Thursday, October 27, 2005

My Big Secret

For years I've fooled people, even close friends, into thinking I'm outgoing. This is because I've been practicing my good-humoured out-there personality since I was eleven or twelve. I remember the day when I decided ENOUGH with shyness.

My mom came with me to school one day. I love my mother dearly but she is loud and outspoken.* Actually, I admire her for that. It was early morning and my class was sort of lined up, sort of still playing. At home I had no problem speaking my mind but as I got closer to my classmates I clammed up.

I wished my mother would leave. I knew she would never understand why I just couldn't talk to the people at school. Shyness doesn't just make you afraid to say what you think; it erases your thoughts so that you don't have anything to say.

One of my classmates, Ceri**, small for her age, with short brown hair, glasses, and a face full of freckles, cheerfully greeted me as I approached. "Hi Jennifer!"

I smiled at her.

"Aren't you going to say hi to your friend?" Mom boomed.

"I smiled at her," I replied softly.

"You can't talk?" My Mom got louder, if that was possible.

"Jennifer hardly ever says anything," Ceri piped in helpfully.

I cringed, terrified my mother would make a big deal out of it. She didn't. At least she didn't say anything. The look on her face was one of shock, worry, and disappointment. Later, I would hear her talking (loudly) to my Dad about the incident. I'm pretty sure she also talked to my teachers about it that day, too.

I knew that their "help" would only give me more attention and make it worse. But I didn't want to disappoint my mother. And I definitely didn't want to be shy. So I decided I wasn't going to be. I forced myself to talk to people. If I couldn't think what to say, instead of staying silent, I would say something totally out there. This sometimes gave me the reputation of being an airhead, but at least I wasn't the girl who "hardly ever says anything."

Over the years I made out-going Jen my dominant personality. I don't have to fake being her; I am her. I'm comfortable in the skin of out-going Jen. She's funny and people like her. Deep down, though, I'm still shy. Shyness rears its ugly head often when:
  • I have to call someone on the telephone that I don't know.
  • I'm at a job interview***
  • I try to small talk with people who are older than me. Like at a wine and cheese party.
  • I'm in any situation where being a little goofy feels inappropriate
  • In a large group situation.
Yesterday I was so mad at myself. I was in my writing class. I have this great prof who really makes the class interesting by getting discussions going. This often gives me a great deal of anxiety. I'm waiting for my turn to speak, or formulating a thought, and someone else jumps in and the moment's gone. In that class I hardly ever say anything. Yesterday I had a definite opportunity to speak. We were planning out interviews in small group and had to pick one of us to interview the teacher in front of everyone. I could have done it. Noone in the group was super keen on it. The girl who went was voluntold. I should have done it. I didn't force myself past the shyness barrier (something I've been doing since I was eleven years old!) I feel like such a coward.

*Some time later my mother would take me to a bra store and mortify me, while I was in the changeroom, by exclaiming loudly to a sales person "my daughter is self-conscious about her large breasts!"

**I don't actually remember if it was Ceri who played this pivotal role in my life, but I like to think it was. About eight years later, Ceri died of cancer. We weren't that close (we'd gone to different high schools) and I didn't go to her funeral. If I believed in angels I would say that there is one, small for her age, with short brown hair, glasses, and a face full of freckles, who looks out for me.

***I forgive myself for that one. Who doesn't get nervous in interviews? Wonder Woman that's who.


Superhappyjen said...

Sorry this post is a bit long. It's a bare my soul kind of day.

Carol said...

Hi Jen, you know me and I know you and you know that I can totally relate to that post. I was excruciatingly shy through school (even high school) but managed to put on a new personna at University as nobody knew me. Now I feel like a totally different person (even now in the working world) but deep down I'm still shy...

...and you know something Jen?

It's ok to be shy. :D

Superhappyjen said...

It might be okay. But it sucks

zydeco fish said...

Shyness doesn't just make you afraid to say what you think; it erases your thoughts so that you don't have anything to say.

That's the best description of shyness I have ever read. I was pathologically shy in school, and sort of still am. It's hard to overcome.

Superhappyjen said...

Intrestomg that so many of my cyber friends are shy. Perhaps the net attracts shy people as it provides an alternate form of self expression (one which does not involve talking)

Amber said...

"Shyness doesn't just make you afraid to say what you think; it erases your thoughts so that you don't have anything to say."

I can relate to this statement in so many ways! Ask any of my friends and they'd say that what you've written describes me to a tee. I didn't have a mother who was disappointed with my shyness. However, i felt like i had to overcome it to achieve my goals. In graduate school it's dibilatating because a measure of your success is how "out there" you are. You have to be domineering to survive. I encounter the same class situations where speech is ready made but the moment elapses. Poof, it evaporates! I've forced myself to overcome it too, but it still creeps in at the same moments you've described; on the phone, in elder social situations, etc! I loved this post! Thanks!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...