Online Community Manager

Sister to Sister: Shyness

I’ve always been pretty introverted. This manifests itself in different ways at different times – sometimes I’m relatively more socially engaged, sometimes less so. But it’s always there, just a part of my personality. Quiet. Reserved. Shy.

It’s not a trait I’ve tended to love about myself. It makes talking to people difficult, and saying even something simple can be a challenge. There are probably opportunities I’ve missed out on because of my bashfulness. Aside from that, it’s frustrating to have to build up the nerve just to say hi. I’ve often wished I could change my shyness and introversion, eliminate it from my personality.

More recently, I’ve begun to be better able to make the best, or even be proud, of the shy part of my personality, and there are various thoughts/techniques that have helped me. Of course, everyone’s path of self-acceptance is different, but I know I’m not the only one who struggles in a society where quietness is sometimes devalued.

And so that leads me to the first reassuring fact I remind myself of: You are not alone.

Sometimes, it feels like no one else is going through what you are. The thing about shyness is that it often prevents people from stepping into the spotlight. And who are the people you notice most in day-to-day life? The people in the spotlight. Inherently, shy people tend to fade into the background behind those who put themselves forward. This magnifies the illusion of isolation  - but, whether you know it or not, there are countless other people who can relate. I’m not the only shy person in the world. Nor are you.

This blog’s title is “Shyness”, and I’m using the term “shy” throughout as somewhat of an umbrella term for everything on the spectrum of shyness, quietness, introversion, reserve, etc. – because I’m all of them, and because some experiences generalize among these characteristics. But in reality, these traits are different things, and can exist simultaneously or independently of one another. Someone can be shy yet outgoing, extroverted but quiet, social yet reserved, or introverted but talkative. There’s always some risk involved with personality labels, in that they can prove self-fulfilling. Personalities naturally change and develop throughout life, and it’s too easy to get pinned down by a label. By all means, celebrate that part of you, but on the chance it might change at some point, try to avoid defining yourself too much by introversion (or, for that matter, by extroversion!). Another thing to keep in mind is that levels of shyness can vary by context; maybe in class you seldom raise your hand, yet at a sleepover you can’t stop talking.

But sometimes, my shyness does get to the point where it’s genuinely problematic. It interferes with things I want to do, impedes my happiness, and that’s when it’s something I need to address. So I’ve been working lately on overcoming my shyness when need be. There are many methods of combating shyness, including the famous “just say hi” – which, while not necessarily bad advice, has never proved particularly helpful for me. What’s helped me personally is taking baby steps. Slow and steady wins the race… you needn’t go from utter silence to debating the meaning of life with every other stranger! Just find something that challenges you without being too overwhelming, however small or large that may be, and work on that. Push yourself out of your comfort zone that little bit - whether that means giving a public speech or participating in a class discussion is up to you, nobody else. I enjoy some competition, so sometimes I’ll make it a game with myself: If I introduce myself to one new person during rehearsal today, then I’ve succeeded. Of, i I want to ask someone something I’m nervous about bringing up, I’ll set myself a deadline – to “win”, I have to say it before time runs out. For me, the “prize” is typically just the satisfaction, but you could also give yourself more tangible rewards if it helps – if you meet your goal, then eat your favorite snack, or spend half an hour listening to music in a bubble bath. The more you make yourself do it, the easier it will be with time.

Another piece of advice from various sources which has helped me, especially when paired with baby steps, is visualization. Like anything, getting comfortable talking can take practice… so, practice! This can take place in action, talking in front of a mirror or with a family member or good friend. Or just do it in your mind. Have imaginary interactions. Think up things people might say to you. Visualize yourself responding and carrying on your end of a conversation.

That said, one thing can easily be overlooked in the attempts to overcome shyness, however: It’s not automatically bad.

Sure, sometimes shyness is frustrating, inconvenient, etc. I know that firsthand. But it let’s not forget there are advantages too. There are plenty of extroverted, outgoing people in the world. That’s great… but what good would life be if everyone was identical?

