Strange Gifts – Shyness

For as long as I can remember, I have been shy.

I was fine with my shyness, and being shy, at first because of what it meant to and for me.

It wasn’t shyness

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I wasn’t shy

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– those words and their definitions came later, given to me by others, by those who saw who I was and what I was being to be a problem.

First it was my parents who had a problem with me being shy, it embarrassed them, was awkward for them, made things difficult for them.

Then it was my parents’ friends who had a problem with my shyness, mainly because they had to listen to my parents complain about me and my difficult shyness which was causing them all sorts of problems, such as feeling embarrassed that they had a backwards child who made them look like bad parents when they wanted a better than other children child who made them look like better than other parents good parents.

Then it was society in general who told me through the education institution, through the media of books, text books in school, classic books I had to read for school, fiction and non-fiction books I read in my spare time, comic books, cartoons, television shows, films, and many other ways and means, that being shy was a bad thing = I’m a bad thing for being a shy thing.

But when I wasn’t being shy – this was a problem too.

I was being precocious, impertinent, rude, not staying in my place, speaking when I hadn’t been spoken to, asking questions, questioning the answers I was being given, laughing when children should be never heard, running around when I should be sitting still, quietly, not bothering the adults, not bothering polite society.

The adult world can be a confusing simmering mess of contradictions even when you are an adult.

Eventually I grew up to view my shyness as a problem, and to see my shy self as wrong.

Eventually my shyness and my being shy came to mean to me exactly what the dictionary definitions say they are.

Then one day I came across a new definition of shyness and being shyIntrovert.

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This described to me what being shy and shyness had originally meant to me.

However, when I came across this new definition, being an introvert was the less desirable option between only two options – Introvert or Extrovert.

There were many schools, workshops, life coaches, self-help systems teaching Introverts how to be less introverted and more extroverted like the wonderful charming desirable Extroverts.

I tried to be more extroverted, put myself through a reprogramming program, which only made me feel worse as I kept failing, doing it wrong, bothering people with my problem. I kept being a problem for others, which made them feel awkward, embarrassed, and not want to have me around because who in their right mind would want to be around someone who made them feel so bad all the time.

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Eventually I gave up trying to be who I was not.

And felt bad about giving up because that made me a quitter, but trying and trying and trying again was very trying, and I was always wrong so might as well just settle into it and accept it.

About the time that I gave up, the internet sent me an invitation to visit the world wide web. It took me ages to R.S.V.P with an “Um… okay, I’ll come but I won’t stay long.”

A few years later being an Introvert was the In thing to be online, while being an Extrovert became the less desirable option of the two options, for awhile anyway as the Introverts rebalanced the scales – humans always seem to need to swing from one extreme to the other before they find the sweet spot in between which appreciates both sides equally.

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Nowadays there are three options – Introvert, Extrovert, and Ambivert (which is a mix of introvert and extrovert).

Nowadays when I tell people I’m shy I don’t feel bad about my shyness, don’t feel shy about being shy, on the contrary, I’m rather proud of it because it’s taught me a lot about the world inside and the world outside.

Funnily enough when I say “I’m shy” nowadays it usually is a relief for other people, who may be shy too but perhaps were trying to hide it just in case it made me feel awkward, embarrassed, that I was in the presence of a problem.

(these days I tend to say – I’m a hermit. There are many hermits in hermit club!)

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So what does this strange gift of shyness offer the person who has it?

Being ‘nervous or timid’ in the company of other people tends to prompt a shy person to study other people.

To watch them carefully, notice all the subtle messages which they are emitting, all the whispers which leak out of them in their body language, their facial expressions, the tone of their voice, etc.

To listen with intent to hear what they are saying, as they are saying it and as they are not saying it (ie. when someone says “I’m fine” in a tense gritted teeth tone), as well as what they are not saying, what you can feel them holding back, censoring, editing, what makes them pause, what’s in their silences.

Our ‘quiet as a mouse mousiness’ and our eyes averted looking at the ground allows us to spot valuable crumbs which others may treat as trash, wasting a resource.

Our ‘fear’ inspires us to explore the source of the fear, to know it, understand it, and perhaps makes friends with the foe. Our ‘problem’ can turn us into problem solvers.

It’s surprising how much people reveal about themselves through the way that they treat you.

And when you’re ‘self-effacing’ people have a way of revealing far more about themselves than they’d be comfortable knowing they had if we were to tell them that they had, maybe our silence isn’t so uncomfortable after all.

