The Shyness Project

Archive for the tag “expanding comfort zone”

The Shyness Project Title

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.

Responses to The Ice Breaker Speech and Shyness Project

I am touched by the responses I’ve gotten from those who have watched my Icebreaker Speech video.  Susan Cain, the brilliant upcoming author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts book and blog (http://www.thepowerofintroverts.com/), wrote an especially heartfelt email to me.  She said my speech “brought tears to her eyes — not only the cruelty of your so-called friends, but also your courage in telling it.”  She said she can’t even imagine what incredible things I’ll be doing by the time I’m her age.  I’m honored, not only because she took the time to read my post and watch my video, but because my speech had such an impact on her.  I will always treasure her email.

I recently told one of my friends, Tristan, (who I met through swing dance) about my project and speech, and he surprised me by saying that he considers himself to be shy and introverted.  He brought up many insightful qualities about being shy and introverted as well.  I had no idea that he thought either of those things about himself, but it was cool to hear.  He is a guy I admire very much and have always looked up to.  He is adventurous, environmentally conscious, and wise beyond his years.  He has travelled to many countries and is currently teaching English abroad in Japan for his second year.

Yesterday I finally told my oldest brother Andrew about my project. He wrote back saying “Oh my god Brittany, I am so proud of you!  You always amaze me with your brilliance and introspection!” which was really touching because I’d been nervous to tell him.  We talked on the phone for a long time.  He said he never thought I was shy, and brought up how I’d always befriended his friends right away and got along so well with them.  His friends would often tell him that they wished that I was their sister, and Andrew would tell them he was very proud to be my brother.

He then told me as he was watching my speech, he nearly cried.  He said he learned something new about me.  I asked him what that was, and he said he had no idea about the bullying.  I hadn’t realized that I’d never told him.  The truth is, I’ve rarely ever talked about it and at the time it was happening, I kept it secret.  I didn’t want my family to think that I was a loser like those girls did.  I didn’t even write about it in my journal because I didn’t want to admit that it was happening. It wasn’t until the cyber-bullying near the end of the year that I finally broke down and told my mom.

Today I talked on the phone with my friend Brian, and let him in on the project too. He was very enthusiastic and interested in reading it and watching my speeches.  He was very proud and touched by what I was trying to do not only help myself, but to help other people.  He thinks I’m proactive and am helping spread a message that shyness isn’t a weakness and something others should look down upon.  I told him how I used to believe that I had live my life with limitations, and now that I’ve learned that I don’t have to, my whole perspective has changed.

Now that I’ve been speaking more about my project instead of keeping it to myself, I’ve learned that people are very supportive and proud of me for what I’m doing.  The ones I’ve talked with don’t view me as shy at all.  They are glad that I’m becoming aware of what I’m capable of and that I am not letting labels or false beliefs hold me back.

To anyone who I’ve mustered up the courage to tell my project to, thank you.  Thank you for being so supportive, understanding, and loving.  Thank you especially Annie for making me feel so comfortable when I shared my project for the first time, and for making me feel so good about myself.  Thank you Andrew for spending several hours with me editing a guest post I’m writing to help make it the most accessible it can be.  And thank you to all the loyal blogging friends I’ve made since the start of this journey: Doug, Vee, Sharon, “Madonna”, Cheryl, Jenny, “Hook”, “GMom”, Tom, Patti, Maria, Patricia, Tyler, Eric, and Faith.  Doug, as you know you were my first blogging friend.  If you hadn’t been there to help me figure out blogging and hadn’t offered to let me write a guest post, it would have taken me longer to get started.

I am very fortunate to have so many wonderful people in my life.  Who knew starting this project and blog could bring so much greatness and self-realization.

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