Am I Shy?

I’m going to start this out with a request. I would like for anyone who reads this post to comment at the bottom of the page. I would really love to start a 2 (or 3 or 5) way conversation on this topic. Even people who don’t know me personally should be able to respond to this based on the information I provide in the article. This is one of those unusual times when I look into myself and just don’t understand what exactly is going on. So, give me a helping hand and post a comment, tell me what you think, ask clarifying questions, talk it out with me. I appreciate it.

Am I shy? It seems like an odd question to ask doesn’t it. It feels like most people could tell you immediately whether or not they qualified as shy. It will probably surprise you to find out that I’m one of the people who would give themselves that label. When I tell people that I’m shy they always look at me like I’m crazy. I’ve had more than one person actually tell me that I’m crazy and that I’m way too much of an extrovert to be shy. At other times I’ve been compared to a politician for my gregariousness and the lengths I go to in order to win people over.

Here’s the craziest thing of all. I don’t think it makes sense either! How can I be shy? I’m one of the boldest people that I know. I actually enjoy talking in front of groups of people. I never let perceived differences in status (either positive or negative) prevent me from being friendly with someone. I regularly start conversations with people and introduce myself if I think I’m going to be seeing them regularly. I’m even a decent listener/conversationalist.

Here’s the flip side though. I’m typically a homebody because I’m much more comfortable alone than around people. I dread parties because I’m always (ALWAYS!) the one who ends up sitting alone, unengaged and feeling excluded. Honestly, if I had a choice to go to a big party or stay home alone it wouldn’t even be close, I’d end up at home every single time. I feel like I have very little in common with people. So conversations feel like they grind to a half quickly and then the uncomfortable silence fills the air until I pretend that I have somewhere to be and excuse myself.

Obviously I’m conflicted about this. My older brother will verify that there was a long season in my young life when I was so unsuccessful with interpersonal relationships that I intentionally withdrew from the social aspects of life. I convinced myself that I had no need for friends at all. I lived that way for at least a couple of years before my heart finally shattered and I realized in a moment of clarity that I did indeed need friends. In fact, I realized that I actually craved positive, healthy relationships with as many people as possible. I craved it so much that I broke out of my old personality and built a new one for myself.

Today it’s obvious which side of that conflict won out. I make no bones about caring for people and wanting desperately to help them out of their own dark times. Still, that old personality seems like linger under the surface. Behind my smiles and friendliness lies nervousness and insecurity. I’m like my little white cat that will warily step out from my hiding place until something makes me skittish. Then, just like my cat, I’m hiding under my mental bed, shutting down my emotions and watching from a distance.

Now you can see why I’m honestly confused. The reason it’s bothering me is that I feel like it’s wrong. I feel like I’m supposed to be one way or the other. Maybe I’m actually truly shy which would explain why I feel like being around people is work and that I have to make efforts to maintain my personality. On the other hand, maybe I’m not, maybe I really am that politician and if that’s true, why do I walk around with an anchor of shyness around my neck?

Right now I’m reading a great book called Just Walk Across the Room by Bill Hybels. A part of the concept is that we all have different personal styles of relating to people, ways that we are comfortable with. If God made us the way that we are and chose the time that we would live then he meant for us to be around the people that we are around. And if we let our personalities flow naturally then we should be able walk more clearly in the path that he has set for us.

I want that, but I don’t feel like I have it. I want to be someone who can talk to people easily, someone who can build relationships without being scared and someone who can influence people towards heaven. Instead, I feel like I’m half in one world and half in the other. I’m wondering if what I’m realizing is that I’m stuck with a defense mechanism from my past that I didn’t realize was there. I don’t know. But I know that I’ve probably missed countless opportunities to do God’s will because I’ve been busy thinking that I was too shy to do it.

I don’t want to be shy. It doesn’t fit. Like I said earlier, I’m too bold to be shy. Yet it takes everything within me to start a simple conversation if I don’t have a specific agenda that I’m trying to accomplish.

So there you have it. What do you think? Am I shy? What if you know me personally? What do you think after reading this? Let me know what you think in the comment box below.

Thanks and be blessed,

Jonathan

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Posted on September 17, 2011, in Real Life and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Yes, I think that you maybe shy. I am too. I was able to relate to your blog in so many ways. I too want to share the gospel with people. I first tried to take it to my family and was unable to successfully teach them what I feel they needed to hear. And my thoughts are if I can’t even convince my own family members how can I teach it to a stranger.

    But through my bible studies I have learned a few things. Moses was shy and did not think that God had chosen the right man to speak for him. But God gave him Aaron to help with this task and Moses ended up having the confidence to do what was asked of him.

    Also in Acts chapter 4 the apostles prayed for boldness. They too were scared or “shy” to preach the gospel. Think about the repercussions they had in that time in day. They were thrown in prison and beaten for this. The apostles were given to us in the bible to follow their examples. In my conclusion, I think we must pray without ceasing for boldness and God will be there to guide us along our way.

    I hope this helps. I have only been in the church for a few years and I’m still learning everyday. I am truly blessed, especially since I gave my life over to God. If you want to talk further just let me know.

    • Thanks for your response Tera. It’s awesome to hear that given your heart to God. I’m certain that the changes in your life over the last few years as you’ve grown in your walk have spoken to the people around you more than we know. You are so right about Moses, I should take some extra time to think about his story. Some other great thoughts in here as well. I love your advice. Thank you for it.

      Jonathan

  2. There is no right way to be, there are only different shades of personalities. Only if you feel your shyness is hurting your life must you do something about it.