Things not to say to a shy person: “Don’t be shy” – this might elicit a response which may reveal to you that the shy person isn’t as shy as you thought they were, and that their shyness isn’t what you think it is, that your definition of shy and theirs differs, and that difference will cause a problem.

Would you tell a sheep not to be a sheep – the sheep in the field near where I live have horns, and they’re not shy about using them.

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Thank you for reading…

over to you…

do you have the strange gift of shyness, and what skills has it given you?

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13 thoughts on “Strange Gifts – Shyness

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  1. I too have been “shy” as far back as I remember but over the years and currently I have learned to use my gifts to navigate the world. All the characteristics you listed is what I have been doing all my life. Just recently, I have come to accept my quirks, my covertness, as gifts. There’s a reason why we aren’t all extroverts because if we were who would take the time to listen to what is not being said.

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    1. Thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

      That’s an awesome point – “There’s a reason why we aren’t all extroverts because if we were who would take the time to listen to what is not being said.” – and very worth listening to and hearing!

      Someone has to be the elves who make the shoes at night πŸ˜‰

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  2. Like you I am an introvert. I’ve never really thought of myself as shy. Crowds get to me, a constant social whirlwind will get to me real fast, and I get exhausted by big social occasions and have to leave early to come home and relax. I do much better with small groups. I’ve always been quite happy to be alone or just with a couple of good friends. M and I like to just spend time with each other – he’s also rather introverted. (Who woulda thunk it – two introverted Leos? πŸ™‚ )

    I am enjoying getting older in spite of, as you say, the achy pains and weird twinges. It’s a pretty good place to be with myself. I’ve accepted my introversion as I have many things about myself and others. I like being introverted. πŸ™‚

    I like your idea of the hermit. Maybe with more age on me, I’ll become one of those. πŸ™‚

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    1. I tend to zone out when I have to go where there are crowds, and only focus on why I’m there – I only tend to go to crowded places for a specific reason. I used to be hypervigilant in crowded places – that was exhausting. These days I rely on what I learned from the experience of hypervigilance, without needing to do it. Still always nice to get back to the hermit home πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love reading your blog… Sometimes, I don’t have the time to read the entire post in one sitting (the longer ones), but they’re always on-point. I often think of you scanning the internet for the quotes and videos you intersperse throughout them… But I am sure that’s probably become second nature to you at this point.

    I’ve kind of been turned off from the whole “self-help” community thing, but if I met a person like you… In real life, I think I would really benefit from the friendship. You give me hope. Thank You. I posted a comment a while back and you wrote a few posts for children of narcissists soon after… I am not sure if I sparked that series but I found them insightful, so either way thank you.

    The concept of “shyness” is interesting to me. I don’t think I was necessarily shy when I was younger, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve become more and more reserved. I had to move states to get away from my narcissistic mother and after some of the experiences I had at home, my trust level with regards to most human beings dropped significantly. When I was at home, as a result of the circumstances, my mobility was limited. I had to spend a lot of time at home and I had to spend a lot of time with myself. At first it was painful but then I got used to it. I really got to know myself. It’s interesting because now… I am pretty comfortable alone. I am not sure if you’ve ever seen “Pinky & The Brain” it’s a funny cartoon. I was like Brain, each day my mission was to get out of that situation. That’s all I thought about.

    Most people when they meet me assume that I am extremely social. I think the misconception about “introverts” is that they are socially inept. Maybe some… But I think when you are comfortable with yourself, there’s a different kind of energy you give off that also makes people around you feel comfortable. I could choose to be more social if I wanted to… But often I don’t. I think the thing about human beings is that we can really adapt to any situation. If we’re in a situation long enough, it will eventually become normalized. I think this is something that narcissists viscerally understand, which is why I never fault a person after they’ve successfully extracted themselves from a crazy-making situation. I am like, “Hey, you can beat up on yourself… But your narc did everything in their power to normalize that craziness for you. Have some compassion for yourself” (I may not always say this… but its what I am thinking… As I read some crazy story online). I too have the compassion of one whose been scapegoated many times. Lol.

    I am not sure if you are the person that said this or its something that I’ve read somewhere but I think the thing that makes relationship so difficult for most children of narcissists is that emotionally we’ve been burned so many times by people within our family of origin. Those are our core relationships as little people and dictate how we relate to others in the world. If you’ve constantly been played… Even if you know that “others” out there in the real world are not your “family members”, your visceral response to human beings is just different. I associate other human beings with risk. I am not sure if that’s healthy, but I accept that’s how my mind currently works. It also seems as when we first go out into the world we always find the biggest narc in the room and decide that’s the person we want to be friends with… Maybe the energy is familiar… I am not sure. Anyway, I remember when I got my first apartment, in a new state, after being stuck at home for several years. My first thought was, “Great… no one can come here! I have complete control over this space.” It was being alone and at home that most of my healing took place. It was being at home and alone, where I really got to know myself… So I’ll never knock that.

