Growing up, I wouldn’t ever raise my hand in class because everyone would
look at me.
I was that kid who covered her ears when people sang “happy birthday.” I blushed at the drop of the hat (I still do) and I never accepted anything adults offered me because I was desperate not to inconvenience them.
I was shy.
And when you’re a kid, you can be shy. Adults have a lot of patience for it, and kids don’t really notice after you’ve been in school together long enough. It goes hand-in-hand with being quiet (something every teacher appreciates) and being unlikely to run off and hop in someone’s car at the promise of candy (something that reassures every parent).
But one day in between college and my six years in the working world — I can’t put my finger on when — I realised that “shy” is not an excuse that carries into adulthood.
For grown-ups, there is no such thing as shy.
Think back to the last time you saw an acquaintance who didn’t say hi, or you hung out with someone who didn’t say more than two sentences in a group. Remember the person who wouldn’t meet your eyes, or mumbled, or gave you one of those awful limp-wrist handshakes.
Did you think “Oh, that poor person, he/she must be shy!” No, you didn’t. You thought something along the lines of: “What a jerk.”
Eventually, no matter how hard it is, you have to consider how your shyness makes the people around you feel and how it makes them view you. It isn’t good. At some point, you just have to get over it.
I understand it’s a different issue for people with severe and diagnosed social anxiety, and I can’t begin to imagine how that feels. But if you’re more garden-variety shy, feel free to borrow the mantra I use whenever I’m tempted to duck down the grocery store aisle to avoid chit-chat with a distant acquaintance: I’d rather be the weirdo who says hi than the jerk who doesn’t.
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