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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

When someone asks me if I’m introverted or extroverted, I usually respond by saying, “I am an introvert raised by extroverts.” I grew up favoring my own company and staying in, but my family and friends love being surrounded by people at all times. I couldn’t get away with more than one night of staying in before I would be dragged out to socialize again. In a way, I am grateful because it made good practice. I acquired the skill of being able to switch on and off between conversations and eventually started convincing people that I was an extrovert (I even convinced myself!). I became a mosaic of all the people I love.

Now, if you’re someone like me who grew up admiring those who can swiftly speak without stuttering or always wondered how making friends looked so easy for other people, I can offer some hope. I still am an introvert at heart, because while feeling lonely is the poverty of self, solitude is the richness of one’s self. There is nothing wrong with being quiet or introverted.

The day I decided to adopt my extroverted charade was when I moved to Los Angeles for school. I would be five hours away from my friends and family, whom I’ve always depended on to pull me out of my shell. Now it was finally up to me to decide how I would spend my time here at UCLA.

People move to La La Land to chase their dreams. I knew it’d be silly of me to be presented with such an opportunity and not step outside of my comfort zone to go at it. I was the only person getting in my way.

In the beginning, I had to overcome a fear of embarrassment and rejection combined. I was hesitant to speak with people because I didn’t want to invite an opportunity to be judged and embarrassed. One thing that helped change my thinking was implementing the idea that embarrassment only exists if I let it. Thinking of embarrassment as being subjective to everyone or creating a particular threshold for yourself could help you grow in confidence.

Often, the people who risk being “embarrassing” are braver than most. For example, some would be embarrassed to sing in a car because they think they have a terrible voice. Are you going to let this intangible feeling keep you from the joy of jamming out to your favorite Taylor Swift song with your friends? I sure hope not. Because to have not danced when you had the health and could hear the music might become the biggest regret of your life.

Once you’ve accepted that embarrassment isn’t real, you’re going to challenge yourself by saying “Hi” to people you haven’t met before. After you’ve gotten enough practice, you’ll be more comfortable creating a conversation out of nothing. Small talk isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it can be yours. An easy way to implement this into your life is by holding the elevator door open for someone and saying, “Hi, what floor?” After the elevator has closed, you can continue to ask about their day and how they’re doing. The other person might be willing to share, or not, but that’s okay because the only intention is to put yourself in a position to speak to a stranger.

A really fun way to overcome social anxiety as a UCLA student is when you’re walking down Bruinwalk; instead of putting on your headphones and ignoring people, pretend you’re a celebrity being asked for their autograph. You don’t have time, but you also don’t want to come off as a rude celeb, so you acknowledge them, smile, and say, “No, thank you.”

It’s important to remember that your goal is to be sincere. With time, you’ll find that small talk won’t be calculated. For example, I love to give compliments, and I decided that I would make it my intention to go out of my way to make people feel good if I could do so. You can adopt this method too, but what you don’t want is to go around complimenting everyone for everything if you don’t mean it, because then there’s no substance or point. Keep your intention in mind; you want to create a connection and potentially make someone’s day.

I’ve lost count of the number of stories that strangers have told me, but I will never forget about the lady whose bracelet I complimented in a drive-thru. She told me about her childhood in Mexico making jewelry with her siblings and ended the conversation by giving me the bracelet she was wearing. There was also a time when I recognized a girl from my class at a coffee shop and thought she was really pretty, so I went up to compliment her and now she’s one of my closest friends. I’d risk rejection and embarrassment over and over again if it meant being able to have meaningful moments with strangers.

It can be scary to speak up or initiate a conversation (believe me, I’ve been there too), but that’s the point of stepping outside of your comfort zone. Everyone wishes they could, but how many people do? My last tip is that, if you’re still uncomfortable with the thought of people judging you for being yourself, honestly ask yourself, who cares? At the end of the day, if you’re being a good person and not hurting anyone’s feelings or causing any harm, why not go for it? Enjoy this life and meet as many people as you can! Become the person you’ve always wanted to be. Put a smile on someone else’s face by putting a smile on yours.

Odette is a first-generation Mexican-American senior completing her undergraduate degree at the University of California Los Angeles. This is her first year on the HerCampus editorial team and is super excited about being able to improve her portfolio and experience as a writer. Outside of HerCampus Odette enjoys reading books of fiction and writing songs and poetry.