The Shyness Project

Archive for the tag “Miscellaneous Musings”

Only Seeing the Tip of the Iceberg

There was a deep and honest discussion today in 6th period that ended up continuing all period.  Apparently an event called “Challenge Day” occurred yesterday and two of the students in our class had participated in it and were reporting back.  Basically about 100 students were selected and they each had to talk about their troubles and things that were going on in their life that others probably didn’t know about but would help others understand you better.  The boys reported that everyone thought it was kind of a joke at first but after a while they realized it was serious and learned more about why some people act the way the do, especially some of the meaner people they didn’t get along with before.  They learned why they might act mean and more about what was going on underneath the personality they displayed to others.

Our teacher drew a picture of an iceberg on the whiteboard and sectioned off a really tiny piece at the top and said that was the part we showed to others, our personality.  The rest, the majority of ourselves, was underneath the surface and was what he considered to be our character.  Most of us show very little of our true selves and we are mostly judged on that teeny portion that is above the surface.

The boys said the biggest message they wanted to share was to be open-minded about others because you don’t know what they’re going through underneath the surface.  They talked about name calling a bit and labels a while too.  Our teacher had us raise our hands if we’d ever been talked down to or called something you didn’t like by a guy, and then by a girl, and nearly everyone raised their hands for both.  He explained why people do that and why they call you something you don’t like or pick on you.  He said if you’re the one being picked on, then the others in that group join in because they think “at least we’re safe” and at least the focus isn’t on them.

I can definitely see that being true and I thought of my 6th grade experience where I was the one being singled out and picked on by the group I was with.  The people in that group didn’t want to be the one targeted so once one of them started picking on me the others added to it and continued it all year. They were really just acting out of insecurity though if you think about it, and it wouldn’t have mattered what I did or what I liked or how I acted, they still probably would have done the same to me for the purpose of making themselves feel safe.  One of the girls who was a part of that group and the one who did the most betrayal and hurt to me is in that class awkwardly enough, and I glanced at her when the teacher was talking about that and wondered if she was thinking of how she had acted that way in middle school.  It’s hard to tell though because she acts like nothing ever happened between us and I never got any sort of admittance about it or an apology.  But oh well, I’ve moved on.

Another thing the boys brought up was compliments actually.  At the challenge day event the instructor was telling people to compliment pretty girls or something like that instead of seeing a pretty girl and making assumptions about her that she is a slut or whatever else people often think.  This sparked a debate and one girl said that she would not want to compliment a pretty girl especially if she knew she was pretty because she wouldn’t want to fill her head with air and she doesn’t like cocky people.  Another girl said she would compliment a pretty girl.  Then one guy brought up that if you compliment one girl and tell her she’s pretty but then don’t compliment the girls next to her then it can hurt their feelings, so he thinks it would be better to not compliment them at all otherwise you’d have to compliment everyone then and tell them that they’re all pretty.  It was an interesting and lengthy discussion. After class I walked out with the same guy and a few other of our classmates and we talked about the compliment thing some more.  I said to avoid the hurt feelings it would probably be best to compliment peope’s outfits or things they do well on rather than complimenting their personal looks.  If someone is wearing a fancier top or did really well on a test or something it’s easier to compliment that than something more general, and if there are others around it’s probably good to try and think of some nice things to say to them too.  One girl said that she dressed up nice one time and her friend dressed up nice too, but only her friend got compliments all day and no one said anything to her, so she felt kind of hurt and felt that she looked nice too.  So compliments can be tricky I suppose, but I think the main thing to remember is to be aware of others and try to spread the love so people don’t feel left out.

It’s Always the Quiet Ones

Sometimes people have preconceived judgments or assumptions about shy or quiet people.

I remember an instance like this in my 9th grade health class, for example.  I didn’t really have any friends in this class except for a person or two that I would occasionally partner up with, and most of the class was divided into distinct “groups”.  I mostly did my work quietly while the others around me would get in their social group and talk all period.

A new girl came to our school, and ended up sitting behind me.  I was sort of friendly at first, but then the more annoying she got the more I withdrew.  She would stroke my back weirdly from time to time or pull on my hair even when I told her to stop.   She was loud and wasn’t afraid to make offensive remarks about people it seemed.

