Sunday, February 9, 2014

Being Shy

I am shy.

(Maybe you are laughing at that.  But, it's true.  I am really very shy.)

So, here's the thing.  Because I am shy, I'm going to talk about it a little bit.  Because, at times, it has held me back and kept me from doing things I really wanted to do and saying things I really wanted to say and meeting people I really wanted to meet.

When I examine my shyness, I think it stems from the following:

     1. being afraid of looking like an idiot in front of somebody I admire.
     2. being afraid of being judged -- by anybody and everybody -- including people I don't even admire all that much.
     3. and, when I was young and single, being afraid of looking like an idiot in front of hot guys.

I always realized that my shyness impacted me negatively.  So, once in a while, I would try to overcome it by "putting myself out there."  And when I was younger, admittedly, this often resulted in what we would call the "social faux pax."  (Hell.  That still happens sometimes.  But, much less often.)

Here is an example of me committing a "social faux pax."  When I was growing up, my Italian grandmother passed down to us various superstitions.  One of these lovely tales of folklore is that if you dream someone dies, it means that person will actually live longer.  Such good luck!  So, anyway, when my hubs and I were first married, there was a cute young couple who lived next door to us in our apartment building.  One night, I dreamed that the young man half of the couple died.  When I saw him the next morning, I really wanted to tell him about this dream.  I did, though, feel my natural shyness coming on.  But, choosing to be brave, I decided not to let this hold me back, and I cheerfully announced to him, "Hey!  I dreamed you died!"  And I truly did not understand it when he did not respond in a positive manner.  My husband had to patiently explain to me that not all people are raised on Italian superstitions.  (And I wasn't even homeschooled, either.)

So, yes.  Not only am I shy, but I have also spent a great deal of my life being rather socially inept.  I kind of view the two things as being intertwined.  Because I have always been naturally shy, I have also -- especially when I was younger -- tended to avoid social situations which made me feel uncomfortable.  Avoiding these situations resulted in me not learning what was expected of a person in social situations.  This led to other occurrences of the "faux pax" during those times when I was required to be in the company of others -- especially strangers.  That led to more avoidance of social situations.  And you get the idea.

Thankfully, I have always had a nice circle of very good friends.  I have never lived an isolated life.  There are at least five to ten people on earth, at any given time, who truly understand me.  Such a gift!

I am fifty years old now.  Almost 51.  And I do not suffer as I did in the past.  And most people would never realize that I am shy.  "How has that happened?" you may legitimately ask.

I think, most of all, because a person living a regular life -- as I have -- is necessarily required to be around people.  You can't really hide out all the time.  And this being around people was good schooling for me.  I paid attention to others who had excellent social skills -- I still do -- and I learned a great deal.  I also learned a lot about myself -- from paying attention to myself and acknowledging my actual personality and even coming to value that personality.  And my personality is kind of "offbeat"  I like to look at things from different angles.  I am rather non-conformist.  Sometimes, I enjoy making the "inappropriate" comment.  I am not too easily offended by things which many of my Catholic confreres probably wish I would be offended by.  Rules bug me.  It used to bother me that I was "different" in these ways from people who are more "socially acceptable."   And because it bothered me -- embarrassed me, even -- I tried to hide those parts of me.  And that just served to make me unhappy and even more socially awkward, because I wasn't valuing and using and shaping the personality God gave me into the very best form it could take.

Middle age has been good for me.  I have come to value my actual personality and ways of looking at things.  I can accept my "quirkiness."  And yet, I have had enough experiences and good examples to realize when I need to reign it in.  (Usually, anyway.  I still have some spectacular fails.)  I am also old enough to realize that I don't have to worry about what others think of me, as long as I can live with what I think of me.  I have had enough practice at conversing that I am no longer intimidated by talking with people -- even those I greatly admire.  And I am WAY too old to worry about whether or not anybody -- either men or women -- thinks I am "hot."  What a relief.

Do I still feel shy?  Sure.  Especially in new situations with unfamiliar people.

Does this still get the best of me?  Sure.  Sometimes, I don't interact with interesting people when it would be perfectly appropriate to do so.  But, I always kick myself afterwards for missing out on an opportunity.  And I resolve to do better the next time.

So, I try to be outgoing with people and in new situations, even though this can be very difficult for me.  I have found that it is worth it, over the long run.  It makes life better -- richer and fuller.  Is everybody welcoming?  No.  But, I have learned that "putting myself out there" can really pay off.  I have met wonderful people and gotten involved with some wonderful causes because I chose to risk being rejected.  And if I make a fool of myself once in a while?  Well, I just try to learn from it and move on.  Because -- basically -- I decided that I want this next part of my life to be interesting.  I want to be involved in things that mean something to me.  I enjoy the company of people who teach me and expose me to new ideas and situations.  And so -- both remembering lessons I've learned from those more socially skilled than I and valuing my own unique personality -- I go out on a limb once in a while.  Albeit, I try to choose one that is relatively sturdy. ;-)

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