According to Wikipedia, “The primary defining characteristic of shyness is a largely ego-driven fear of what other people will think of a person’s behavior, which results in the person becoming scared of doing or saying what he or she wants to, out of fear of negative reactions, criticism, rejection, and simply opting to avoid social situations instead.”
I was called “shy” frequently while growing up.
The truth is that I wasn’t. I simply chose not to speak in certain situations. If I wanted a straw for my drink at a restaurant, I asked my sister to ask the waitress. I was perfectly capable of asking but made the choice not to. I didn’t speak in class at school because a)it was against the rules and b) I didn’t have that strong a desire to be heard by the people in my class.
The problem was that, after being told that I was shy for so long, I eventually started to believe it, and act accordingly. By Jr High I decided it was better to be named shy than have to expend the energy in being friendly to everyone. Only my close friends knew that I was anything but quiet. Unfortunately, this more quiet public demeanor also earned me some other labels. Labels such as snob or stuck-up, anti-social, boring, etc.
Then came the work force. Low and behold, one of my first jobs was waitressing. If you know any truly shy people (or perhaps you’re shy yourself!), you will wonder how in the world a “shy” person ended up in such a social job. And I was good at it. Once I got the hang of writing down orders in such a way as to please the cooks, I thrived. Customers loved me and told me so and my tips were nearly always higher than those of the other waitresses (I’m not saying that to boast, just to make a point). I came home exhausted and needing some serious quiet time to recharge but I truly enjoyed chatting with my customers, new and regular.
My next career was with a company that required a lot of personal skills. I learned a lot with that company about marketing and sales, leading a team, training new people, educating a wide variety of people, and public speaking. Once again, I did very well with the social aspects of that career. Next, I started my own company. Sales again. Strangely enough, I don’t get called “shy” anymore. I am called bold, opinionated, well-spoken, sociable, outgoing, and have even been accused of talking too much! Quite the opposite of “shy.”
Some would say that I overcame my shyness. While it’s true that I have learned certain skills about communicating with people over the years, I will stand by the fact that I was never shy to begin with. I have always had strong opinions and would be bold with them if I chose to voice them and was given the chance.
I’m reminded of “Uh huh” in The Little Rascals. There is a part near the end where he talks about his extensive vocabulary and grasp of grammar and how it’s always been there. He says he “simply chose not to employ them.”
My sons are both regularly labeled shy by other people. I am always quick to correct by saying that my boys are not shy. In fact, they are quite the opposite, if they choose to be and once they are given the chance.