Sep 22, 2014

'Cause I Am Living in an Extrovert's World

I am a shy introvert in an outgoing extrovert's world.

I know there may be a few of you who are surprised to hear this because after having my first child I worked extra hard on my fear and shyness in my desperation to find and make some mom-friends, thus having broken away from some of my shy tendencies. At least occasionally. I think.

But truly, I am shy. I have always been shy. As a child I remember cowering behind my mom's leg, in high school, unless I was with my friends, I felt awkward and uncomfortable and terrified to open my mouth lest I say the wrong thing and embarrass myself, and through college my shyness contributed to a difficultly in finding a close group I felt a part of.

Even today there are days, moments, social situations I struggle with mightily.

Any type of large group setting gets my heart racing and my palms sweaty. When I am in a big enough group that I can remain anonymous, it's not quite so painful, but if the group is small enough to be noticed in, well, I want to stick my head in the ground like an ostrich. But, actually, people could still see the rest of me if only my head was hidden, so really what I want is one of Harry Potter's invisibility cloaks. I want to disappear. I want to be home with my sweats and a piece of cheesecake and good book.

The nice thing about today is that I dread social situations a little bit less than I used to, and I have kids. Yes, kids are the perfect crutch to any shy and/or socially awkward person because 'Oh! I can't make small talk because my children need my undivided attention.' They are the perfect excuse as to why I can not manage a simple "hello" or "how are you" to an acquaintance.

Ugh, it's the worst with acquaintances. Really. It's like in high school when out in public and I'd see someone from school who I sort of knew, but not really, and I'd pretend that I didn't see her and she'd pretend not to see me but really we both knew the other person was there but neither of us acknowledged the other person and instead of feeling like 'whatever' I just felt sick and yucky and like I was acting like a jerk.

It's horrible, I know. And it still happens TO THIS DAY. I am well aware of what type of person I then appear to be to those I am avoiding. And yes, I am pretty much avoiding them. I look like a snob, I know. I hate that anyone would think I was a snob, and you'd think my fear of being judged poorly (because trust me, my fear of how others perceive me has chased me my whole life) would keep me from staying silent, but it doesn't. Instead I behave the same way (but this time with the handy dandy kids as an I'm-so-preoccupied-with-my-kids-that-I-haven't-noticed-anything-around-me excuse) and then kick myself over and over because surly these nice people now think I'm a terrible snob.

Which they do. At least some times. Thanks to several commenters I know that when I am thinking or quiet or just taking in a situation (ie. I am not talking), I look like I am either pissed off, bored, or just not having fun. Apparently my blank face also gives off an air of rudeness. Also? In high school I was told, flat out, that I seemed very standoffish.

Nope. Sorry. I promise I am nice and friendly. I am just also PAINFULLY SHY.

I would like to believe that the "painful" part has diminished as I've gotten older, and, for the most part, I think it has. But there are still certain situations that bring out the worst in my old ways, where the anxiety takes over, my feet are frozen, my voice reserved for people I feel comfortable with, and it feels impossible to interact with any one else. Of course, I leave these times wishing I could act like someone else, be someone else, because surly my husband deserves a wife who is chatty and friendly and makes an effort to say hello.

My sister assures me that change is possible. Which I suppose it must be because after having children I made a minuscule step towards Less Painfully Shy.

It only took twenty-some years for me to be able to speak up in a small group setting without wanting to vomit afterward. So, you know, maybe in another twenty-years I'll be able to say hello to those acquaintances. Maybe.

xoxo, christine

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