I read an interesting post on fluentin3months recently called “The Shy Delusion.” Yes, it’s been out since November 23, I’m a little slow with these things sometimes. In spite of the delay, I had to respond. I am so grateful that somebody wrote about this because, even though Benny’s take on it is a little different than mine, it’s something I’ve felt passionate about for a long time.
Most people would describe themselves as shy, even though they are a mix of introvert and extrovert. When everyone describes themselves as shy, the word loses its meaning. It’s a crutch, an avoidance mechanism and a self-fulfilling prophecy. Overall message: STOP USING SHYNESS AS AN EXCUSE AND GET OUT THERE. Read the article. It’s worth it.
For as long as I can remember, people have labeled me as shy. If they say it to my face, I am quick to point out to them that there is a difference between quiet and shy. Shy is insulting. Shy, to me, implies timid and afraid to live life.
I was shy when I was little. I remember hiding behind my dad’s legs when I’d go into his office full of giant people I didn’t know. But don’t most kids do that? I think it’s normal. It’s also normal to outgrow it. I was less shy in elementary school, but I went to a small school and knew everyone there. My shyness popped back up in middle school, but I think that was a direct result of some rather negative social experiences. When people you don’t really know are mean to you for no good reason, you start to avoid people you don’t know on the off chance that they’ll be mean to you. I used to do a lot of hiding.
By the time high school rolled around, I was down to just being embarrassed of being seen with my parents. I’d really only get shy around boys that I liked, but I outgrew that too. Today, I proudly admit that I run straight down the middle between introvert and extrovert. I outgrew my shyness. I am still quieter than a lot of other people, but I am NOT afraid to talk to people I don’t know, and I’m certainly not afraid to take risks.
I think most people overcome these things as they grow into adulthood, but there are still people who categorize themselves as shy.
My advice to them?
Find something you are passionate about and get involved.
And I mean truly passionate. It can’t be something you think you should care about and you force yourself to do. I played soccer and showed horses in high school, and I think those things saved me. I loved them. I didn’t care if I had friends who would do them with me, they were that important. Of course, some of the best friends I had at that point in my life were friends I met through soccer and riding. If you get involved in something you’re passionate about, you’ll meet other people who are passionate, too. You’ll gain confidence. You will feel less shy.
When I got to college, I started swing dancing. This was what really pushed me away from the shy label. I had always avoided dancing as a kid. I was a tomboy, and dance was just too girly. But I liked big band music. And with the neoswing movement in full swing, it was really easy to learn how to dance. I started dancing with my best friend and fell in love. I wasn’t happy with my school before I started dancing. It was way too conservative for my taste, but when I started dancing, I tapped into this whole world of wonderful people. I loved it. I loved it so much that I would go out dancing by myself in other cities, where I knew no one, because I couldn’t stand to be away from it. When I realized that I could do that and it wasn’t so scary, I peeled off that shy label and left it stuck to the door of my dorm room.
I started going to lindy exchanges and workshops on my own, and pretty soon I wasn’t on my own in those arenas, either. I had friends all over the country. The world became a much friendlier place.
As an adult, there are still things that I don’t do. I don’t usually go to shows by myself, for example. But that’s because I don’t really enjoy that experience without my friends there. I’m not passionate enough about live music to pursue it on my own.
I am not afraid to take on new challenges, to change jobs, to travel by myself, to couchsurf, to go to meetups and classes where I know nobody. I am not afraid to explore the world on my own because I am not shy.
What does this have to do with living a minimalist life?
Well, it’s all about pushing back against the status quo and defying norms, isn’t it? “Shy” people are complacent. Complacency does not fit well into my idea of mindful minimalist living. Also, what’s the point of clearing my life of stuff and unnecessary commitments if I’m too shy to take advantage of the world of opportunities it opens for me?
*Photo was taken by my friend Callie