Monday 27 September 2010

Shy low

One of the first words I remember being used to describe as is shy. 'Little Rin is shy,'  is something I heard a lot of as I hid in my mum's skirt. Shy. It's a word that's haunted me for the rest of life. I'm a shy person and, quite frankly, I hate it.

On my first day of kindergarten, I threw up in a garbage bin. I repeated this morning ritual for many days and even years afterwards. Being with a group of people I don't know well throws me into panic. While growing up, having to meet old family friends or relatives I didn't see very often made my stomach sink.

I vividly remembering thinking as a child that when I grew up I wouldn't be shy anymore. While I'm less shy than when I was five, shyness is something that still plagues me.

Events over the weekend that just passed made me think about my shyness and how it affects my life, how it affects my kids and how or if I can change it. Firstly, I met up with a bunch of bloggers for churros and coffee. This is something I would never normally even contemplate. Meeting a bunch of strangers. A group of strangers. Having to sit down and talk to them. Eeek. I decided to put myself out there and go. I must admit I nearly backed out a number of times, I wasn't feeling 100% so nearly used that as an excuse. Skip said to me "Go, you may just have fun." So go I did. Guess what? I didn't completely flake out or say anything incredibly stupid. The other women were lovely and I did, indeed, have fun. I was proud  that I put myself out there.

On Sunday, I took the girls to the park across from our house. Being a lovely sunny Sunday, there were some birthday parties going on. One of them was for a child the girls often play with in the park, and the guests were a whole bunch of other kids they play with. Almost every day. I could see Lil-lil watching and wondering why they were all having a party without her. It killed me as I knew the answer. The reason was me. I often talk to the other mums and dads one-on-one but they've formed quite a tight knit little group and, me being me, can't make myself part of their group. They probably think I'm being snob. Think that I don't like them. Think I'm being aloof. In reality, I'm way too shy to talk or chat as part of their group. It's like the wiring in my brain short circuits and the words can't physically come out.

My girls are both very outgoing, shyness is something they don't often experience, so it kills me that I'm holding them back. When we're out they will often greet and chat away to strangers, inside I'm dying as I find it so, so difficult to do what they can do with ease. They often force me to talk to strangers, but stomach will tie in knots, I'll sweat bullets and I'll talk rubbish.

At school, I had a small group of good friends. I remember at a school excursion in Year 10 a fairly popular boy trying to talk to me and me clamming up. He said: "Why do you hate me so much?". Of course, I didn't hate him, I just couldn't talk. Or say anything that was particularly witty, nice or clever. Sure I could think of a million great things to say, but none of these could actually be spat out of my mouth. I had completely shut down.

When I studied journalism, we had a class of about 25 people. I spent most of the time in silence. I never really contributed or was part of the group. I had a couple of friends, but my shyness crippled me so I couldn't speak up or join in. I worked hard and I did well, but I think I was still known as the aloof one.

My career has definitely not progressed probably as far as it could have because of my shyness. I struggled to speak up when I had good ideas. At my first job as a journalist, a workmate and I were put up for consideration for a good position. The publisher said to: "There's no way you could do the job properly, you're too quiet." I was furious. I worked hard and I was good at what I did. A few months later I ended up getting the position due to a string of strange events. I did a fantastic job and the client who I was putting the magazine together for told the publisher how happy he was that I got the job.

Other stories have not ended so well. When I worked on big titles with a lot of staff, I tended to blend into the background. I wasn't the charismatic person who was pushing or selling myself. When I worked on small teams and I had the time to get to know people and come out of my shell, things worked out much better. Still I think my career would be quite different if I wasn't shy.

When I got into my 20s, alcohol became a way to get over my shy. Dutch courage. The problem is as a 34-year-old mum, alcohol is not a good way to get past shyness. I've had a couple of unfortunate incidents recently when I've been uncomfortable in a situation and drank as way of relaxing myself. Of course, I drank too much and embarrassed myself and those around me, which is really hard to admit and write about. Which I'm so ashamed of. It's why I really try and watch what I drink these days. Make sure I'm not drinking to squash the shyness.

Shyness is a weird thing. As I said, it can cripple me and affect me every day of my life, but I'm sure there are people close to me who wouldn't think of me as shy. When I know people and I'm comfortable, I can be a chatterbox, I can be out there, I can be loud. It can take a lot to shut me up.

