Is it being shy? Is it being too focused on the words we use? Is it taking self consciousness and scrutinization to a level others never even think of?
I have felt shy ever since I can remember. Some studies that I've read link shyness to a source of shame or attention called to self as a child, like an over-correcting adult presence in your life. It could have been a teacher, sibling, parent, aunt, grandparent, a ridiculing childhood friend.
Being shy isn't fun. It makes you miss out on a lot of wonderful moments in life that could be created simply by extending yourself. Shyness can lead to being misread as a person. We're often judged as arrogant, aloof, disinterested, self involved, unfriendly. Boring. Not good stuff.
There are mounds of manuals and online groups, even live support groups, created for shy people. Don't laugh, even though it is funny to go to one of those meetups ... I mean, you know, no one talks there, right? I like to think of my type of people as "overly polite" and ultra concerned for others. You first. No - you first. No, after you...
In these groups and forums and online exercises, we're instructed to use a lot of positive self talk and to mentally walk right up to the edge of that potential conversation cliff and leap out into the land of the verbal.
Sounds Nike-good, right? I mean, Just do it! or, in our case, Just say it! (*note to self: order Just say it! T shirts from Zazzle - make a mint at the next Introverts R Us Conference)
Sound, good advice but still not motivating enough for me. It's much easier to keep quiet. Shy is not quiet. Quiet likes it that way. I'm an extrovert wanna-be. I wish there was an operation in Sweden I could save up my money for so I could correctly be assigned the personality I was meant to be. I searched the DSM, Fourth Ed., no such entry for Trans-personality disorder: when you feel you were born the wrong personality type.
Being a closet extrovert, you think I'd jump on all this how-to and just go for it, damn it. But, no, I stay quiet. The tried and true tricks of the trade don't do a thing to change my behavior. What has worked for me is the painful lesson of missed chances.
There was an author who spoke at the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop in Dayton, Ohio this weekend. I heard her address, and she left my eyes sparkling with tears; her message was so moving. I had seen her getting on an elevator in our hotel lobby earlier that day, having recognized her from the program descriptions. I wanted to tell her how her books moved me, but I didn't.
I didn't tell her anything. I watched her enter the elevator and the doors close behind her. I had talked myself out of approaching her, convincing myself with I'm a nobody, why would she want to talk to me.
Why did I think this? Easy. I had been brushed off at conferences by people I admire before. Taking it personally, always. I never thought beyond my hurt feelings that perhaps the author was going to be late for a train, plane, car, whatever. Or that maybe they were peopled out, tired, hungry, fatigued, up to here with strangers.
I listened to this woman's talk and promised myself I'd speak with her afterward. I waited in line to get my copy of her book signed and told her how much I enjoyed her writing and how her message today would sit warm in my heart forever. I also told her how I had seen her earlier but was too shy to speak to her. As we talked, I found out we had much in common; she was raised by her grandmother, the same as I was.
She handed me her card and writing her personal email on it, she asked, "Email me, would you? I want to know what you especially liked about my books."
I promised I would email her, and hugged her.
This memory, this new one right here, of an almost missed opportunity, is the one that from now on will be playing louder in my mind and drowning out the one that played before it; the one telling me to not risk rejection and just stay quiet.
Playing it safe gets you just that: safe.
And nothing more.
*with love to all my shy people everywhere. Go Fight Win. I love you.
_____________________________________________________________________ Image via Flickr cc