Shedding the Burden of Shyness

When I find myself at social gatherings with strangers, at first I always feel like the person I used to be. Shy, uncomfortable, clumsy, scared that everybody will notice how weird and alone I am. And even worse, that I’ll start saying something and people will ignore me and talk over me, which – if you’ve experienced it and know what I mean – feels crushing.

And then I remember that I’m now a completely different person. I can talk to anybody, and laugh, and change the topic of the general conversation to something that interests me, and feel like part of the group.

It’s the same with initiating phone calls and emails with strangers that used to be the bane of my existence. I’m now department chair, so I have to do this kind of thing many times a day. The first feeling is the usual, “I can’t do it! I don’t know how!” And then there’s a flood of relief because yes, I can. I don’t have to be afraid of this any more.

If you haven’t experienced this anxiety and shame of being a weirdo, of being socially awkward, of always trying to conceal how strange you are, you won’t understand what it feels like to shed that burden. It’s an incredible rush. I’m almost happy to have been a social freak because the contrast with my current reality is so strong.

I’m still extremely introverted. This is my nature and, I don’t want to change it. But introversion and social awkwardness aren’t the same thing. You can keep the former and ditch the latter. Nobody is doomed to this suffering.

4 thoughts on “Shedding the Burden of Shyness

  1. I used to be totally crippled by shyness. And then, one day, I realized that being that anxious about what other people were thinking about me… implied that absolutely everyone was thinking about me. Which is totally stupid because I’m just not that important. It’s a big, big, world, and I am a very, very small piece of it.

    And that was so bloody liberating! Hasn’t really bothered me since. Now I can approach strangers, make phone calls, and generally do the things I need to do, without the gigantic heap of anxiety. What if I say it badly? Not important. What if my clothes aren’t perfect? Not important. Spinach in my teeth? Nobody will remember it next week. Doesn’t matter at all. And what a relief that is!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Any good advice on this? I don’t struggle with this at all but I have friends who do and I’d like to be able to offer decent advice if asked for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You expressed it perfectly! I used to be horribly shy, but not anymore, but I am still an introvert.
    I solved the shyness by accepting a TA position and having to teach in the lab. It was a brutal approach.
    I practiced on my own extensively and inevitably had to stop my mock lab class to go back to the office to take a pill for my aching stomach due to the nerves.
    The first day I was taken back by the fact that students heads swiveled to follow my every movement, all at the same time, perfectly synchronized, like humanoid robots. I was used to not being seen as a student, so I wasn’t ready for how differently things were for an instructor. It took me years to waltz in a class and just have fun and be outgoing and natural.

    Liked by 1 person

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