I’m shy. I see myself as otherwise but I struggle with being shy on a daily basis. It’s a fight of who I am from who I see myself as. My mind races when I’m not talking and, yet, I don’t offer anything to say when I’m around others. I can barely keep up with my thoughts when my mind is engaged, but choose to keep quiet in unfamiliar settings. I don’t understand why I hold back so often but my body reacts physically, mentally and emotionally to uncomfortable or tense situations with slight anguish. Still, I don’t see myself as being very shy.
I briefly took a class at the University of Colorado at Denver that met a few times in a small conference room with a round wooden table surrounded by eight chairs. I remember my first day, walking into this conference room just minutes before we began talking. There was a professor in the power seat and four of us filling the remaining chairs.
In such an intimate setting, I point my eyes down towards my personal space and reach for something to make myself look busy such a my calendar and a pen. Sometimes I’ll look at my notes, sometimes the text book, sometimes I’ll just play with my phone like I’m texting someone or just reviewing who called me.
For some reason, as I’ve done ever since I can remember, I don’t ever let myself into a situation like this and be social. Speaking first is uncomfortable, it’s vulnerable and it allows other people to form an opinion about you.
When the professor begins speaking, she decides to go around the table and let us introduce ourselves to the rest of the students. I look around sporadically, making sure my eyes never meet with other eyes while the professor speaks before being instructed that I am second. From that point, I review the circumstance repeatedly knowing that as soon as the neighbor to my right is finished, I would begin speaking about myself. I am asked to give my name, my major and my residency.
This is one of many typical situations where I am anticipating the moment that all eyes shift from the speaker’s pupils to my pupils. The thought of eyes looking at me, judging me and giving me undivided attention sends my body into a panic. My heart beats increasingly faster. I know the moment is upon me, inevitable, and there’s no escape.
The moment arrives. I collect my thoughts, any which are left from all the white noise in my brain. The panic, the nervousness; it sends my heart into overdrive. I open my mouth, tensing my body so that I speak clearly, logically and without any sign of being embarrassed or nervous. The blood flowing through my upper body begins to make its way through the vessels on my face.
I say my name. The temperature is rising.
I say my major. The heat from my blood flows quickly through my vessels, causing blood traffic to rise in my face. My face suddenly begins to turning a shade of pink within a matter of seconds. My brain realizes something is going on, senses my body is heating up in several places and begins stimulating the sweat glands. My face turns from pink to red.
I finish with my location in which I dwell. The glands secrete tiny beads of sweat around by body, visible on the forehead as I begin to reflect the light traveling throughout the room.
When I’m done, the professor says I’m very red, that she’s never seen anyone get so red before. Embarrassed by now, I acknowledge that I’m red but that it’s no big deal and I’m not nervous.
Did I lie to her? That’s a difficulty that I struggle with even today. Situations which cause me to tense up like this can happen at any moment, and yet I don’t consider myself to be a nervous person.
I don’t have social anxiety. I’ve spoken in front of groups of people many times without this typical reaction. I even enjoy being the center of attention. It’s fun when people are watching and listening knowing that I’m entertaining them. Despite this, I have trouble with regulating my anxiety when I anticipate people looking at me.
I’ve taken interpersonal communication courses, I’ve been through public speaking lectures and I know how to approach situations like this so that I’m in top form. Even when I’m apparently embarrassed and red as a fire truck, I try to practice proper speaking techniques such as looking people in the eyes. I even know to look around, not to spend more than several seconds in one person’s eyes. I try to give all of my audience attention, knowing that it’s the best way to keep their interest.
My biggest trouble with being shy is and has always been striking up a conversation with a complete stranger. When I’m in a room full of people, whether it’s a party or social gathering, and I have no idea who anyone is I am usually shut off. That’s not to say I keep to myself or look like I’m bored. I always look around at other people, waiting for someone else to speak to me before I speak to him or her.
Being introduced makes it easier to speak to a stranger, but knowing that there are many others who I don’t know might prevent me from going too far with anyone else. It can be uncomfortable going to parties where I know one or two other people and where they are always busy with their guests or friends. What do I say? How do I act?
Striking up a conversation is a burden; it’s uncomfortable. It means I have to be the first to give an impression that might look stupid or come off the wrong way. Rejection is such a harsh reaction, so bad sometimes that it’s better to not face the possibility at all.
Yet, when people strike up a conversation with me I am hardly ever negatively judgemental of them. In fact, it puts me at ease and decreases any tension which might have built up from being quiet and uncomfortable. I kinda respect them for making the move because it was so hard for me to think about it. They face the possibility of rejection and blow it off like it’s an ex-boyfriend.
Overcoming shyness won’t happen for everyone. I don’t see myself being a regular Type-A personality anytime in my life, but I have my moments. I do push myself, force myself to make a first move or to get out of my mental bubble. It’s such a struggle sometimes that the thought of leaving my personal comfort zone can freak me out a little. Another large part of me, however, strives for overcoming this behavior in everyday situations.
As long as I continue to see myself as a social being, I will continue to fight my shyness. I guess I’ll never know the true reason why I am the way I am, but I will choose to learn from it.