Friday, March 2, 2012

On Being Shy

I can't do it. What are they going to say? But what if--I can't. No. Please don't make me. I don't want to. It's so awkward. Can't someone else do it? Do I really have to do it? Is this really necessary? I really don't want to. Don't make me. Stop. I'll do it later or figure it out later I just can't now. It's too much. Please stop. I just need leave. I'll, I'll, it'll get fixed somehow. I just can't--

Welcome to my life. More specifically, welcome to my brain. This is how I think sometimes. Many times a day. When I'm shopping and a salesperson approaches me. When I have to ask a teacher a question. When I have to make small talk. When I have to meet someone new. When I'm giving a presentation. When I'm talking to my friends. I think like this all those times because I am shy.

It's been a fact of my life for so long, something I've lived with, and just accepted, like the fact that I have brown hair or my birthday or something. It's a constant, a fact of my life.

As a result, I often look at my shyness as one would probably look at their gayness: as a indisputable part of who they are, neither good nor bad, but simply a part of them. But recently I've started to question this. Is being shy like being gay?

Or is being shy a problem that needs to be fixed?

Should society treat shyness as a type of disorder or mental illness that needs therapy and medication?

For most of my life, I would have screamed at such a question. NO FREAKING WAY. BEING SHY IS WHO I AM, AND WHO I AM IS NOT A PROBLEM.

But I'm not so sure anymore.

Because being shy is really challenging on a micro level. So many everyday things suddenly become so hard. I have trouble buying bread at local convenience store, because I'm afraid the cashier will try and talk to me. I get scared of going to class, not because of the academic stuff, but because I don't like not having someone to sit next to. Even with people I know, I face challenges. I have a really hard time at parties, even when I've known every guest for years. I get nervous every time before I see my best friend, because I'm afraid we'll run out of things to talk about. Being shy can be really freaking hard.

Because the world is not built for shy people. The world is built on connections--connections with friends, connections with teachers, connections with employers. Connection and communication is what brings you opportunity, what moves you forward in life. Being shy makes connecting like that so much more difficult. Often times, this doesn't seem fair. It makes me hate myself to think that not only is the world not built for me, but I'm not built for the world, and there's nothing I can do to change that. Which brings me to my next question:

Is it possible to stop being shy?

To answer this question, I have to examine a few terms, which many people use interchangeably, but really have very different meanings and very different implications:

1) Introverted

2) Quiet

I am an introverted person. And I don't think that will ever change, and I don't think it needs to change. I need alone time. I need time to unwind and just be. I need to get away, to escape, to reflect on my own. I find social interaction exhausting, even with my closest friends. I am not a people person.

But I'm also not quiet. Once I get to know someone, I unleash. I am loud and excitable and big. I don't like too much social time, but when I am being social, I'm not withdrawn.

To me, being introverted and not being quiet are simple personality traits, like being funny or smart or enthusiastic or mean. Those are the things that make up WHO I AM. Those are the parts I need to scream for.

But I don't think I need to scream for shyness. Because that is a limitation, a challenge I need to overcome. I do think it is a problem, but I also think it is possible to overcome it. I don't think I'll be shy forever.

I also don't think the change will happen overnight or over years or maybe even over decades. Because being shy is such a big part of my life and my thoughts and my decisions. It is a fear, a very large fear, that affects very large parts of my life. Thus, it will take a large effort and a longtime to truly leave it behind.

In the meantime, I need people to be nicer about it. I need friends who understand. Who accept me, faults and all. I need to find books and movies and tv shows that show me shy people, that show me people who truly understand what I'm going through. I need to know that I'm normal, that I'm accepted, that I'm going to be okay. But, more than that, I need to know that there's someone out there who understands what it's like to act like me, to think like me, to be like me.

I need help.

1 comment:

  1. Your posts always give me something to think about.

    If it's okay to give, here's my two cents:

    There is no such thing as 'normal', but that's what makes everything a bit more weird and awesome!

    I used to be painfully shy when I was in my teens and early twenties, but like, you, totally relaxed and loud around really close friends. The thought of presentations and all that made me SUPER nervous. But, the more I practiced, the less anxious I became. Also, working in public libraries, teaching, doing story-times kind of knocked most of out it of me! I still get nervous and stress out about certain things, but in no way like I used to.

    That's why I adore fiction characters that are introverted, slightly neurotic, awkward- but ultimately awesome!- characters. Like Mia Thermopolis, Jessica Darling, Harriet the Spy, most Dessen protagonists, and many many more.

    PS. Not to sound all Degrassi/after school special, but have you talked to anyone about having serious anxiety?? It may help...


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