One day, she asked me something like, “You know, the quiet/shy ones are the ones most likely to commit suicide, or shoot their classmates.”  I was flabbergasted (yes, I said flabbergasted) by her comment, and was angry at her for even thinking that, let alone saying that to me.  Just because a few people who have been shy or quiet have been the culprits of school shootings or have committed suicide doesn’t mean that being shy or quiet makes you more likely to do something like that.  Also, shyness is not necessarily linked with low self-esteem, depression, or anger.    I have a fairly healthy self-esteem yet still feel shy.  Sure sometimes I’m afraid that I’ll embarrass myself or get those anxious thoughts, but really it’s all because I want to do well.  I like who I am, even if I do want to improve myself.  I’ve always been one striving for personal growth, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  I’m not depressed, though I have felt down from time to time like all people do.  I’ve never felt any hostile feelings toward others; nothing is bottled up or repressed.  And I don’t think it’s fair to assume that someone is feeling any of those things just because you see them as a shy or quiet person.  It’s not “always the quiet ones”, as some people like to say, even when they’re just joking.

What do you think?  Do you think it’s fair to assume the shy or quiet ones are “up to something”?  Does that comment ever annoy you when you hear it?

Some interesting discussions I found about it here:

http://www.socialanxietysupport.com/forum/f26/shy-and-quiet-people-are-dangerous-56788/

http://www.rateitall.com/i-953497-the-assumption-that-its-the-quiet-ones-you-have-to-beware-of.aspx

A Solitary Walk

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This week has been my spring break from school, and unfortunately it’s been raining hard all week so I’ve mostly stayed indoors.  I’ve been reading a lot though, and have a lot of books checked out on shyness as well as some other books that I’m simultaneously reading (I read too many books at once).  I did meet up with some friends for volunteer work at school on Monday though, and did some work for my internship yesterday and helped the client see where his water usage was going.

Today was finally a sunny day though, at least on and off it was, as it’s been raining today too.  After spending my morning reading a book on shyness and taking notes, I decided it was a good day for a walk.  So I got dressed and asked my mom if she wanted to go with me, but she didn’t really.  I was thinking of calling my neighbor to see if she wanted me to take the dogs today or not, since she was home today.  I was sort of hesitant about calling, but then just pressed the button and did it without feeling any nervous symptoms thankfully.  It turns out that she didn’t want me to take the dogs today since she was going to take them, but at least I asked.  I gave myself a little pat on the back afterward, haha. 🙂

I wondered if I should just stay home then and not go walking, since my mom didn’t want to go and I didn’t need to take the dogs today.  I decided to go out on my own, even though it’s been a little while since I’ve walked around on my own and I prefer to be with people or the dogs.  I feel more self-conscious when I’m on my own when it comes to exercising.

As I walked and all these cars drove past me, I did notice that I felt kind of anxious though and couldn’t focus on my thoughts as well as I would have liked.  I felt like each person passing by in their car was watching me and I was very self-conscious about my movements and expression.

I made eye contact with, smiled, and said hi to every person I passed though, and they each said hi back to me, or nodded or smiled.  I walked until I reached the park, and then ran a lap around it and walked some of it.  I went over to pet a cute dog  that was going crazy with excitement trying to go over to me, and I talked to the owner (and the dog) for a little while, said it was nice to meet him, and then moved on.  I ran up the hill on the way home, and by the time I reached my court I was really out of breath. I saw a neighbor who I’d never spoken to before at the stop sign, and he started talking to me and I talked to him for a little while.  He said he had seen a girl running in the pouring rain yesterday and asked if that was me, and I said no and that I wasn’t THAT dedicated to running.  The rain was madness yesterday, it was bad enough that I had to drive in it, but I wouldn’t go running in that weather. I felt good after my walk/run and shower, it’s amazing what exercise can do for you.

Apologizing for Shyness

Sometimes people feel a need to apologize for others’ shyness.  (or their own)

I distinctly remember in 8th grade when we had to do a self-defense unit, and my teacher said “Brittany doesn’t talk” with a smile to the instructor who was complaining that I didn’t yell loud enough when practicing attacking her in front of the others.

The sad thing is that I had that teacher for two years and thought I had talked to him quite a bit, especially the year before.  I was quiet in his class, but I talked to the friends I made, so I wasn’t silent.  That was the class where I went over and introduced myself to a girl who had just moved here from Brazil and was by herself.  Ever since then we’ve been good friends, and at one point the closest of friends.

People often would say that I don’t talk, even when I’ve talked to them or talk to my friends.  I guess they mean I don’t talk as much around them.  Because in every class I’ve been in I have talked, just maybe not enough to be considered talking to them I guess.