    You said something either in this post or another about the “no contact blues” I think that’s what you called it… I thought that was genius. I think it’s the passage of time and the forgetting that sometimes makes us consider going back. It’s that self-doubt thing you so marvelously spoke about. When I really thought about it… 90% of the traumatic things that have happened in my life have come as a result of interacting with my family of origin. I understand what I’ve gone through and why I’ve made the decisions I’ve made… But it’s so easy to feel guilty. I decided I was going to write down some of the worst instances… Not to dwell, but to have something to look at when I begin to feel the blues. Going back is the “cycle”. It’s how people get caught in a cycle of abuse. Every time I’ve gone back its just been more drama, then I stop interacting again. I think in this post you said ” do something different” or the “opposite” of what you’ve been taught to do. That really resonated with me.

    Ok… so I’ve gone on for a minute. I am going to stop. I just wanted again to say thank you for all you’re doing here. It’s clear to me that you don’t necessarily need this blog, but you’re trying to help people. I think you’re succeeding. I remember when I first started learning about personality disorders… It was like descending down into a deep rabbit hole. All experience is relative, but I think for those that have had a somewhat normal upbringing its easy to gloss over the long-term effects one’s narcissistic parents can have on you. They think we’re all just being dramatic, like one who discounts the effects of war on soldiers and the PTSD many are left with. Recovery is definitely work… Learning to think differently and choosing not to pass on the narcissistic wound to your own children (if you have any) or inflict it on your friends or partner. I never had the vocabulary when I was younger, but I always knew something was off with my mother… She always kind of made me kind of cringe. She was always trying to convince me of something or make a deal. Anyway… I digressed. I think the thing is that here, you’re not just asking people to vent and feel sorry for themselves but to understand it’s possible to change. So thanks. As long as you keep writing, I’ll keep reading.

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    1. Thank you very much for sharing πŸ™‚

      Wow! You have a wonderful gift for expressing the complexity. I love what you’ve written ❀

      Have you ever considered blogging?

      I do scan the internet. It's like browsing the collective consciousness.

      The music videos are usually songs which pop into my head when I write, which is why I often post songs I've posted before. It's usually something in the lyrics which hooked me, expressed something for me, hit some inner nail on the head.

      Similar to β€œPinky & The Brain” for you. Cartoons are awesome for capturing an experience.

      The quotes are sometimes ones I've seen recently while browsing randomly which stood out in some way, not always in the way the quote or the person who shared it online intended. Some self-help type quotes can be rather narcissistic and that can make a piece of the puzzle fall into place. Or they're ones which meant something to me long ago which helped me solve some of my inner messy puzzles back then, and I'm fond of them for that. Occasionally it's due to my dyslexia which reads something wrong and that wrongness can be insightful – reading news headlines when you have dyslexia can put a spin on the news which leads to an aha!

      When I was a teen I was obsessed with Agatha Christie, in her autobiography she mentioned that she would collect clippings, scribble down partial ideas, and pop them in a box, waiting for them to take shape and gather into a story. Writing posts sometimes brings together a scrappy collection of images, songs, quotes, snippets of articles, books, memories, etc, which I've popped into the box of my mind. It may only come together when I write a post.

      Writing posts is a conversation with myself (or with voices in my head which aren't always mine, they may be my mother's, father's, someone else's, whose words got stuck inside. An old argument or an interaction which left me with an impression. Something someone said which needs to be understood to be released.) wherein I often figure something out – the thing I figure out may or may not be in the post itself. Sometimes it's in the aftermath of the post – getting things out and down in writing can free up space inside.

      I do get inspired by what people say to me in comments. I value comments very much. I read them, listen, and listen again, not just to what is being said, who is saying it, but to how it is being heard, who is listening. I particularly love being asked questions, especially ones which make me go Hmmmm… So, yes, you did inspire the series. Thank you πŸ™‚ The psychology student who asked me about how being a child of narcs affected me as an adult also inspired me to write about the subject again, she kick-started it.

