Ever since I was in elementary school, peers and adults would describe me as the “shy girl”; the “shy one”; the “quiet girl”. And I was shy. I would hide behind my mother even around people I knew well. When I wanted something I had to whisper it into her ear and likewise she had to coach me through simple sentences. In middle school, I sat off to the side, away from the noise. Teachers would rearrange seats and put me next to the troublemakers—hoping, that my quietness would rub off on them. As if my being quiet was infectious, a disease that could be caught. I was always silently angered by these backhanded compliments that always came along with, “Why can’t you be like her?”. Further setting me apart from my peers.
I can’t say I didn’t earn the title of shy girl back then. I had a speech impediment and never wanted to talk. A side effect, I guess, from being teased. From there it snowballed as I got used to being quiet and not speaking up. I stopped being able to formulate thoughts into words and words into sound. Even when I talked, I mumbled. In Girl Scouts and classroom projects, everyone would choose: quiet, shy, kind to describe me. During my first job interview, when they asked me to describe myself I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from saying shy. Because who wants to hire a shy girl to work in a store?
Being shy has always been ingrained in me: A unchanging part of my personality; the starting link on any chain; a fixed point on my map.
When I started college this all held true, and even though I added anxious nothing was removed. About halfway through my college career, a friend said something that would have stopped me in my tracks had I been moving. He said, “Kelly, I don’t think your shy.” He didn’t mean to but he sent shock waves through my formally solid foundation. No matter what changed in my life, I always knew that I was shy, quiet, and kind. Until this moment.
I stumbled my words, and shook my head. I tried to argue my points for how I’m shy but he just shook his head, confident in his decision. His foundation shaking decision.
Since then, I’ve been off-centered. Who am I? Am I still quiet and kind, or did those go away too? When I look in the mirror, I recognize my face but not the look in my eyes. I’ve always been shy. I mean. I put it in the title of my blog. There is not another word on this planet that I would associate so closely, so intimately with as “shy”.
Doctors told my parents and I, that I would grow out of my shyness. I never believed them. But were they right?
So…I’m having a bit of an existential crisis as I struggle to reconcile not being 100% shy with what I’ve always known. I’ve also realized how true this statement is, “People can’t be defined.”
So as I ponder who I am, and other big questions I ask you these smaller, less severe questions: Have you ever experienced this? What would you do in my place? How would you react? How do you define yourself and do you think others see you differently than you see yourself? Let’s discuss.
Until next time,