I’ve let some things slip that I later kicked myself for though too.   Last month I told a stranger that my neighbor’s dog Dexter was “just a little shy” when the other dog Penny raced up to the stranger while Dexter hid behind my legs.

I don’t know why I did that; I didn’t have to justify his behavior.  So now if that happens again I won’t say anything about that, and if they ask, I’ll simply say that he likes to take his time getting to know people.  When you apologize for shyness it makes it seem like a bad thing, and you’re also labeling that person (or animal in my case) as shy, making them think that they must be shy then.  It’s important to be careful to avoid doing that, as it has a greater effect than you might think.

Asking Questions and Handing Out Cookies

Today in first period we had a discussion on exchange rates of currency in other countries.   Our teacher talked about it for a while and showed us a website where we could calculate different exchange rates.  She showed us various graphs of the changes in time of the value of a certain currency, and it was interesting to me.  I had some questions in my head, but I wasn’t sure if they were dumb or good questions.

Near the end of her discussion, I thought about my questions.  When I started to seriously consider asking them, my heart pounded like crazy!

And I decided to ask anyways.  🙂

Apparently they were good questions because she thought about them for a while and then talked about them for a long time.  I think she was glad that I was really paying attention and thinking about what she was saying, since a majority of our class didn’t seem to be listening.

In second period, I took a Photoshop certification test and was the second in all my teacher’s classes to pass it!  I talked to my teacher quite a bit, and she said she was proud of me.  The test had a lot of problems and had ridiculously slow loading time, so much so that errors often popped up and it skipped questions.  I was surprised that I still was able to pass even with all those difficulties with the test.

I have third period with the same teacher, so I ended up staying in my same seat as I have second period as I was finishing up that test (even though I normally sit in a different seat third period).  It took over an hour to get through because of how slow it was.  Since I was in a different seat, someone different sat next to me.  I don’t know her well but I know that she’s very nice.  I talked to her a little about the dance tonight and she showed me a picture of her dress on her phone.  After I finished taking the test, we helped each other out with a Photoshop project we were all working on together as a class.  One of my friends, Sue, had brought me cookies and a really nice card that morning for my birthday (since it’s on Sunday).  I offered the girl I was sitting next to one of the cookies, and she smiled and said thank you.  She then told me happy birthday and we talked about turning 18.

When I saw Sue later I offered her one of her own cookies, and she was eager to have one too.  Later in 5th period I gave another cookie to my lab partner Ben and he apparently liked it a lot because he was acting silly and dancing after I gave it to him.

Several people wished me happy birthday throughout the day, and it was nice.  I had a pretty good day, and I’m looking forward to the weekend!

On Friendships and Shyness

“One thing about high school is that you learn who your real friends are.”

That’s what my friend Annie said to me and 2 of our friends at lunch today.

I’ve never had a big group of friends.  At times, I’ve had none. Other times I’ve had one or two.  Now I have about 4 true friends who I’ve really opened up to and can rely on, and a few others that were once close but I’ve sort of lost touch with.  I know a lot of people from being on my school’s tennis team, from joining school clubs, and taking classes.  But it’s hard to find those true friends that will stick with you over the years and that you can have really deep and honest conversations with.

So you may be wondering, what does The Shyness Project have to do with friendship?  Quite a bit, actually.

I’ve read through a ton of books on careers.  And I’ve also done a lot of those exercises that are included in the book to help you find the right career.  I remember one of the exercises was to write about some of your happiest times, and after reading over my response, I realized that a lot of my happiest times were because of friends.  Good friends can boost mood, confidence, and happiness.  And all those things can really help me with confronting my shyness.  The more support that I feel like I have, the more confident I am likely to feel when I’m doing something outside my comfort zone.

As good friends as they are, I have only told my mom about this project.  She was the only one I opened up to about this when we were going on a walk one day before the new year.  I was really nervous to tell her about it, because by telling her I was basically taking the first step to committing myself to follow through with this. I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone else though, not even my brothers, dad, or closest of friends.