      I had gotten a bit tired of hearing myself talk about it. I sometimes go through periods of blanking out the past. When I was younger I used to wonder who I'd be if I didn't have any memories. The problem with that is that I wouldn't have the memories I'd need to remind me to stay away from my parents, and I'd probably try and find my family of origin, and the whole mess would begin again only I wouldn't have the protection which I developed as a child. The whole mess beginning again – that to me was a big incentive to stick firmly with No Contact. When my father died and my mother resurfaced – it was like no time had passed, she was still doing the same old crazy, still behaving as though I was 6 years old, still stuck in her time warp. And what I learned about my father was that he too had still been stuck, doing the same old crazy. Narcs are stuck in the wound, reliving it over and over and over.

      We are not stuck in the wound – but it does take one hell of an effort to get out of the quicksand that it is, and stay out of it when it wants to suck you back in.

      One of the things which helped me with the guilt was staying angry – particularly being angry with myself for all those times I let the guilt have its way with me, force me to 'forgive/forget' and go back to have the same old crazy happen all over again – only worse because I had to pay for trying to get out. There's nothing like a narc who feels righteous in their retribution for the wrongs which you've done to them.

      Actually I think it was a self-help or a new age book which gave me a boost in the guilt-free department, it said something along the lines of – you can't heal what does not want to be healed. Even when you know it needs healing, if it is not ready to be healed even if it says it is, if it does not invite the healing in and mean it, if it is not willing to do the work of healing itself, then trying to heal it against its will is an invasive, forceful act which will lead to more wounding.

      I think I may have got that from Caroline Myss and her Woundology theory – http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/m/myss-heal.html – in this excerpt she pretty much summed up my mother and other covert narcs who make you feel guilty about not helping them, not answering their cries for help, not healing their wound, but they're very attached to their wound and don't actually want to heal it, so your attempts to help and heal them (and do what your guilt is telling you to do) end up with you getting battered by their wound, leaving you hurting, in pain, confused, etc.

      Guilt is a siren's song.

      I think many of the things we do as children of narcissists are good habits to know – and those who tell us they're bad habits may be right, but then again they may be wrong, or they may be narcissists who want us to drop those habits because those habits are protecting us from people like them. Sometimes our habits are problematic for us and others (who aren't narcissists), and need some adjusting so they work more harmoniously.

      Whatever helps us to get to know ourselves better, is a good thing in my opinion. Sometimes what once helped us becomes a hindrance, and that too helps us to know ourselves better. It's a journey and we figure it out as we travel. Taking snaps and sometimes sharing them – does anyone ever see the whole picture of us?

      If we met in person… I would benefit from the friendship too πŸ™‚

      Like

  4. I love that sealed jar scenario. Now as a man I would have offered you the jar first just waiting for you to fail so I could step in as superhero then when you successfully used your trick it would be me who was stuck not the lid! Sh### I never expected that…one to watch methinks. Thanks for sharing up on the confidence thingy majig made a few mental notes there. Liked to a blog of yours that I read up on a short time ago on your experience of growing up within narcissistic parents most of was upsetting to read from your experiences. For me the part that made much sense was about timing getting the time right to confront a traumatic issue I think you did well there. I did comment on that but a few months back I had my laptop stolen and lost a lot of data including passwords favourite lists etc. That experience put me off with on line stuff for a while but its ok now… you can guess who pinched it and returned back to that dark place. So as usual I,m a load of your blogs behind sounds a bit rude that!….. but I,ll catch up… have also been thinking about some questions that I would like to ask maybe later…………………….good to hear back from you…bon week-end

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    1. Thank you πŸ™‚

      It can be unnerving to have your home invaded like that, especially by someone whom you let in and were trusting. An experience like that often inspires and requires a time apart/away to regroup, to secure oneself again. It’s like going into a shell, and only emerging again once it feels safe enough inside to make it safe again outside.

      Some people are just more comfortable in the dark place, the lighter places are too unknown, too strange, too scary, they don’t know how to deal with it, they get anxious and act out in a manner which allows them to return to the dark. They prove to themselves that they can’t do it, can’t be in the light, and that they are better off in the dark, people who live in the light are better off without them as they’ll only hurt you and they confirm that by doing things like stealing your computer. Your nobility is a wonderful gesture, but for some it is a foreign language, and they don’t understand it on too many levels.

