26 February 2010

I'm Shy, So Sue Me!

When I was three years old, I was "diagnosed" as shy. In pre-school my mom was called to my teacher's office where they had a long discussion about how I wouldn't participate in class sing alongs, and how I only had one friend, (my best friend) Josh. My mom, being the first time mom that she was, became alarmed that something was wrong with me. Yet, luckily, as my mom exited that meeting a caring teacher's assistant pulled my mom aside. She told her that, yes I was a shy kid, but that she could tell I was very smart. I observed everything that went on in class and knew the names of every one of my classmates, and the words to every song we sang. I didn't participate outwardly, but I participated through observation and reflection. This made sense to my mom because when she picked me up from school each afternoon, I wouldn't stop talking to her about every little detail of my day the entire way home. Clearly, I didn't have an attention deficit problem.

When I was growing up, "shy" or "introverted" were all negative characteristics to be avoided. In high school and college, no one wanted to own up to being shy; at least no one in my group of friends. Everyone was selling their souls to be POPULAR! Luckily, I played sports or I would've been screwed in high school. In the working world, the last thing a job interviewer wants to hear is, "The best word to describe myself is shy." At work, we are rewarded for aggressiveness, and we are invisible if we are passive. While shyness and passivity aren't one in the same, they are in similar camps.

Even at my wedding, I struggled with accepting the fact that I only have a couple of really good, close friends. I have no sisters. I am not close to my female cousins who live far away. Why would I add two or three casual friends to my bridal party just for the sake of looking like I have a large friend circle? It all roots back to shyness, and in some ways, always longing to be boisterous and outgoing. But I am proud of myself that, for one of the first times in my life, I didn't crap out and do something just to maintain social appearances. These are my close FRIENDS. There aren't many of them. Take it or leave it, you judgmental jerks that I didn't even want at my wedding!

Being naturally shy can be a major hurdle. I have fought (and continue to fight) day after day to deal with my social shyness. I say "social" because for people who know me really well, they know that "shy" is pretty much the last word to describe me. I am bashful to the outside world, because I like to take the backseat and observe. I have a lot going on in my head that I don't say out loud. I feel drained by socializing, rather than energized. I don't need a black book of 200 people I hardly know, but call my friends, to make me feel better. BUT, it is still something I struggle with from time to time.

I have noticed a number of my blog friends, either through Formspring or their own blogs, describing themselves as shy. I personally think that's great. This post only glimpses the road I have taken to understanding my reserved nature. But to all of you who continue to own up to the fact that you may not be the loudest one in the room, thank you. You have all proven that you have so, SO much to offer, and that "shy" is a word that can be thought of positively and respectfully. Your honesty has helped me tremendously. THANK YOU.

And thank you to my husband who, at times, can be the loudest person in the room, and who brings me snacks while I sit away from the crowd gossiping with a friend, and watching him get a high off of socializing.

So the million dollar question - are you shy? Feel free to share.



9 comments:

  1. I am both shy and an introvert. However, I have learned over the years that there is a difference between being shy and being an introvert. I am a true introvert through and through but I'm not always shy. (However, I've found that as I age I've become less shy but more introvert.)

    I have tons of acquaintances, but very few friends. In fact, at this point I have so few girlfriends that I'm pretty certain that no one will offer to throw me a baby shower (I didn't have a bridal shower either). It's a good thing that my husband is an extrovert, or I would hardly get out of the house!

    A few months ago I read a great interview (albeit short) on Psychology Today with the author of "Introvert Power" — you can read it at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-introverts-corner/200909/interview-dr-laurie-helgoe-author-introvert-power — and I think you'll find it encouraging...I know I did. :-)

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  2. I hear you, loud and clear. With friends and family, I am sometimes the most outgoing person in the room. But put me in a situation where I know no one, and I freeze up. When I do talk, I am awkward and I start sweating and blushing (charming, really). I just don't know how to be myself in front of strangers. My husband is anything but shy, so I usually latch onto him and let him do the talking with new people.

