07/04/2014 11:34 am ET Updated Sep 03, 2014

My Advice to All Introverts Starting High School

There is no doubt in my mind that I am an introvert. I have always been shy, even as a toddler. I used to hide under my mom's hair, burying my face into her shoulder at any sort of social event. Through elementary school, I wasn't interested in reaching out to new people, and new "cliques." I figured that my social awkwardness was something that I would just have to deal with, but I was wrong.

I read an article about how trying new things and being uncomfortable was the key to happiness; I laughed. Not only was it the start of freshmen year, but I only knew one girl in my entire class of 200, and had no idea where I was going to fit in. The last thing that I wanted was to have to risk the vulnerability of trying something that I had never done before! All that I wanted was to get good grades, make friends and try to survive it all. So I tossed the article, thinking, who would ever want to listen to that? Well, it turns out that it was some of the best advice I would ever get. Somehow, in high school, I realized that it's okay to feel uncomfortable at times, because by pushing myself into risky situations, I have been able to thrive and I am much happier than I ever thought possible.

Middle school is a time of social insecurities, self-consciousness and loads of acne. My parents would always remind me to make new friends, and meet new people, but I don't think that they realized how tough it is to be an introvert. I hated being open with others, so I tried to hide from it all. I was not happy. I took refuge in music and theater, which was outside of school. It is kind of ironic that I wasn't comfortable sharing with my classmates, and yet I was totally fine with the idea of sharing myself in front of a crowd of strangers. For some reason, it seemed easier to simply have a performance, or a rehearsal, or a show, than to go to a sleepover. For six years, I went from audition to audition, rehearsal to rehearsal, and show to show, constantly turning down invites to birthday parties and social events; I was comfortable in my routine. Even so, it took two years of middle school to actually tell my friends that I was passionate about singing... two years! Finally I graduated from my tiny middle school, and decided -- surprise -- to switch schools for a much larger high school, surrounding myself with 200 strangers and new possibilities. This was not like me. I'm actually not even sure why I did it!

To be honest, I was not optimistic. I thought that, for the next four years, my social life would be the same as the past three years; I would have several close friends, and it would take me two more years to reach a level of perfect honesty. However, something was different, and no, it wasn't that my fashion sense had dramatically improved, or that I actually began to make an effort in the morning. The difference was I decided to make a conscious effort every day to push myself into risky and uncomfortable situations.

I didn't want high school to be a longer, lonelier and harder version of middle school. Although it was really challenging, and completely drained me of all energy, I decided to try new things and be a little uncomfortable. Instead of waiting two years to share my musical and theatrical interests with my friends, I waited two months. Instead of patiently waiting in a comfortable place for people to reach out to me, I would reach out to them first. Instead of hiding at the theater, I joined the cross-country team. I know that this probably sounds easy, but believe me, it wasn't. It took tons of mental strength and energy at first, but now it doesn't. Through sharing and openness, I have formed strong bonds with many girls, so now I don't have to "try" anymore. In middle school, I was stuck in a rut. Now, in high school, I have learned that it doesn't matter if you're an introvert. It is possible to be open and social and happier if you are ready to push yourself harder than ever before.

So, my advice to all introverts is to try new things, and get a little uncomfortable. If I can do it, you can do it, too, and I promise you will not regret it. I have never felt more comfortable and proud of myself. Sure, I have still have times of self-doubt and awkward moments, and taking risks and putting yourself into uncomfortable situations can be scary and stressful. The most important thing though, is that taking risks and being uncomfortable are the very things that made my freshmen year full of excitement and wonder... and happiness. This was my year of trying new things and it rocked.