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Shyness


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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Comments

jongibbs
Jan. 25th, 2010 08:51 pm (UTC)
The sad thing is, I bet there were plenty of people at that wedding who felt out of place and awkward too.

The more I think about it, the more I think shyness is one of those 800lb gorillas in the room. We've all got it to some extent or other.

Thanks for sharing :)
mtlawson
Jan. 25th, 2010 09:05 pm (UTC)
Yeah, when a reception is upwards of 250 people and you know exactly three, yeah, that's a big ol' gorilla in the room.

I remember when -as an incoming freshman in college- we all had to take a psychological exam and then meet with a counselor sometime during that first semester. When I walked in and shook the counselor's hand, she was shocked; she expected someone who would curl up in a corner and say nothing. I replied that I simply hid it very well.
jongibbs
Jan. 25th, 2010 09:47 pm (UTC)
I think hiding it well is half the battle, don't you?
mtlawson
Jan. 25th, 2010 10:57 pm (UTC)
Hiding it is part of the battle, but you can nod and convince yourself that you did just enough to get by. You have to do more to overcome your shyness.

Of course, here we are talking about overcoming shyness in a virtual environment; you can hide a helluva lot of stuff in a virtual conversation.

I guess there's also a varying levels to the situation. Some people are more intimidated in a formal environment while others cringe over the "getting together over beers" informality of some parties.

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