of people and I suffered hugely with anxiety. I would shake and my heart would begin to pound. I am a huge over-thinker and I always analysed everything I said. However, everybody in the youth group was extremely friendly and they were all interested in what I had to say. It took me a few months to go back but then I began to go every week.
The youth workers always made sure I was listened to as I found it extremely difficult to make my voice heard as I was so shy. They always let me know I could talk to them whenever I needed to. It is such a different experience compared to school even though you're still among people your own age. Personally school has always been a huge challenge for me because I found it so difficult to make friends. The teachers noticed but they never really made me feel like I could talk to them or like they cared about stuff other than my grades.
However, in the youth groups I have been involved in they always showed us that they care about issues we face too and that if we need any support they are happy to help.
I noticed my confidence slowly begin to build and I began to stop doubting myself. I finally felt wanted and included among people my own age. It took me ages though to speak about things I was passionate about because of the way I had been treated in the past. I made a really good group of friends who are always there for me and are like family! I began to feel happy. I started signing up and applying to different things and I also began to join other events such as Young Voices.
In April 2017 I got a amazing opportunity to speak along with 5 other people at a Tusla conference in Athlone about what it's like to live with anxiety. It was a huge goal for me and it is one of the most amazing things I have ever done. We talked about what not to say to somebody with anxiety and how to help people living with anxiety. If I had not stepped outside of my comfort zone I would never have been able to do something like that.
I would strongly urge anybody who wants to meet new people and make new friends to join a youth group. It might just change your life!