I don’t know if it is possible to truly explain to a confident person what it is like to be shy. Of course everybody understands what it is like to be shy sometimes, but people don’t seem to be able to understand what it is like to be, as it is often referred to as, painfully shy.
“Why are you so quiet?”
“Why don’t you just come out of your shell?”
“Why don’t you just talk more?”
They cry at you. And all you can do is shrug a ‘I don’t know’ whilst you are screaming inside, tearing yourself apart. Inside you are not shy, you just wish everybody else could see it.
I have always been shy. I was in denial about it for many years, especially as a teenager. You see, I have never felt shy. Inside I am full of ideas and imagination, full of opinions and humour and individuality. Shy people have no personality, and I did, so I couldn’t be shy… right?
And that’s the problem. If someone is loud and confident and screaming from the rooftops they are considered to be FULL of personality, flooded with the stuff. They have personality coming out of their friggin’ ears! But the quiet people, I mean, why are they so quiet? They must have nothing to say. Perhaps a little slow? Perhaps a little weird? Maybe they just haven’t got a personality in there and that’s why they never utter a peep. Better just ignore them, if they don’t want to talk to me fine, I won’t talk to them either. Boring sods.
And that is how you become invisible. People make assumptions and you don’t correct them. You can’t correct them. Your shyness prevents you from proving them wrong. So they feel their assumption is proven correct. And you feel as if you are slowly disappearing from the world. The confident people all form their little groups and they seem to find it all so easy, like they don’t even have to think about it. Words just spill from their mouths with no effort whatsoever. The words pour out, the stories, the tales of drunken debauchery, the humour, the silly anecdotes. But you just sit in the background smiling politely and try to think of something – anything – to say.
By the time I reached my adult years I had accepted my shyness. I’d been called shy too often by too many people to ignore it any longer. I was shy, that was me. I didn’t like it, I hated it, but I learnt to accept it.
When well-meaning “friends” have spoken to me about my shyness they say they don’t understand why I don’t speak more. When I get to know people I am just like everyone else, I talk, I joke, I am a confident person. But stick me with someone I barely know and I’m a completely different person. “Why don’t you just speak more?” the friends say. Because I can’t. “Why not?” I just can’t.
How do you explain it to confident people? The way the mind freezes up when you meet someone new. The desperate grasping in the mind for anything to say. I just don’t know how to talk to people I don’t know. I need to know what a person is like before I can talk to them comfortably. I just don’t know what it is you say to a stranger. Beyond asking them a few basic get-to-know-you questions I haven’t a clue. Some people are easier than others. Sometimes I meet a stranger and it is magically just easy. The conversation flows. I love it when that happens. It must be what it is like to be a ‘normal’ person. But with most people I struggle, and I don’t know why. With age and experience it hasn’t improved much. I just don’t seem to be able to open up – at all – with people until I get to know them. I wish I knew why. I wish I could change it. I am sick of being the invisible girl.