Often, people who talk less are better listeners; if you’ve ever been around someone who won’t let you get a word in edgewise, you know the value of a listening ability. Plus, quieter people are less likely to gossip; your shyness could make you more trustworthy too, since your friends can rely on you not to let your tongue slip. Spending less time/energy socializing also means you have more to spare for introspection. Now, of course you don’t want to only devote your attention inward - there’s a big world out there to interact with. But, in moderation, spending time getting to know yourself is great.

For many (including me), shyness is related to not wanting to “mess up” - you can’t think everything through beforehand in the middle of a fast-moving conversation. Again, in the extreme this can be problematic, but it also means you’re likely to be more thoughtful, and to “look before you leap”. Chances are, you won’t make rash decisions, which will serve you well both now and in the future.

Shy or outgoing, talkative or quiet, extroverted or introverted, there are pros and cons to both sides of the coin. With time, I’ve learned to better come to terms with my shyness. To accept it, work with it, and even – sometimes – embrace it.

What about you? Do you consider yourself more extroverted, introverted, or ambiverted (in the middle). Do you ever wish you could change that about yourself, or are you satisfied just as you are?

Share in the comments - and don’t be shy about it! :-)

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Online Community Manager

I'm Sarah—an 19-year-old Jewish musician, bookworm, college student, lifelong learner, NMG online community manager/magazine editor, and the list goes on. I love to write all sorts of things, from essays to fiction to poetry, though I don't claim to be particularly good at any of the above.
Any and all feedback, supportive or constructive, is always more than welcome; I value and appreciate every comment I get. :)

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  • This is great Sarah, I'm really glad you wrote it. I am definitely quiet and introverted. As I get older and begin to need to do things on my own more, I am also getting harder on myself when I say something dumb in a conversation or DON'T say something important when talking to someone. It's especially hard for me to talk with other people when my mom is not around. For some reason I never have enough presence of mind and cannot think things through enough when I am not with my mom. This leads to me being afraid and anxious about going anywhere without my mother...which is not very pleasant and leads to my dad thinking I don't like him and to me feeling like I'm babyish because I can't go anywhere without "mommy."

    So yeah. I like being introverted and I can't imagine how awful it must be to be extroverted (xD). sometimes it gives me grief and sometimes I use it as an excuse not to do stuff, but overall, I love being introverted.
    • Online Community Manager
      Thank you so much for commenting, Jonah!!

      I can definitely relate to this, especially regarding being so hard on myself for saying something I wish I hadn't or for not saying something I wish I had. Of course, this self-criticism hardly helps with being more socially confident, which in turn hardly helps me be less self-critical—it's a bit of a cycle, unfortunately, for me. :P

      While for me I don't usually really find talking with my mom around easier than when she isn't there, I do often feel more uncomfortable without her (although for me, it's more a matter of being without a parent, as my dad's present also makes me more comfortable), and it's frustrating to feel childish because of it—but feeling better and having more presence of your mind with your mom around doesn't make you babyish or immature—as I see it, it just speaks to a strong relationship between you and your mother, which is a good thing. :3 Still, though, I know the feeling, and it can be hard. :(

      Haha, yeah, it is hard to imagine being an extrovert, just as (I imagine) it's hard for extroverts to imagine being introverts. xDD That's a good way to look at it! It's a part of who we are, and well said. :D
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  • Thank you so much S2S and Mods <3 You do so much for our community
  • Thank you S2S and mods <3
  • Thank you S2S mentors and mods!! You make NMG amazing <33
  • This is really good advice! I would say the same thing.
  • I have gone through 2 sentences and are thinking "How does she know my life?" No joke 2 nights ago I was trying to bounce on the couh to touch the cealing. I totally didn't throw up afterwards ; I
    • Can you not use "she" pronouns because not all of us identify as girls sometimes/ever
      • i think she was talking specifically about emily//emilpanada?
        • Mod S2S Mentor
          I'm confused, did I accidentally use she/her pronouns to generalize, or did someone refer to me as she/her? If it's the former, I'll definitely fix it if someone can point me in the right direction! If it's the latter, then she/her is what I'd prefer people to use to refer to me :D
        • I know but it's good to get in the habit :p
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