So as you know, I titled my blog, “The Shyness Project: The Year I Confront My Crippling Shyness.”
Notice two things:
One, I used the word confront. This was a carefully chosen word. It may sound passive compared to “overcome” or “conquer”, but really, shyness isn’t something so terrible that it needs to be entirely eliminated. Although it may feel like it at times, it’s not a weakness. Even though there seems to be a message out there in Western Culture that it’s not ok to be shy, I don’t believe that is entirely true. Shyness isn’t necessarily cowardice, and although you can say that a shy person fears negative judgement, you can also say that a shy person wants to do well.
Two, I added the adjective crippling to shyness. There were some parts of my shyness that were positive and healthy, while the excess, or crippling shyness was holding me back. That was the part of my shyness I wanted to focus on. Beyond that, I’ve realized that what I really had to face was the mistaken belief that I couldn’t do certain things I wanted to do in life. I felt limited by the shy label that I had allowed to define me. I thought that others saw me as shy, so I felt like they expected me to act a certain way. When I discovered that several people were surprised when I told them that I thought I came off as shy, I learned that I had felt confined because of what I thought others thought of me. When you stop labeling yourself and stop trying to mind-read, it is a big relief. You’re then free to just be yourself without feelings of burden.
I used to wish I was anything but shy, and I hated my shyness so much. But now that I’ve become more aware of all the good my shyness has brought me, I wouldn’t have been born any other way. I’m glad that I have gone through all these feelings of shyness because if I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t understand them as well. I wouldn’t be able to truly empathize with those who are facing similar obstacles.
I hope to help change some of the negative messages that are sent out in our culture. Maybe the image of shyness as a timid shy girl or guy quavering in the corner will change into to the image of a brave girl or guy having the courage to look fear in the face daily and confront it. Maybe shyness will have less of a negative image then, and it won’t be seen as something to pity.
Shyness is often associated with many respectable and admirable qualities, such as thoughtfulness, sensitivity, kindness, and modesty. Often those of us who struggle to keep a conversation alive are the ones who listen the best.
The steps I am taking aren’t about overcoming every ounce of shyness in my body. They are about expanding my comfort zone, and challenging myself to do things that I believe I have the ability to do. This blog isn’t meant to support the idea that if you are shy, you have to “break out of your shell”. It’s a learning experience of what shyness is, what it feels like, and how you can push past those feelings when you feel as if they are holding you back. I’m not trying to become a person who never feels shy, I’m simply trying to change the choices I make so I can be open to more opportunities.
I have also come to learn that I am an introvert. I prefer one-on-one or small group conversations than larger group ones, and I prefer to talk about more meaningful subjects. I like to listen and I am a deep, insightful thinker. The thing I want most in life is to have strong, intimate relationships with people. Love is everything to me.
I see the value in introversion, and I hope more people can see it too. Shyness and introversion may be very different, but they both seem to not get much respect. I think it’s about time that they do.