I succeeded. I tried out for cheerleading, started hiding my true desire to read and ride my horse, pretended to understand the jokes, and stifled the quiet side of myself for fear of being misunderstood. I wanted to do anything to stop being that shy girl because I'd spent my youth being told I needed to change, even if I really didn't understand why.
Faking it worked. The popular kids started asking me to join them. I made the cheerleading squad and actually enjoyed it. I still blushed around the boys, but I pushed through that as well with false bravado. Through it all, the shy girl inside of me feared being discovered and judged as faulty.
Just because the world is a stage, it doesn't mean that we need to perform for you.
People like loud. Look at our culture today--the louder you are, the more people think you have something important to say. Scream it! Be obnoxious! Be rewarded with people saying, "he/she really says it like it is" or "he/she takes no bullshit." Shy--or introverted--people are viewed as weak or even stupid for simply being quiet or nonconfrontational. We'll be called "no fun" or have our motives questioned. Yes, society loves loud people.
Fast-forward to me as an adult and I'm the parent of a shy little girl. When she was in preschool, the teachers acted like she had a disease because she would hide her face behind my leg or not raise her hand to talk during the "sharing circle." That's when I started seeing the wrongness of the judgment. Shy is simply a personality type, not a personality flaw.
When it was me feeling the judgment, I forced my way through it. I drank too much in high school and college---good old liquid courage. I pretended not to be as smart as I was because the popular group hated nerdy quiet types. I forced myself to be out of my shell when I preferred being in it. I didn't understand how to balance it because I'd never been taught. I'd only been told that being shy was somehow a defect, a "thing to overcome."
Now that my own little girl was being discussed as having an issue simply because she preferred coloring alone or didn't jump on the table or scream with excitement over every small thing, I defended her shyness. I heard myself saying, "it's okay that she's shy, there's nothing wrong with it," much to the surprise of whoever had been criticizing. Even now that she's a college student, she has people ask her why she's quiet--and she'll be in class at the time!
I hated the awkward feeling so much, that I decided that high school would be different, that I would do whatever it took to fake being more outgoing, to push myself out of my shell.
As an adult, shyness can be judged as snobbiness or aloofness or outright bitchiness. I no longer fake being an extrovert--if I'm comfortable around you, you may think I'm the funniest, wildest person in the room because my guard will be down and I'll laugh and talk about anything and everything; however, if I'm not comfortable in your presence, I'll be reserved and quiet because that's my nature. And that's okay. Just like it's okay that my daughter doesn't chat up everyone in the room but lets loose around her true friends and family. Just because the world is a stage, it doesn't mean that we need to perform for you.
Here's the secret world of shy people: we see you ...and we hear you. We're hyper-aware of the world around us. We're observers. We want to know it's safe to be ourselves around you before we dive in with both feet. We're smart. We love deeply because we're careful about who we love. We're sensitive. We're kind.
As the saying goes, "still waters run deep." So it goes with shy people. We may not be shouting our opinions so loud that people need to cover their ears or cringe from the volume, but we have things to say if you stop long enough to ask with genuine respect and care enough to listen to our answers.
Peace to you.
Amber Lea Easton
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of romantic thrillers, contemporary romance, women's fiction, and nonfiction. She also writes five different blogs, volunteers for children's literacy, and advocates for suicide awareness. In addition, she is a professional editor and mother of two extraordinary human beings. She currently lives in a small cabin high in the Rocky Mountains where she is completely aware of how lucky she is. To find out more about her books, please visit http://www.amberleaeaston.com.