Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed a new mantra spontaneously arise as I’m going about my affairs: “F*ck being shy—I’m done with that!”
It’s funny, because I don’t recall a moment where I consciously decided to adopt this. It has just emerged, seemingly of its own volition.
And I’m kinda liking it!
I would never have described myself as chronically shy. And over time I find myself claiming to be so less and less. But I have suffered from varying degrees of shyness throughout my life.
In the past, people who know me well have dismissed such claims as nonsense because they knew the extroverted side of me. And, as many do, they assumed that I couldn’t be both. But, in fact shyness and introversion are not mutually exclusive.
Shyness is not a lack of desire for social interaction, or for putting ourselves out there and trying stuff. Shyness is an internal barrier that holds us back from interactions and activities that we’d actually really love to participate in. To quote The Smiths:
“Shyness is nice, and
Shyness can stop you
From doing all the things in life
You’d like to.”
That is the striking difference between shyness and introversion—shy people often want to do things that introverts have no interest in doing. They want to, but they don’t. They feel anxious about trying new stuff or interacting with new people and they choose to remain in their comfort zone rather than endure the anxiety that accompanies its expansion. Fundamentally, shy people suffer from a fear of being judged.
Introverts, on the other hand, are less concerned about the good opinion of others. I would describe introversion as a preferred way of interacting in the world (although it’s not one of choice), while shyness acts as an impediment to interacting in our preferred way.
Photo via Lauren Hammond/Flickr