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Shyness and Extroverts

March 29, 2011


For the extrovert, the land of shyness can be difficult to navigate. Especially if you’ve always been the type to kindle conversation with anyone, and suddenly are afraid to talk to even people you know relatively well. You might find yourself, as I did, unsure of where to stand in a room, unsure of what to say or who to talk to, unable to break into circles you once moved in and out of with ease. As you hide in the bathroom and wait for the gripping anxiety to release you, you wonder: “What is wrong with me? This has never happened before.”

The truth is lots of people might be shy as a child and come out of it as they get older, or retreat to the safety of obscurity when they begin to see the of the dangers of the world. Either way, change is normal at all stages of life. It’s our job to direct ourselves to the kind of change we want.

I grew up afraid of nothing and no one. But post-onset I developed a lot of phobias. The telephone terrified me and crowds of people induced the worst attacks. Going new places, going old places… everything scared me. Never knowing what to say or how to act, I just stuck to myself. Whenever someone looked at me every hair rose as if the surface of my skin were screaming: “Don’t look at me!”

I’m much better now. Each week I see the same faces at church and say hello with no problem. This week, however, just thought of this was exausting. I slipped out of the sanctuary just as soon as the sermon was finished and hid in one of the upstairs rooms until I felt prepared to venture out.

If this sounds familiar here’s some advice:

  • Don’t isolate. It increases the level of fear you experience when you can’t avoid people.
  • Instead spend time with the people you feel most comfortable with.
  • Do what you can to feel safe so you have the strength to…
  • get out of your comfort zone!
  • Be realistic about what you can handle. Start small and work up.
  • Don’t beat yourself up about how you should feel brave or confident. Acknowledge that you are nervous and try to be ok with that. It’s not ideal but it’s nothing to feel guilty about.

 

These last two years I haven’t been shy anymore; I know this week is just a temporary setback. Anxiety hasn’t kept me completely at home, but I did refuse a friend’s invitation to go bowling. But soon after I made some plans with her for a quiet evening one-on-one, which helped me a lot.

If I pray and focus on staying healthy, the rest will follow.


Thanks to MisconstrewedReality for the amazing photography! Click on any of the photos to be led to her profile at deviant art.

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