I Used To Be So Shy

People often say to me, “you’re not shy.  You do [XYZ],” XYZ being things like open mic poetry readings, or my drunken antics (running naked down a street in Amsterdam, for example).  But shyness has always been a problem for me.  I don’t know where it came from, or exactly how it started, though I know when it did.  I was eleven, and we had just moved back from Holland.  Suddenly, conversations became difficult for me.  My class teacher told my parents I was rude, because she had mistaken my lack of eye contact for rudeness rather than the shyness it actually was.  I would blink a lot when people were talking, get nervous about how I looked to other people, self-conscious about the way I looked when standing on my own, anxious about the way I walked, or talked, or seemed.  I remember being eleven at my great uncle’s pub (Christening, Communion, something) and being so scared that my breath smelled that I would talk only with my hand covering my mouth.

In secondary school I would sometimes do outlandish things, or naughty things (leading a small group of petty vandals) but those things were masking a real lack of confidence.  As I grew older, the things I did to mask my shyness grew to look more and more like confidence: I would sleep around, I would sometimes be the life and soul.  But when it came down to it, to really talking, to the morning-after-the-night-before, I was actually a bit of a mess of nerves.  People I had met drunk and taken home would be surprised by how shy I could be in the morning.  I could be the loudest person in a group (yes, alcohol “helped”) but when it really came down to it I couldn’t believe that anything I had to say was really worth being heard.  My heart would thud every time I spoke up.  My hands would shake under the table as I made jokes.

Today I realised I’m not that person any more, not really.  I can still be shy, even around good friends if I haven’t seen them for a while.  I don’t think that will ever go away- I am coming to learn that it’s a part of who I am, and not necessarily a Bad Thing (some people, I know, find it an endearing trait.  I don’t).  But I have a quiet confidence now, a growing self-respect that allows me to talk without wondering whether what I say is pointless, an ability to be the one who holds up a conversation between people without taking it over, or being drunk, or reverting to uncomfortable subjects just to make myself seem confident.  I haven’t completely mastered the art of “being myself”- I feel the need to present a happy front even when I’m dying inside, I feel the need to be “bubbly” (hate that word) even when I’m scared.  Before I do open mic- before the stage confidence takes over- I am a shaky, knee-buckled, heart-beating, nervous wreck.  But I’m learning to experience the world differently, to accept that people do like me, and I am worth liking.  I am learning how to make my confidence more than just a front, how to make it real.

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3 thoughts on “I Used To Be So Shy

  1. This was lovely, I feel like I need to be where you are, one day.
    Strength to strength & you are rocking it!

  2. Pingback: Freak | Only See Your Good Side

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