I’m shy. Very shy.
At university, I hardly said anything in tutorials unless the tutor asked me a question. Hanging out with others whom I barely know or just met, I usually don’t say much either.
It’s never easy being a shy person.
When we’re shy, we feel confused. Words don’t come easy out of our mouths when others talk to us. Some of us are shy because we’re not used to being around others or certain people: it’s intimidating, and we don’t know what to expect.
Sometimes I stutter around Caucasian Australians who politely say “Hi” to me. Growing up in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, my Caucasian classmates always asked me why my hair was brown with smirks on their faces. Painful relationships are hard to forget.
We feel trapped when shyness comes over us. We feel the need to be quiet. Shyness can be a cultural thing. My Chinese-Malaysian parents brought me up to listen to others when they’re talking – and I needn’t respond to them. These days, I still hear this message at the back of my head.
When we’re shy, we feel afraid. Afraid of being social. Our mouth goes dry, our heart beats a little faster and our face feels flush. Sometimes shyness stems from anxiety or some sort of phobia. Last year, I was in a clothes shop and couldn’t find a shirt in my size. I took a few steps towards the salesperson at the counter. My heart was racing, palms sweaty. Didn’t want to trigger a 20-minute panic attack episode so I left. And I have a small voice that others find hard to hear anyway.
It’s easy to disappear into the crowd when we find it hard to say a few words. Chatty people naturally talk to other chatty people and when we’re shy, it feels awkward to butt in or interrupt them as much as we want to. It feels like we’re missing out on things. We might feel relieved when others leave us alone, seeing we’re “not up” for small talk. But sometimes, it gets lonely.
Being shy isn’t all bad. When we’re not the life of the party, we watch. Listen to conversations. Become more self-aware of what’s going on around us.
When we’re shy, we keep to ourselves. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re not confident with who we are and what we do. We know that we’re shy; we know ourselves to some degree. When we shy away from people, chances are we go and do what we like and what we’re good at. For me, it’s writing and playing video games.
Sometimes it’s normal to feel shy. Sometimes being shy is a part of who we are. But if we hold back words all time and let others speak for us, we might as well be a doormat.
Last year, I tried to come out of my shy shell by simply putting myself out there, not thinking much about my past on these occasions but someone who wants to be more confident. I went back to a shop and asked for a refund for a bag that I bought there, and got one. I made small talk with a stranger who asked me to take a photo of him. When I met dancing violinist Lindsey Stirling, I asked her for an autograph…but couldn’t bring myself to tell her how much she inspires me to write. Massive regret. What’s the worse that could happen, speaking up?
Being shy is a choice.
There’s also the choice to be less shy.
And with each choice, there’s always room for change.
Are you shy? What happens when you talk to shy or quiet people?