Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Being Shy - Part Two

Being shy affects different people in different ways.  I can only share my feelings on the subject - and how it affects me.

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.