05 April 2012

Being Shy is Being Selfish

Everyone knows those shy, awkward kids that grow up to be shy awkward people (maybe you are one). They just don’t know how to engage us the way we expect. Getting them to open up to you is like pulling a rusty nail out of the wall. If you are lucky, you will get one-word answers to questions. And, forget them ever speaking to you out of their own free will--except when peril requires it.

So you know the type. Well, those people annoy me, just drive me mad. I hate trying to talk to someone like that. You walk across the room to where they are and try to strike up a conversation, and they just leave you hanging there awkwardly. If you are getting judgmental on me right now, wait and let me explain why they annoy me. They annoy me for a couple of reasons. First, I used to be so terribly shy. I had no social grace. I was pretty much like an elephant in a kid’s pool--no social poise at all, did not belong. And just like an elephant no matter what I did, I just didn't fit.  There was a serious problem with me. I’m not saying that I’m the social butterfly now. I’m probably more of a social flying or some other moderately social creature. The point in all of this is not to boast in my modest achievement in transitioning from elephant in kid's pool to flying squirrel on the social awkwardness scale. No, this is just one of the reasons that socially shy people bother me. They remind me of how I was; they are mirrors that reveal who I was, what is in my past, and to an extent what I still am. I don’t know about you, but I doubt you like to see one of the worst sides of you starring at the floor and not making eye contact with you when you look in a mirror. It’s worse than when you see one of your worst sides staring right back at you, at least the negative side of you has the courage to look you in the eyes in other cases.

But the main reason that shy people bother me is because they are stupid. (Remember that I was and still am in this category; don’t get defensive I’m talking to me here too). I say stupid because they are willing to listen to lies rather than the truth. They trade so much for so little. I was willing to believe that I was so weird and awkward that no one would want to say anything to me. I was willing to accept as a fact that I was somehow less of a person than other people and therefore did not know how to engage people.

I was and am somewhat of a cowherd. I had a view of inequality with everyone else to the extent that I could not drag myself to speak to anyone because fear swallowed me up. To be so afraid of looking stupid that you make an idiot of yourself is certainly an indicator of being a coward. I’m not saying having fear makes you a coward; I’m saying allowing fear to live your life while you watch in terror from the sidelines not livening and not doing what you really want to—that makes you a coward. That was me. And that is what I see in other shy people. Perhaps some forms of shyness are rooted and based from some other problem, but the main reason for mine and many is just simple fear, which itself stems from the idea that you don’t fit in and are going to look stupid.

It’s a terribly selfish thing to think that way. Shyness bothers me now that I’ve actually thought about it rather than just live within it and it within me. Now that I know what it is to be shy, I realize that it is a disease of the “I”. What I mean by that is that to be shy means to be consumed in the thought of you. It means thinking about others only in the light of how they are going to see and look at you. That is the epitome of selfishness and must be changed.

When I realized what it meant for me to be shy, that it essentially meant that I was self-centered, it was obvious why I was shy. People are not supposed to think of themselves only. That is wrong. Of course I did poorly in social settings, I was doing things wrong. So, I decided to quit thinking about myself and think about others. Then I was not thinking about myself. When I didn’t think about myself, it was impossible to become afraid of how I was presenting myself to people because I was concerned with the person that I was speaking to. It turns out that a huge part of having a conversation with someone is just listening to them, so there is really not a big worry about trying to figure out what to say—unless you are speaking to a shy person and have to carry the whole conversation of course.

So, what can you do for a shy person? Talking to them is really probably going to scare them a lot. Not talking to them is going to make them glad but also sad that no one cares about them. Neither of those is ideal. So, it's the best to talk to them even though it is difficult for you. It was people who genuinely cared about me taking the time to speak to me that made me realize that being social means thinking of other people and trying to find something that they can talk about or need to talk about. That made me realize that in order to do that, I had to be thinking about them and not me. Then everything became clear. Then it took and is taking about two years of really hard and terrifying work to change from where I was to where I am now. Habits and ways of thinking do not easily change. So it’s important to be patient.

Shy people know they are shy, don’t point it out. That will only make them think more about themselves and see themselves as being shy. It takes a lot of love for a shy person to become un-shy, but it is worth it. I am almost a fully functional person now. I can see the future in sight when I won’t have to think about “I” but can instead think about and help others, maybe even with getting over being shy. That would be a nice and unforeseen twist to the story that began with me on the other side of the table. Life is great; sometimes it goes places you never expected it to go.

So, if you are shy like I was, stop thinking of yourself as shy, and stop thinking about yourself. It's important to analyze yourself so you don't live in oblivion to a problem, but it's easy to get carried away. Don't over-think yourself. When you do think of yourself, think of yourself in terms of what you have to offer the person in a positive way. You absolutely have something to offer, you just need to realize what it is. 


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