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The other day, my friend,
[info]silverton, posted an entry about her first week of classes and how her shyness made it difficult to join in with class discussion. 
Shyness can have a profound effect on our interactions with others. I think most folks suffer from it to some extent. With that in mind, I thought I’d share my own struggle with this problem, and how I finally managed to overcome it.
I remember the day I decided to conquer my shyness. I was in my early twenties, married (not to Senior Management) and a house-owner. I stood at a coach stop for over an hour in the pouring rain, during which time I let coach after coach pull up and leave – many of which I later learned would have taken me to where I wanted to go – all because I was too shy to ask the drivers for information. 
The only reason I ever made it to my destination was because of some other strangers who came to that stop. They asked the driver of the next coach and I overheard his answer.
Don’t get me wrong.   I could answer a phone or speak to people if they spoke to me first (or in the case of my ten month stint as a pub disc jockey, if I had a microphone to talk to), I just couldn’t initiate a simple conversation with someone I didn’t know.
I got so mad at myself that day (not to mention more than a little damp). I decided I'd had enough of being afraid of other people. I didn’t have any plan, but I made myself a promise that I wasn't going to be shy anymore. 
I vowed to start a conversation with at least one new person every day – I worked in London back then, so finding a stranger wouldn’t be a problem.
I wish I could say things changed overnight, but they didn’t. It took me a week to sum up the courage to say ‘Hi’ to someone new, but I kept at it.  I’m so glad I did. One of the first things I discovered was that if you go halfway to strike up a friendly conversation, most folks will gladly go the other half.
In the years since then, I’ve gotten so good at forcing myself to confront my shyness, people actually think I’m confident (sometimes a little too confident). But you know something? I’m fine with that.   
I’ve met hundreds, possibly thousands of new people since that wet, windy day at the coach stop, some of whom I’m proud to call my good friends. If I hadn’t got so mad at myself back then, I’d probably still be the shy wallflower in the corner of the room, and where would be the fun in that? 

How about you? 

Has shyness had an impact on your life?

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( 66 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jan. 26th, 2010 01:07 am (UTC)
Extreme shyness has had a huge impact on my quality of life. At one point, a social anxiety disorder made it impossible for me to even walk into a restaurant if it had too many people in it.

With some outside help over the years, and inner determination (accepting an invitation to be a guest speaker, volunteering to facilitate my critique group and thus run meetings, to name a few), I lead a pretty normal life today. No one in my life would ever guess, and people who know me now are astonished if they find out. But it was rough. The human body's physical reactions can be terribly debilitating.

Getting older helped a bit too, in my opinion. I'm just so ornery now. LOL
Jan. 26th, 2010 01:33 pm (UTC)
I guess shyness is one of those things we don't have to confront, so a lot of folks never get around to it.

I'm glad you conquered yours.

Thanks for sharing, Stephe :)
Jan. 26th, 2010 01:18 am (UTC)
It sure has.

I go back and forth between being 'clasicly shy' and 'overcompensating' so I'm either very quiet or very out going. And I never know what 'me' is going to pop out.

My mohter calls that outgoing big loud silly personality my "French personality" (My dad is part Mowhawk and his Father was a Frankaphone)
Jan. 26th, 2010 01:35 pm (UTC)
Serious question, does your dad get annoyed at how punk rockers call their haircuts a Mowhawk when they look more like the Huron style (except for the loud colors, of course)?
(no subject) - bodgei - Jan. 27th, 2010 12:29 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 26th, 2010 01:37 pm (UTC)
For some, El Guapo is a big, nasty man who wants to kill us. For others, shyness is their El Guapo :)
Jan. 26th, 2010 02:34 am (UTC)
Pretty much the same as you -- meeting new people. Yikes. Still not much good at it. IT also took me many years of baby steps in learning to be able to speak in front of a group. Still won't do it for large groups, but I am a little more comfortable with it. And that progressed over 20 years from barely being able to say my name in front of a small group.
Jan. 26th, 2010 01:41 pm (UTC)
I've always thought fear of public speaking was a different kind of problem to shyness, but it's a major issue with some people.

