Inherently I am a shy person, it’s not something that was seen as a positive trait growing up. I was always compared to my younger sister, loud proud and funny, and I was none of those things. I would ask her if she would order my food for me, even McDonalds. I would ask her if she could come with me to restroom, come with me to order a cinema ticket. I was shy, in interactions with friends, family, strangers. If there were a large group of people (more than 4–5 people) I would instantly freeze, even if I knew these people well and even VERY well, I was too scared to say anything, my jokes, my feelings, my thoughts, my ideas. I didn’t know why.
I couldn’t understand why I was shy, and why I was so embarrassed to be shy. It was always something I battled with all throughout my time at school, especially those years in secondary school (high school). Surrounded by new people I was worried to even say Hi. I didn’t notice that the majority of people have issues with speaking first to other people, it’s a natural to not want to be rejected. You learn to deal with it, the only issue was, that these other people seemed to learn to deal with rejection much earlier on than I did.
People would ask me “why are you so quiet?”, and as a 13 year old around a group of girls at an all girl school, can you imagine how intimidating that was? It was neither pleasant nor a happy time in my life. Luckily for me, there were some amazing people who entered my life that realised just because you’re quiet, doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to say, rather what we wanted to say was either hard to express, or was so selective.
These people are some of the people I still speak to sometimes, I look back fondly at those people and how they accepted me. Though we speak much less now, and there were tumultuous times where I saw them negatively, inherently I can see and I know they are good people, and I choose to have them in my life. They were my 13 year old saviour. Secondary school feels like a lifetime when you’re living it, so I’m glad those people found me.
As I said earlier I was like this my entire life, through secondary school, until I was thrown in the deep end into University. The first week of University was the scariest and loneliest week I’d ever experienced. I cried a couple nights, I even cried the minute my dad and sisters left me at my door. I left my University room to go home for the weekend to recalibrate.
Returning from that weekend, I did everything I could to not be that person.
What I’ve realised
Is that being shy is debilitating to your social life, but it doesn’t have to be the end of it. During school, being shy and quiet might be seen as your most negative trait, but as you grow up, you realise being the loudest person in the room is neither likeable or attractive. (I meant there are exceptions, if you’re the smartest person, the most experienced person — go right ahead).
It doesn’t mean that’s who you are all the time
Being shy and quiet can be your character, but it doesn’t have to be you at all times. Once you become comfortable with yourself, and know that YOU are a good person and what you say won’t offend somebody if you aren’t saying something that is offensive. Your ideas, thoughts and feelings are heard, even if not valued or agreed with, they are heard. Whether they care or not is another thing, and realistically who cares whether they care.
Your friends and family will listen to you
Your friends and family especially don’t care what you say, again to be clear, as long as you aren’t a shitty person saying shitty stuff (like “support Trump”) then what you say is ok. Anything you say is ok. If you’re wrong, or haven’t explained, so be it. Let them ask you questions, and the discussion can continue. Let yourself be heard.
Strangers don’t care
Speaking to a stranger is easy, you know why, because if something goes wrong 🤷♀️, oh well, you’ll most likely never see them again. You’ll never have to think about them ever again, unless you choose to obviously. So take that awkward encounter and embrace it, you’ll either come out the other side remembering a great chat, meeting a wonderful person, having a great opportunity, or never have to speak or think about them again!
Just because I’ve written an entire article about why you shouldn’t be afraid to speak, doesn’t mean you ALWAYS have to speak. If you have nothing to add, then that’s fine, because conversations can be whatever you want them to be, don’t feel FORCED to speak, just to speak. Sometimes listening to the speakers is just as active of an engagement in the conversation than somebody who says something just to add to fill the silence. People notice when you are actively listening to them, looking at them whilst they speak, reacting to their stories. You are an important part of their conversation.
“I was quiet, but I was not blind” — Jane Austen