Friday, December 10, 2010

How to explain this thing called shyness

One of my early in life memories is me peering out at non-family members from behind the skirts of my mother and sisters and hearing them explain, "she's shy".  Perhaps it helped people understand my countenance, but it didn't help me at all.  What would've helped?  I have no idea.

I have "a friend" (yup, quotation marks. she's a friend who's not always a friend.) who believes that shyness is an attitude--that shy people just aren't trying.  How I'd love for her to experience the world from my perspective!  Yet, as much as I'd like to help others understand this thing called shyness, I'm unsure where to even begin.

When I worked my first job in a restaurant as a teen, I remember my mother being amazed and surprised at how out going I was with customers.  After musing this over, I told her that when I was working it was like I was performing a part in a play.  I could engage customers in small talk and have fun with my job with my uniform on, but once I was off the clock--same old me.

Today I don't need a uniform to make small talk and have fun with people, as long as it ends there.   If more is required of me, I don't last long.  It must be due to the mental effort it requires me to interact.  Now that I'm on a low dose of anti-anxiety meds things are better, but only fractionally.

Okay, trying to think how to sum up shyness:  It's like being betrayed by my own brain.  As if it's releasing the chemicals into my system that were supposed to be for emergencies only.  And anxiety on top of that?  {shiver} You can't believe the number of scenarios and paranoid delusions about how people "really" feel about me can play out in my head in mere seconds.  And this is why it's so exhausting:  Plowing through all that, because I really do like people and I love to share and laugh.


smc said...

I so relate to your blog entry. My mother put it into perspective for me. She's an educator and counselor and explained that there are personality types, just like color of eyes or hair; you just can't change the basics of who you are. There are introverts (you and I) and extroverts (the rest of the world!!) I have come to accept and embrace this about myself, though it's taken many years and finally am comfortable in my "shyness". It took finally not caring anymore what others thought of me, but what I thought of myself.

KandN said...

One of the things (besides the majority of our facial features) my mother and I share is our shyness. I can remember blaming her as a teen--one of many things I wish I could take back.
I so agree about time being an important part of becoming comfortable with yourself. In my forties I began to feel a sort of peace--that this shyness is me and part of what makes me the empathetic person I am. But then I had a panic filled event in my late forties, that made me realize I could use some help. I can deal with the shyness on my own now as long as life is going on an even keel.

Jessica Ramey said...

I'm glad that I've found this post. I totally agree with both of the comments above. Being a mom of two very different children, one an extrovert and one an introvert, I think it's good to respect both personality types. But it sounds like your shyness is much harder to deal with since it packs the double punch of anxiety and shyness. I'm so very glad you shared this hidden side of shyness and it will help me remember that socializing doesn't come easy to everyone.

KandN said...

Thanks for your comment. Insight like yours is priceless. Your children are lucky to have a mother who understands (like Susan's) that we're not all extroverts.

Reading your and Susan's comments adds to this wonderful feeling of community I get so often since Gino gathered us together on Salemites.