      The trick is to turn the jar upside down, then slam it lid down onto a hard surface (a wood surface is best) – not so hard that it smashes the jar, but just hard enough. Then turn it right way up again and turn the lid. 9 times out of 10 it opens with little effort. It’s kind of fun to watch the expressions on the faces of people when you slam the jar down πŸ˜‰

      Have a bon week-end aussi!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yep, I’m “shy”….have been labelled that all my life. I even used that as a handle when I first began using the internet…I was ShyUtGal. I’m NOT shy. I am introverted, and like you belong to the hermit club (we’s really really special in here πŸ˜‰ ). These days, older and a lot wiser, I tend to do what feels the best for me and if others have a problem with it, tough noogies. They don’t have to recover from the widely varied ailments that arise when I force myself into social situations that over tax my limitations. I tell people frankly that I don’t like crowds or a lot of loud noise and that I’m liable to act inappropriately if I’m forced to endure that stuff. Most people are good with it and never turn a hair. I don’t think I’m ‘shy’ because I will speak out and speak up for myself if I’m annoyed (which makes the whole ‘she’s really eccentric, isn’t she?” gossipers flap their gums), and I know myself well enough not to try shoving me into a mold that never fit. I think the skills (as such) that I’ve gained from being “shy” are being a superior listener to most people I know, empathy on a high level, compassion and adaptability. Thanks for sharing this post! I’m going to share the memes on my FB page, because I know a world of ‘shy’ individuals over there too.. Cheers!

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    1. Thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

      It’s wonderful to get older in many ways, it may be more achy and painy for the body, but other areas get relieved of old aches and pains. The mouth gets to say stuff it would have once not said. We’ve learned from experience that you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t and thus you might as well do whatever, and choose a whatever which is one you like.

      I’ve found that now I’m more chilled, those around me are more chilled too. I don’t bother fighting the old fights, and the old fights don’t seem bothered by me anymore.

      Awesome skills you have, good to have them!

      Like

  6. I too am shy although you would never guess that. Outwardly I am not but inwardly I cringe terribly. Yesterday on R4 there was some comment that men are 60% confident that they can do something when they probably cannot but feel that they can figure it out. However women only have 20% confidence that they can do something that they have never done before. So I,m guessing that in shyness with men this confidence thing kicks in to help them out. My shyness is greater in group situations but not so in a one to one situation. It helps me get out of social gatherings and is a great excuse or reason. To say to someone don,t be shy is a big NO NO.
    Thanks for bringing this up

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

      I was thinking about you the other day wondering how you are doing, glad to hear from you!

      The confidence issue is an intriguing one. I was reading an article on the BBC website which was part of the 100 Women series they’ve been doing, which spoke about the differences in how men and women publicly express confidence. Women often feel the need to downplay their confidence because society isn’t always comfortable with a woman being bold in the same way as society expects a man to be bold and may be uncomfortable about a man expressing diffidence.

      Society is changing but it tends to do so very slowly because it is rather big and encompasses a lot of people from all over the world, different cultures, different generations, different ages. While we may know the old ways are no longer current, the old ways tend to die hard because they’ve been around for a long time.

      These old ways tend to influence how people answer those surveys about men and women. Those surveys rely on men and women answering them, and men and women know that they will be ‘judged by society’ based on their answers. Even if the person running the survey says they’re impartial, both men and women tend to be confident that it won’t be impartial, and that the results will be used and probably misused πŸ˜‰

      Women tend to be more confident in admitting when they’re not confident. Men tend to be less confident in admitting when they’re not confident.

      When it comes to doing something I’ve never done before, I find that it helps to admit that I have no idea what I’m doing, how to do it, as this kickstarts the process of figuring out how to do it. I am confident that after making lots of mistakes and asking lots of questions, and cursing, and maybe screaming inside my head “I am useless! I will never be able to do this!” I will eventually suss out a way to do it.

      When it comes to things I do know how to do… I’m usually far more confident about my abilities than I let on. For instance I was watching an episode of the latest Curb Your Enthusiasm, and in it there was this pickle jar opening contest. I am pretty bloody brilliant at opening jars – I was taught a trick years ago and 9 times out of 10 it works on the most stubbornly stuck jars. However if there is a man or more than one man in the room I will defer to them, leaving them to wrestle with the jar. If they can do it, all is well with the world. If they can’t do it, I will tentatively ask if it would be okay if I had a go at it. I tend to check the look they give me to be confident about whether or not it is okay. I’m also confident that if it is not okay, I’m fine with leaving them with their firmly sealed jar problem. They’ll get it open eventually one way or another. Sometimes I’ll mention the trick I was taught and leave them to try it out, but it does depend on the look they give you.

      I think we’re all just trying to figure out how to get along, live together, and not kill each other more than is absolutely necessary.

      Shyness is a fluctuating experience with many variations and subtleties – sometimes shyness is instinct telling you not to relax in someone’s company because the friendly smile belongs to a crocodile.

      You come across as a quietly confident person – you know yourself and don’t need to impress others with shows of bravado. You’re the one people should be careful about underestimating.

      Liked by 1 person

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