Hello readers, here is a thoughtful guest post by Jo Moore of the blog Twisted Sleeve! Check out what she has to say on the topic of shyness here and let her know what you think!
I’ve always been shy and, like Brittany, I’ve decided to use my struggle with confidence to help other girls like me. Last month I launched a blog called Twisted Sleeve, where I help shy girls become confident.
Not long after I launched the site, I realised a lot of my readers were finding me through Tumblr. Of course – that’s where teenage girls hang out, right? So I thought I’d better get myself onto Tumblr to start sharing inspirational pictures, quotes, and memes about shyness, social anxiety, and confidence.
But I stumbled upon a problem. I couldn’t find many positive images. Whenever I ran a search for words like “shyness”, my screen would fill up with photos of cut wrists, gloomy comic strips, and little self-hate poems.
I was horrified.
There I was, looking to spread hope, tips, and positivity, and I was confronted with a world of misery. It’s one thing to feel down and to make and share art about how you feel but it seemed to me that lots of the girls on Tumblr were actively seeking out and creating negativity and self-loathing.
It got me thinking: I want to help shy girls become confident, but do shy girls actually want to be helped? Or do they want to stay shy?
“Shy” As A Label
When I was younger, I was desperate to find labels that fit me. I always loved the idea of being an emo or a skater but I just wasn’t any of those things. Embarrassingly, I once made up my own label, made out like it already existed, and tried to get it to catch on just so that I could feel like I belonged.
Labels make us feel like we know who we are. They make us feel defined. They make us feel like we fit in. So, once we’ve found one that fits us, we cling onto it.
But labels control you. If you realise a label applies to you and you start using it, you become it. Before I found out I was a multipotentialite (someone with a lot of interests), I had a tendency to become interested in a lot of different things. Once I discovered there was a word for that, I expected that behaviour of myself, and it started happening more often. Likewise, if you label yourself “shy”, you’re more likely to be shy.
Labels limit you. They give your identity boundaries. When you take on a label, you restrict yourself to being a certain way. If you decide you’re shy, you have to be shy. And you give yourself permission to use your now-defined identity as an excuse or justification for your behaviour: “I can’t read in church – I’m too shy.” We let it become a crutch. We become scared of being anything else.
What Happens When You Take A Label Away?
If you’re a shy person who’s clung onto the label “shy” and you stop being shy, what are you left with? Who are you? If the thing you’ve turned into your identity is gone, what’s left?
While we all say life would be so much easier if we were shy, maybe there’s a part of us that doesn’t actually want to give up the label. Maybe there’s a part of some of us that doesn’t want to change. Maybe there’s a part of us that’s scared of what will be left if the shyness disappears.
If that’s true, we’re going to cling onto the word “shy” more than ever. We’re not going to push ourselves to put our hands up in class, to speak in public, and to set ourselves confidence challenges. We’re never going to get the confidence to do the things we dream of doing.
How Can We Change That?
If we have a sneaky suspicion that a tiny part of us is holding us back, how can we change that, so that we can let ourselves become confident?
1) Find out if you’re an introvert
Lots of shy girls are also introverts – people who get their energy from being by themselves, doing quiet things like reading, writing, and drawing. If you ask me, all shy girls should take a look at themselves and at their behaviour to work out which parts of them are due to shyness and which parts are due to introversion. See, whereas shyness holds us back, introversion is something positive (if you need convincing of that, watch Susan Cain’s TED talk, The power of introverts).
If you are an introvert, it’s possible that you’ve been clinging onto your shy identity because you’re scared of having to pretend to be something you’re not (an extrovert). But it is possible to be a confident introvert. Becoming confident doesn’t have to mean giving up your books and heaving out to parties every weekend. It just means being able to do what you want to do.
2) Be about something
Be interesting. Do things. Have a passion. Start a project.
Getting fired up about an interest or hobby will give you another identity or area to associate yourself with. If you start having singing lessons, you become a singer. If you start writing a novel, you become a writer. If you join a rambling group, you become an outdoorsy person. Whatever you pick, you become both more interested and more interesting.
Oh, and the side effect of getting interested in stuff? You’ll distract yourself from your shyness. Who knows, maybe you’ll even get so caught up in your project that you’ll turn into a blabber mouth whenever you tell anyone about it!
What Do You Think?
Do you want to stay shy? Do you think it’s good to be shy? Of course there are plenty of positives to being a quiet person and you should never try to reject any part of yourself, so I would never want anyone to try and force themselves to become loud and outgoing. But shyness becomes a problem when it holds us back and stops us exploring ourselves, our interests, and the world. That’s when it’s time to let go of the label.
Battling her British social awkwardness, Joanna L K Moore (Jo) runs Twisted Sleeve, where she helps shy girls get the confidence they need to do whatever they dream of doing. A multipotentialite through and through, Jo’s also a content manager, a support worker, an illustrator at hey, there blogger, and a writer currently working on the second draft of a young adult novel. You can find out more about Jo here.