Monday, 24 May 2010

Being Shy

Maybe I should change the title of this blog to “From The Therapist’s Couch” as all I seem to write about these days are things he has said to me or events I have told him about.
Today isn’t going to be any different, I'm afraid.

On Thursday, the therapist suggested that I was fundamentally a shy person and my efforts to cover that up could be one of the reasons I have felt a bit lost recently and not sure who I really am. That was an eye opener to me though I’m fully aware that those who know me would laugh loudly at that idea. I’m the bubbly one, the one with the laugh, the one so suited to my job because I’m a natural party animal which makes me ideal to run public events. I am the epitome of an extrovert.

But when he told me I could be quite shy I knew straight away that it was true. I was taken right back to my childhood when I was about five or six and my dad had come home with some guests who greeted me and asked me how I was. When I didn’t know what to say, he told me to say hello and I remember feeling really anxious and I turned my face into the wall and said nothing. He excused himself from his visitors and took me into the kitchen and told me that my behaviour was unacceptable and that when people spoke to me I MUST answer as it was just plain rude to ignore them. I remember crying and saying that I felt shy and my normally affectionate Dad was very sharp and unsympathetic. He told me to stop crying and that there was no such thing as being shy and that he didn’t ever want to hear that from me again. I had to go back in that room, smile and speak to them.

I remember after that I always made sure I was the one to start a conversation and even now, if I’m in a group of people I always feel that it is my responsibility to keep the dialogue flowing even though I’m always telling myself it is not my role to play the court jester.

It’s all to do with a fear of rejection I suppose.

Even though we tend to go to a lot of parties, I never look forward to them. I will often tell Ewan that I don’t want to go and will leave getting ready to the last minute. He has learnt to ignore me now but on the way to any do, even parties held by close friends or family, I will be anxious. My heart will race and/or my head will pound but once I’m there, I’m the very life and soul. How ridiculous is that? I have become extremely skilled at portraying pure confidence and I am very good at meeting new people in social situations.

The therapist just nodded at all that and said it matched classic signs of overcompensating for being shy but that I was doing all the right things and that actually I just needed to be aware that it wasn’t my natural persona and that I wasn’t to get confused by that. That it’s OK to be quiet at times and to let others be the funny one and to be assured that people will still like me.

He said the shy side of me is actually what makes me a good listener and not at all phased at the thought of being left alone. I’m not a typical extrovert in that I need people around me. I really don’t. I’m very happy in my own company – it’s probably the only time I’m really myself.

It was a good session. I like learning about me !


  1. Oh this post rang so many bells for me. I have an outwardly extrovert persona but it is all an act and I have to make myself go out there and mix. This therapy sounds like it is doing you a lot of good and it makes for fabulous blog fodder.

  2. I've been starting at the beginning of your blog and finding out about you. You write ever so well - but you probably knew that anyway.

  3. I think everybody is shy - or shall we say feels vulnerable - but people handle it in different ways. I'm one of those people who just sit quietly and says nothing until I've sussed people out. I'm comfortable with it now and don't stress about it. Sometimes I wish I could be the life and soul but... it's just not me. I can do it on a small scale - with close friends in small groups - but not with big crowds. However we deal with shyness, it's only a problem if we're unhappy with the coping strategy that we employ.

  4. At least you learn from your therapist....but seriously, it sounds an interesting idea. I think we all compensate for some less palatable aspects of our personality. The problem is, I think, when the compensation drags you away form who you feel comfortable being.

  5. nice. i like learning about me too. and i can fall into that same category of tring to keep it moving in conversation or always doing something so that others feel like they had a great time...and liked me. smiles.

  6. Oh, I can relate to all of that as a fellow shy person, although that's not always obvious. Souunds like the sessions are going well x

  7. I think there must be a lot of us who are like you, myself included. I often dread going to parties and such like but I'm all right once there. Strange isn't it.?

  8. Do you know the biological test for emotional sensitivity? It's a good gauge of shyness and introversion.

    By an accident of biology, a part of the brain that determines intensity of emotional response is right next to the part of the brain that governs the intensity of the saliva response to foods (like vinegar and lemons). These areas tend to wax and wane together; if one is sensitive, so is the other. So if someone salivates more than average when they smell vinegar, chances are they experience strong emotions even in mild social situations, and this typically drives people to shy behaviour. (Best way I can explain it here, anyway.)

    Of course, actually testing this is another matter... :-)

    (Having a LOT of trouble with OpenID comments these days - keeps saying it can't verify my credentials; after a few goes it just accepts it - usually. Not just a problem here.)

  9. Either way, you seem rather a good sort. It's fun that you;'re learning about yourself!

  10. Oh, but darling you look adorable when you blush. Seriously, though, I too am very shy, but always overcompensated by developing a personna that was smooth, witty and seductive. I often tried to test my false 'me' by seeing how well it worked in terms of bedding somebody I shouldn't. Often to my surprise (and sometimes delight) it worked better than anticipated. Yet, within I was utterly devoid of self-confidence. So, I found this entry both revelatory and honest about you, and thank you for it, but also a realm in which I could thoroughly empathize.

  11. This kind of reminds me of myself. I love social situations and have been described as the life of the party, but in certain scenarios (such as when I know no one) I can be quiet and I also greatly enjoy being alone, albeit in limited amounts.