Susannah Worth_photo by Sophie le Roux I was achingly shy as a child and spoke in a tiny whisper. As a teen I was still wracked with shyness and low self-esteem, manifesting in social anxiety, disordered eating and a vicious inner critic. I was torn between a rebellious and creative spirit and intense ‘good girl’ conditioning, an introverted nature and a world that taught me that being quiet was a flaw. I also developed a neurological disorder called misophonia (a kind of extreme and specific sound sensitivity) which is not well understood now but was unheard of back then, and which only served to fuel my self-criticism and increase my tendency to withdraw into myself.

I first heard about the Hoffman Process in 2019, when I was in my mid 30s. Over the years, I’d done a lot of work to build my confidence and learn to feel safer using my voice and expressing myself. Some of that happened naturally as I left home for university, made friends, fell in love, travelled – all that good stuff. It was also hugely thanks to a method called the Sunflower Effect developed by dramatherapist Claire Schrader, which uses applied drama and improvisation techniques to help shy and socially anxious people find confidence. So by 2019, I’d trudged through a lot and come a long way, and there was tons to be grateful for in my life. But I was still shrinking and hiding. Fear felt like the dominant force that guided me through life, and I wanted to understand why I still felt closed off, inadequate and hard to love.

Charismatic Megafauna 2019 I’d recently returned from a tour with my band, Charismatic Megafauna, which had been an incredible experience but where, yet again, I’d found myself self-consciously observing from the sidelines. I’d glimpsed a life that was exciting and expansive, but I didn’t know how to fully embrace it. The band had formed six years earlier. Following my undergraduate degree in art history, a few years working in arts publishing and an MA at art college in London, I’d connected with two friends over hay bales and warm lager at a festival, where we decided the best expression for our feminist activism would be to start a band.

Such a close-knit creative collaboration required a level of openness and vulnerability that was unfamiliar, scary and hugely rewarding. Having grown up obsessed with music, but never daring to dream of making it myself, I felt incredibly grateful to have found these brilliant people and to be involved in this weird and wonderful band. But it was also a rollercoaster ride of confronting my own limitations and discomfort as a beginner and as a performer. And the tour cranked it all up ten notches: I knew I wanted more of the highs, and to work out what was holding me back, and I also needed to learn how to avoid the crashing lows and overwhelm.

Landing back down on earth post-tour, I returned to the task of renovating the home I’d recently moved into with my boyfriend in London. It was the first time we were living together without flatmates and, although as a deeply introverted creature I was thrilled to not be sharing my home with a crowd for the first time in my life, I was also anxious about the commitment and the path I’d chosen. It was something of a ‘how did I get here?’ moment. I felt far away from myself, like I’d lost touch with some inner knowing, and was starting to unpick what was me and what didn’t quite fit – the behavioural patterns and conditioning I’d woven together along the way that felt like they were dragging me down. As a sensitive, watchful and intelligent child, I had always focused on external perceptions, adapting and censoring myself as seemed necessary. I’d never known how to give myself permission to just be me.

Susannah Worth childSeeking answers, I announced to a friend that I’d come to a realisation. ‘I just need to write a list of every single thing I’ve ever learned from my parents, grandparents and teachers. All the messages I got as a child. All of it. One long list.’ She nodded slowly, encouraging of the idea, but uncertain I’d be able to achieve it alone. Taking on board this gentle scepticism and my ensuing halting attempt to fulfil my self-assigned mission, I broke my pattern of hyper-independence and started to look for support. Easing the DIY slog with audiobooks, I discovered Hoffman thanks to a brief mention in a book called How to Fail by Elizabeth Day. This process of disentangling seemed to really be about growing up, and Hoffman sounded perfect because it’s all about shifting these patterns and finding emotional maturity.

A week-long residential intensive might not sound like the obvious choice for a still somewhat shy, sound-sensitive introvert but all my experience had shown me that working in groups is powerful medicine for someone like me. It was only when I started voicing the words of my inner critic to someone else that I’d become aware of how cruel it was. The Hoffman Process created a safe environment for me to start to air things I’d never dared share, and when those things were met with empathy, it helped me start to wrestle free of them. To be seen and accepted in all your flawed glory is a profound experience. It was as if, in writing or speaking or otherwise expressing what I was holding inside, cool air flowed into the spaces where before there was only hot shame lava. I was able to separate myself from the pattern or the shame or the struggle, and realise that every cooling breath brought the possibility of change, of a different choice, an empowered path into the future.

Susannah Worth sogutsy.coTowards the end of the Process you’re encouraged to find a new life vision, where you’re free of your patterns. My vision related to writing a book and running workshops for people who are shy, self-conscious or struggling with low self-esteem. In 2021 I started training and I now run courses in London through my business, Gutsy. My workshops guide participants to find confidence, ease and authentic expression using playful exercises, improvisation and applied drama in a safe, supportive environment. It is a joy to be able to share this work, without which I would have missed out on so many adventures, including doing the Hoffman Process. I’m also working on writing about my own experience of shyness and the transformative power of stories, drama, dreams and imagination.

Sharing more of myself and being far more visible through my writing and through Gutsy would have been impossible without all the inner work I’ve done. Other people’s opinions – whether praise or criticism, real or imagined – no longer hold ultimate power over me. Hoffman taught me that when I listen to my inner child and spirit instead, my vision becomes bigger than my fear. And I’ve learned that true confidence isn’t about a life free of fear and challenges, but rather having the resilience, and the guts, to navigate whatever comes.

The Process equipped me with many practical tools and teachings, but one of the greatest gifts was a deep connection to my own intuition and imagination. As part of the registration process you’re asked to complete an in-depth questionnaire and I was stunned at how much awareness I gained simply from writing my responses. There were guided visualisations on the Process week during which I learned about myself and others in ways that seemed like magic. Especially as an introvert, having an embodied experience of slowing down and finding a wealth of resources within myself was life-changing and a strength I draw on every day.

I’m sure it’s been said many times that Hoffman is not a one-and-done quick fix, but it was certainly an accelerated giant leap that rocketed me into the big life I’d been shying away from. Change is rarely a smooth ride and navigating relationships while becoming more of myself can be crunchy and painful, and I’m so grateful for all the Process tools I’ve learned to keep venturing on. Having a connection to who I am, being brave enough to stay open, believing in all the gifts I have to share and making a difference to others’ lives – these are the constant, delightful rewards.

Susannah’s top tips for challenging shyness:

  1. Become aware of comparing yourself and hearing a mean inner critic – awareness is the first step to shifting both.
  2. If you want to feel more comfortable speaking up, don’t just practice speaking up – practice feeling comfortable while speaking up. This is all about nervous system regulation and learning what you need to feel safe in your body.
  3. Build your bravery muscles by practicing in tiny consistent ways.
  4. Fear is not a weakness. Fear is not the opposite of bravery.
  5. ‘Nobody cares’ and ‘nobody’s looking’ are lies; but you never know what someone else is thinking, so just do you.
  6. If you can imagine the worst case scenario then you can imagine the best. In many ways your brain doesn’t distinguish between real and imaginary. Dream up something wonderful.

To find out more about Susannah’s work, you can visit the Gutsy website here or follow on Instagram here

Headshots: Susannah Worth, photos by Sophie le Roux (
Band shot: Charismatic Megafauna at La Bellevilloise, Paris in 2019
Childhood snap: A school performance, ‘not loving being on stage!’