I would say that my struggle began in high school. By that point in my life, I had attended two elementary and two middle schools (we moved a few times) and I was faced with starting over, yet again, in high school. My neighborhood was redistricted and I was assigned to a high school that most of my friends were not going. I was very nervous. Funny enough, my older brother was a senior at the school that I wanted to attend (they let him finish in the school he had been attending for three years). So, instead of starting high school with my friends and brother, I was on my own.
That year didn't go so well. I hung around a girl that I didn't have much in common with just because we already knew each other (she was nice - we just had different interests). I knew I had to do something to meet people. So, I tried out for the cheerleading team.
I know that sounds strange - a shy girl who wants to be in front of people. But to me, being in front of people while cheering is completely different than hanging out with kids at a basketball game. Why? Well, I had years of dance lessons under my belt so I knew I could learn the moves. As for the chants - I wouldn't be up there by myself (much) so I had the support of the whole group. In my mind, it was easy. And it was a great way to meet people. Which I did.
But off the court, I was still struggling. I always felt that I said stupid things or talked too much, or too little. I just never felt like I could get it right. And I'd replay many situations in my mind. I'd think about how dumb I sounded. Or how I stumbled though the conversation. And I'd feel embarrassed. This feeling kind of snowballed.
When I was first married, I remember watching other wives while we were out. If I was at a dinner party, for example, I would try to remember what they talked about, how they interacted, and even what they wore. I thought that I could learn to be more like them. I was too self conscious to be myself. But that didn't work.
So, as a grew older, I learned to accept being shy. I realized that it was ok to say no to a party. That I didn't need to put myself in a situation that was uncomfortable. And it was a relief.
There was a problem though. It's not all about going to parties. It's everyday stuff. Here are some examples -
*A new neighbor moves in. I know that I should go over and introduce myself. Welcome them. I want to but I can't. I freeze. I wouldn't know what to say.
*I see someone I sort of know at a store, and I turn and go down another aisle. Because I don't know how to make small talk.
*I have to go to a school function with my kids. And other parents want to chat.
*I want to shop at a nice store but I think they are judging me (although they probably aren't). I hesitate to go in.
*I avoid girls night out. I have no idea how to interact with a group of girls.
*I have to make a phone call. Umm...that is the worst. I call it phone-a-phobia.
I could go on but you get the idea. Everyday life presents challenges for shy people.
On the flip side, I do have some very good friends. Who I'm comfortable with. People I enjoy going to dinner with, or hanging out with. And, I do ok in social situations when I'm with Craig. He is more outgoing which helps. He can keep a conversation going. It lessens the pressure.
So, that's what shyness feels like for me. I used to think that I was alone - that everyone else was so much more confident. But, I'm realizing more and more that I'm not alone. I would like to include a Manilow video on the subject (come on, you're not really surprised...). I guess a lot of people feel "different" - even super successful musicians. The words in this song really speak to me.