    A few weeks ago I actually threw a temper tantrum and cried for about an hour because I had to go to a baby shower where I wouldn't know anyone except the mommy-to-be. My husband nudged me to go and I eventually knew I had to because I had RSVP'd... and I ended up talking to some nice girls and having a decent time. But it was HARD and sometimes it's the idea of going somewhere where I know I won't know anyone that is crippling.

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  3. I am shy when I meet new people. I love my friends and am extroverted around them but I just lack the social skills to move around the company of new people with ease. I find my partner is better at meeting new people but he's definately a naturally quiet introvert. I have many friends while he selectes a few which whom he holds to high standards. We complement each other i suppose

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  4. Great post Carly. I remember heaving this big sigh of relief the first day of kindergarten when another little girl asked to be my friend. I am definitely not the socialite or the party-er, and I only have a few friends I am close to.

    I don't know if I'm shy...but I am quiet when put in awkward situations. I think it's really, really obvious when I like someone because I will be really talkative and tell a lot of stories. If I'm not digging my company I just won't say anything.

    I'm sure if we ever met, I'd talk your head off.

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  5. Some random thoughts:

    I'm definitely shy. And like you said, it can cause personal dilemmas in a world full of extroverts. I think it wouldn't be so bad to have just a few close friends in an age when everyone stayed put in the town where they grew up. But add in moving every few years, as I have done, and it gets harder and harder to have a social circle in the place where you actually live. Like Jenny, I didn't even bother with the bridal/baby showers. A friend offered to host, but having to round up a circle of people who actually live in this town (and who wouldn't be my closest friends, who all live elsewhere) just seemed too sad.

    My husband is a "shy extrovert." So of course our baby is showing signs of shyness too. It's interesting, it took us a while to realize she's shy because she's just exactly like you described yourself as a child -- SO interested in the world, and enamored with going out and taking it all in. But then she's just not sure she's comfortable participating.

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  6. i really love your this post and how clearly you write :) i was also very shy growing up and still harbor a sitting back/taking it all in personality. my friends know me to be more than shy (which makes me happy) but i still get introverted in huge social situations. it is nice to know that i was not the only shy kid growing up, because i totally thought i was alone.

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  7. I'm not shy. In fact, I'm an extrovert. But I used to be shy in new situations. I have a small group of friends, not a large group. So while I'm an extrovert, I'm not necessarily as outgoing as other extroverts. Like most introverts, I value my alone time. I like quiet time! But I think that I'm weird: most extroverts don't need alone-time.

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  8. I am so appreciative of all of your responses, and have read each one several times. Thank you for your honesty and willingness to share your personal experiences!
    @Geek in Heels: I didn't know the difference between shy and introverted. Thank you so much for educating me on this. I am now soaking up all of the info I can find on being an introvert :) Also, I really hope you have a baby shower. I wish I were on the east coast so I could host one for you. Darn it!
    @Brooke: I think we would be great friends if we ever got the chance to meet! That's if we were both able to get beyond our initial shyness! Haha! I feel your pain about going to events where you don't know anyone. I am the SAME way.
    @pixelhazard: It sounds like you two are perfect complements!! That's awesome!
    @Mo: Awww, I am completely confident that, if we met, we would gab for hours. :)
    @Kristin: Let's be okay with being shy together! :)
    @TwoWishes: I loved reading your response, especially about your daughter. She's the cutest little girl, by the way! I have a special place in my heart for shy children. I think my mom struggled to understand me when I was young, because she is a natural extrovert. But I think it's nice that you and your daughter have similar personalities. You will be able to understand where she's coming from, especially when she has to start school, make friends, and generally begin her life as a social being.
    @honey my heart: Thank you! What a nice compliment! You definitely aren't alone :)
    @Krista: I couldn't imagine my life without at least a little alone time. I don't think that's weird at all!

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