I wish you luck with it :)
Jan. 26th, 2010 02:43 am (UTC)
This isn't my story, but so very closely ties into your shyness post. If you haven't seen it already, check out Jim Hines' post today: http://jimhines.livejournal.com/487702.html

There was a point in time where I was rather shy and honestly I'm not sure how or when I got out of it. If I was in my group, I was fine, but stepping outside of it was hard.

One day I just decided I didn't give a damn what other people thought about me (beyond the social graces). This was about the time I started dancing in the club I hung out at, at the time. I don't know what finally convinced me, and no it wasn't alcohol, cause I don't/didn't drink much, but I'm happy I can dance now :)
Jan. 26th, 2010 01:45 pm (UTC)
You mean that Polish guy and how he met his wife? I love a story with a happy ending, don't you? :)

As for shyness, I think at some point, there comes a realization that, however self-conscious we are about how we might appear to others, for the most part, they don't even know we exist.

It sure takes the pressure off.
(no subject) - phoenixfirewolf - Jan. 26th, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 26th, 2010 04:16 am (UTC)
Shy? No! Not even close. I am the person who goes up to the new kid and says, "Hi, are you new? I'm Tracy. You want to join me and my friends?" Now there was a time when I got teased by a small group of people and when in that crowd I would not speak as much. I am an observer. So I will hang back in crowds and watch people. Get a feel for who is approachable and who is not.

Interestingly, I hate being the center of attention. I fidget if I think everyone is starring at me (unless I am teaching or performing and it's supposed to be that way).
Jan. 26th, 2010 01:47 pm (UTC)
'Get a feel for who is approachable and who is not.'

Isn't it funny how you can tell that about someone without even hearing them speak?

Take my GSHW friend temporus (see above comments). I knew right away that he was the friendly sort.
Jan. 26th, 2010 01:57 pm (UTC)
I'd answer your question, but I'm too shy.
Jan. 26th, 2010 02:03 pm (UTC)
Lol :)
Jan. 26th, 2010 02:02 pm (UTC)
Hmm. Can I post this anonymously? No? Well, I used to be shy around strangers, but for some reason that has worn off the last 5-10 years. Practicing has taught me that most people are happy to talk to a new friendly face, and as a one-man consultant I have no one to hide behind, so I've been forced to practice. I'm still introvert, though, so sometimes I have to tell myself to be in 'social mode'.
Jan. 26th, 2010 02:07 pm (UTC)
I find it hardest when I'm at an event where everybody seems to know everybody else (even though they probably don't).

You're right, most people are happy to make a new friend, or at least pass the time of day.

Thanks for sharing, Jakob :)
Jan. 26th, 2010 07:09 pm (UTC)
My mom laughs hysterically every time I say that I'm shy.

I grew up brash & outgoing, the annoying kid who always had her hand up first in class, talked to the new kids, and didn't notice that half the class hated me. As I grew more aware of social cues, I stopped. This was reinforced by a couple incidents where the mouth moved faster than the brain and what came out wasn't intentional -- but was remembered long by everyone around me and mocked.

So now I have an almost paralyzing fear of making a fool of myself in public. Which is probably why I blogged for months before I told anyone I was doing it. This despite the fact that I had to teach labs and lead test review sessions as a grad student -- one memorable incident was the physiology review when I explained the effect of nitric oxide on blood supply and the associated physical reaction (this is the mechanism Viagra works through). Yes, I stood up in front of a room full of college kids and talked about that with a straight face, and I'm still afraid to say "hi" to people at a con.

Maybe it's time for me to get over it.
Jan. 26th, 2010 09:53 pm (UTC)
'Maybe it's time for me to get over it.'

I wish you success :)
Jan. 28th, 2010 12:41 am (UTC)
Well, this is just all kinds of inspiring. Not only hearing about your triumph, but also knowing all the struggles that other people have to face to overcome shyness. Just yesterday I actually volunteered information on the class discussion. Big step for me, usually the teacher has to drag it out of me. It's funny really, to be so shy. It's not as though I don't have anything worthwhile to contribute or share. Since I've moved out of my little back of the woods town, I have made some progress, but... it's going to take some time.
Jan. 28th, 2010 09:14 pm (UTC)
Sounds like you've made a start. Congratulations. Keep at it :)
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( 66 comments — Leave a comment )

Things What I Wrote and Other Stuff

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