“When I was 3 years old, my parents began to pick up on the fact that I was a bit ‘spacey.’ The ruckus of my home – the bark of my dog, the ring of the doorbell, the giggles of my siblings – could not grab my attention. I was in my own little world, content and unbothered.
When I was 6, my kindergarten teacher pulled my name out of a hat for ‘show and tell.’ I remained in my seat and lowered my head as my cheeks flushed pink with embarrassment. I didn’t want the attention; I didn’t want to be stared at. If only I could just ‘show’ and not ‘tell.’ That year, on my birthday, I had blown out candles and wished I was like ‘other girls,’ the talkative ones. That wished never did come true.
When I was 9, I moved to a new school. Making friends after cliques had already been formed was hard enough, let alone being the ‘shy girl.’ Don’t get me wrong, I could maintain a conversation; I wasn’t socially awkward. But I was content with silence, and I oftentimes didn’t speak much until spoken to. I spent the majority of that year and the next with a very small group of friends.
When I was 13, I pressed my head on the radiator for some time before knocking on my mother’s bedroom. It was early in the morning, the day of my big presentation. ‘Mom, I think I have a fever. I’m not feeling so good.’ She advised I stay home, and so I did. I didn’t understand how others could grace the front of the classroom with so much peace. I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t have it in me.
In high school at parent-teacher conferences, my teachers always danced across an array of similar comments. ‘She’s too quiet.’ ‘Silent.’ ‘No participation whatsoever.’ Still, I aced every exam with 95s and up. I was a smart girl who loved learning and studying. Yet, each report card and conference stung a little: ‘No participation.’ It’s like all my hard work was invalidated. I felt unworthy. Not good enough.
In college, I had no choice but to break ‘out of my shell.’ I was forced into project, presentations, clubs, participation, events. I was evolving. Still, I never found great ease or pleasure in these things. I loved quality time with loved ones, friends, but it pained me to be in the spotlight. I was, and have always been, SHY.
Now, last weekend, a friend of mine invited me to a get-together. I wasn’t feeling up to it, but she convinced me to go anyway, so I did. There, I was met with about a dozen new people I had never met before for an afternoon of board games and wine. I greeted them all with a smile, laughed at jokes, inserting side comments here and there that made others chuckle.
I thought I was doing a good job at this whole socializing thing. After all, I didn’t know many of these people. There was no way I could fully be my chatty, free self around them. They were a room full of loud, bubbly introverts. I, myself, chill and calm – my comments and conversations always filtered and well thought out.
After three rounds of Uno and another card game, I headed to the bathroom (which, by the way, was right next to the room we were playing games in). From beyond the door, I heard an unfamiliar voice:
‘So…what’s wrong with, Kayla? Is she just like retarded or a robot? Is she stupid or something? She, like, BARELY speaks.’ The words stung so badly. Hadn’t I spoken, and a handful of times? Was I not doing my best? Why didn’t they like me? What was I doing wrong? If I could accept them as the overly loud people they were, why couldn’t they accept me?
That night, I went home and cried about the whole thing. I knew the feeling; I felt inadequate once more for being ‘shy.’ For being MYSELF.
But that was it. It was an eye-opening experience for me. After some time, I wiped the tears. That was the moment I decided I was done being sorry for being shy. For being an introvert. And you should, too.
PEOPLE, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING AN INTROVERT.
Read that again.
Any introvert will tell you that it’s not that we don’t ‘talk,’ it’s just that we love to talk to those who we feel safe and special around. I can talk all night with my best friend, never sleeping, but that doesn’t mean I’ll pour my whole life story out to a stranger.
If you’re reading this, and you are that shy boy, girl, woman, man, or anything in between, know that you are ENOUGH just the way you are. God doesn’t make mistakes. And how boring (and loud) the world would be if people like us didn’t exist?! We are the ying to the yang.
I have been shy my whole life. I am still shy, and I will probably always be shy. And that is okay!”
Read more stories like this:
‘I don’t fit in. They don’t really want me there. I wonder why I wasn’t invited. I walk up to a circle of people and don’t know whether to force my way in, or hang on the outside, twiddling my thumbs.’: Woman’s realization on ‘fitting in’
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