Why?  Embarrassment, I suppose.  I don’t think anyone else realizes that I have as much anxiety and worries going on in my head as I do.  I think they see me simply as shy and calm (a lot of people think I’m “calm”, if only they spent a day inside my head!).  And I don’t want to tell them otherwise because I don’t want them to look at me differently or to feel sorry for me.  I think it would surprise them that I have a lot of difficulties with basic things like making a phone call or striking up a conversation with someone.  One of my friends, who is the one I’d say I’m the closest with, does basically know how hard these things can be for me.  I don’t think I’ve gone into as much detail with all the negative thoughts and anxiousness though.  I’m just really not comfortable talking about my shyness to friends and even family.  I’m very sensitive about it, and whenever someone says “She’s so shy…” like I’m not even there, I feel ashamed and my eyes start tearing up, even though I usually hide it well so they have no idea.  I’ve had others ask me why I’m so shy, and again I get teary eyed and can usually only manage a smile, even though I don’t feel like smiling much.  I really don’t know what to say to that, so I say something brief or say I don’t know.  Plus my eyes tear up unfailingly every time something like that is brought up, so it’s hard to say much when you’re trying to force back tears without anyone noticing. It makes me feel the worst when someone says something like that after I feel like I’ve done a good job of being outgoing.  It crushes and frustrates me, and makes me feel like my efforts weren’t even noticed.  I don’t know why people have to make comments about others’ shyness/quietness.  Do they realize that it might be something they are sensitive about and would rather not talk about?  Do they do it to make themselves feel better?  I would think that it would be a lot more thoughtful for a person to just try engaging that person in a conversation rather than just pointing out their shyness.

This blog is the most honest public writing I’ve ever done.  Usually this kind of stuff is only seen by me in my private journal.  But now I barely write in there anymore, because I feel like I can open up here.  After telling my mom, the next major step was making this blog and having it be public.  I felt like once I did that, there was no going back.  And thanks to support from the unbelievably kind and supportive bloggers I’ve met so far, I’m more determined to keep going forward.

1/11/11

Well today’s date is pretty cool.  It’s supposedly a lucky day, and was apparently the senior skip day for my high school, though I didn’t even realize it.  I wouldn’t have skipped anyways.  I think the only classes I noticed that people were missing from were 1st and 6th period, especially 6th, where there were only like 10 of us out of a class of 35 or so.  It was a pretty easy day, it mostly consisted of watching movies and listening to guest presentations.

After school I walked Penny and Dexter again with Sean.  I had Dexter on one leash and Sean took Penny on the other, and this worked much better.  Still they got their leashes tangled up sometimes because they both wanted to be next to each other and sniff this and pee on that.  It was really cold outside, and it started sprinkling for a lot of the walk, and raining harder near the end.  We walked for nearly 2 hours, and my legs feel a little sore now.  I think the dogs had a good time though, despite some of the coldness and wetness we had to endure.  I gave them treats afterward and they seemed pretty happy.

Other than that today was pretty uneventful, unlike yesterday where a lot was going on.  But I did make some observations today.  As I was walking to my 6th period class today, navigating through the crowds, I thought to myself “Everyone’s concerned about themselves, they don’t care what I’m doing.”  This seemed to help me relax and worry less about where I’m looking and who I’m looking at.  I never know if I should stare ahead when passing by people, or if I should make eye contact and attempt a smile or something.  I usually think too much about it and worry about how I’m coming off. Reminding myself not to worry about it helped though.

Thoughts and Realizations

So far, I’ve noticed that having this shyness project and keeping this blog has been encouraging me to go outside and do things each day.  Having a blog keeps me motivated to do something every day, and I’ve noticed I’ve been a lot busier and more active than I normally am. Usually I’m content to just stay at home all day and read, go on the internet, or write.  I still do some of that stuff, but not as much as before and I’ve tried to fill my days up more with things to do.  I  notice that keeping busy and putting myself out there has been increasing my confidence.  I also notice that certain topics like careers and majors are something that I can easily talk about and go on and on about.

I’ve made a couple of phone calls in the past few days to friends I haven’t talked to in a while, and I’ve noticed that it’s a lot easier if I just pick up the phone and dial their number right away and hit send.  Sure maybe my heart will start beating really fast, but taking some deep breaths and looking myself in the mirror and reminding myself that I am confident and well-liked helps me relax a little.  The longer I wait to call someone the worse it gets, so it’s better to just do it quick without too much thinking.

The more I’ve been interacting with people, the happier I’ve been too.  I can honestly say that I’m doing great right now when people ask, whereas earlier before this project in late December I would shrug and say I was alright.  I spent a lot of time off on my own reading and writing, and didn’t spend much time trying to interact with anyone.

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