    I too am shy, and I too get incredulous looks when I tell people that. In my case I forced myself to be more gregarious so that I would do better in the business world. And what I found is that as I did this more and more, it became more comfortable for me to do it. It wasn’t a case of forcing myself to reach out to others, I grew to enjoy the process.

    But at heart I’m very happy to read a book alone and be self-sufficient. So I understand where you are coming from. Try to make yourself come out of your comfort zone and see if you can learn new habits that feel OK too. But as long as you are not suffering in some way, there’s nothing wrong with being shy. We are allowed to be different than the “societal norm.”

    • Nick, your story resonates with me. Success in business was a key motivation for many of the steps that I’ve taken outside of my comfort zone. In particular, I realized that I needed to become much more comfortable relating to people for the first time or getting to know my employees on a personal level in order to serve them the way they needed to be served.

      Also a great point about not necessarily having to fit within a single set of norms. Who is to say that the juxtaposition of my private and public tendencies isn’t exactly what I was meant to be.

  3. I don’t think you’re shy, just afraid of rejection, which is not uncommon. Think about the guy who doesn’t ask out the girl. Most times it’s not because he’s shy, he just dreads the thought of her saying no and subsequently feeling rejected.

    Applying this logic to the situation you mentioned about avoiding parties, more likely than not, it’s the fear of “being the person sitting alone” that paralyzes you. Because you’re so caught up in that fear, you begin to act in a way that aligns with your thoughts, and poof – the self-fulfilling prophesy occurs.

    In your prayer time, reflect on the situations where you felt as if shyness held you back. Dig deep and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal whether shyness was the culprit or if the root cause was really fear.

    Love you, Babes

  4. Let it never be said that my wife isn’t real with me.

    I wonder if fear is the root of all shyness at some level.

  5. A lot of this may be an artifact of definitions. For instance, I don’t know that introversion (preferring to be alone) is necessarily the same thing as being shy. Just food for thought.

  6. That’s exactly the point I was going to bring up. Growing up I was painfully shy and hated to be around people. As I’ve gotten older, I’m a bit more comfortable with people and myself, but I still prefer solitude. I think it comes down to shyness stems from a lack of self-confidence, whereas introversion is a disposition or character trait. Shyness is just an arbirtrary word anyways, right? I used to be bothered by people calling me shy, quiet, passive, or any other negative traits of an introvert, but I’m not any more because I realize that there are two sides to every coin. Extroverts have both positive and negative traits, as do introverts.

    I read and reviewed a book you may be interested in, The Introvert Advantage, or simply check out some of the key points: http://analyfe.com/2011/06/06/the-introvert-advantage/

    • I think you and Waco are making a great point here Erin. I definitely think that it’s possible to be introverted without being shy. In fact, I think that is a much better way to describe myself.

      i’ve heard it said that the major difference between an introvert and an extrovert is what gives them energy. An extrovert gets energy from being around people and doing things together. If they are alone too long they will actually depressed. On the other hand, an introvert can do extroverted things, it just takes more energy and leaves them with a need for some alone time to recover

  7. Interesting questions 🙂 I think I am shy, but I think it is just that most of the time I don’t have much to say to new people because I want to connect with them on a deeper level or not at all. I have sat often by myself at our college dining table even though there are 200 people in the room, some who I have talked with before. Holding a meaningless conversation is painful to me, but so is sitting alone. I wish another introvert would have sat next to me, but no one seemed to understand perhaps others were just too frightened to admit that they are shy/introverts too – choosing to be alone rather than risk having a pointless discussion makes you a little strange but aren’t we all!

    • Thanks for stopping by Pippa!

      I feel like I know exactly what you mean about meaningless conversations. Small talk is such a big turnoff to me. I guess it’s a necessary evil to build relationships, but goodness gracious, i wish we could just get down to the point where we could have a conversation worth having.

      you know, that makes me wonder if there are some questions people like us could carry in our hip pocket to use in place of small talk without freaking the other person out.

  8. Mèo Lười Việt

    This post reminds me of Julien in “The Red and The Black”. Unusually shy and extremely bold at the same time. No one is shier than he and rare person is as courageous as Julien.

    • Hi Mèo Lười Việt.

      Thanks for dropping by. I had to stop by Wikipedia to read about The Red and The Black. Do you personally relate to Julien in the story?

  9. I din’t think you are shy… At least not the way I think of shy. I’ve always been extremely quiet and I used to be very shy. I’m still a really quiet person but I don’t really consider myself shy now. I like meeting people, I greet everyone as I walk by even if I don’t know them, and I actually enjoy interacting with people now. But that said, I LOVE being alone and keeping to myself. When I’m out and about I am social but I really don’t spend a lot of time with anybody. I’m a loner. I don’t keep any close friends and I don’t like to “hang out.” I HATE parties. I never know what to do and just kind of stand around awkwardly. Like, I have better things to do and what am I supposed to talk about? :/
    Soo… I don’t know! I guess I have the same question as you. I actually just confused myself ever more.
    I guess on the surface I love seeing people but not for a length of time at once and I don’t let people be close to me.

    • Hi Jamie, Thanks for commenting.

      To be honest, you’ve confused me too! It sounds like you might fit the same kind introverted/extroverted combo that I do.

      Your last statement is interesting. The one thing that I love is spending time and “hanging out” with my close friends. Do you avoid that?

  10. *even more
    Sorry I hate making typos.

  11. Your shy when it comes to wanting more love relationship. And out spoken when your is habbit is about none shalonte chat. Its harder when trying to built something lasting. When you have nothing to say ask about that persons likes or dislikes goals and travels. And even complimenting them on their adventures. Pointing out accomplished well rounded person. Corky things like theres a hole in the ozone in the north pole. Or how weird is living in two time zones.

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