I wish I could smash open the shell that forms around me. Let the real Corinne out. Be relaxed and calm. Be witty and charming. Be the me that goes on in my head. Let other people in.

I hope, one day, I can.

Image by Martin Sach


  1. You are perfect just the way you

  2. What a lovely post, Corinne, and I very much enjoyed meeting you.

    You know...I definitely noticed you were more reserved, but I didn't think of you as shy. In any case, just as Brenda says - you're perfect the way you are! The world is made up of all different types of personalities for a reason: we balance each other out. Imagine if we were all boisterous or all quiet? Nightmare!

    As for holding your daughters back...I don't think you have to worry about that. At school they'll form their own relationships regardless of the friendships you do or don't hold with their friend's parents. You really only need 1 or 2 really good friends in your life anyway. It's the quantity of the friendship that counts.

    Great post!

  3. Oh lady lady! What a post! Thank YOU for sharing.

    You know, one of the great things about blogging is being able to get down so many things, make new friends all behind the safety of a screen, in the safety of our homes. I tell you, my blogging friends are a community that I am more into than some of my own "real life" friends. It's instant. It's time effective. AND it's good fun. Let's not even mention the amount of money we have saved in therapy too! I think anyone would agree with this - loud and 'out there' like me, or more quiet like you. As Jodie said, the world needs all kinds to balance us all out.

    I think you are being too hard on yourself. Your shyness isn't holding you back, or your girls. Your shyness IS you, part of you, part of why your husband fell in love with you, part of why your girls and friends and family love you JUST the way you are. Try and embrace it. Sure, if you really feel like it's holding yourself back, then try little things to push yourself, but don't just put a big fat label like shy on yourself in ALL areas cause I am almost certain it's just not true. Promise.

    I think that anyone that comes on here daily (which there are MANY) do so BECAUSE you are witty. And engaging. And funny. Not in your head, and sure it's just online, but it's still real. You are.

    So. That's my 5 cents worth. I do tend to go on a little you may know. Thanks for sharing. It's a relief to get it all out sometimes is it not? I think you are FABULOUS. And I am clearly an influential blogger with over 100 followers AND business cards to come. So there.

  4. I am I shy person too. All the things you wrote touched me in a personal way. I relate completely. My heart is hurting as I see my big son being just like me. He would like me to make his new friendships...My little one make friends with walls. He played with german kids this summer not knowing a word of german...I cannot help feeling a bit jealous. Just like my sister made me feel as a child. They don't feel bad about talking to people they don't know. They don't feel stupid or that they say stupid things. How they do? I don't know?

  5. OH Corinne.. i hear you... i have had issues with shyness for a long time now... that contributed to a big part of my identity crisis and self esteem.. i am trying to overcome it... and i have also understood that too much of out going does not work in my way either... i am still learning and i hope that you are able to achieve what you are aiming at.. I am sure blogging has become a great platform for me to express and it seems it is the same for you too.. beautiful write up.. All the best.. xoxoxo

  6. Corinne, good on you for writing such an honest, heartfelt post. I am not a shy person, but can be in some situations,on the other hand my Cowboy sounds a LOT like you, I know his shyness has been mistaken for arrogance which couldn't be further from the truth. Sometimes I have felt frustrated by his shy-ness but the majority of the time I think it is beautiful, because it is how he is and what endeared me to him.
    I am coming to Syd (99% sure) at the end of next month, I would love to meet you, and if the idea of this scares you don't, because it would do the same to me!I think I know the real you from your wonderful blog and emails already meeting you in person, shy or otherwise would be an excellent bonus. (i vomit before job interviews and have panic attacks in meetings when I used to work at the SMH) xx

  7. Brenda summed it all up nicely with her comment...Thanks for sharing this. It's nice to know I haven't been the only one to use alcohol as a way to find a comfort level witht he same disastrous results.
    The people who matter most love you just the way you are.
    Everyone else can go scratch.
    Of course I need to remind myself of this much much more often.
    Much love from your US friend who thinks you are tops!

  8. I say embrace the shyness! I'm not saying never leave your house again or anything like that but you should definitely not feel bad about being shy. It's ok just being you. Shy or not.
    And kudos to you for getting out of your comfort zone and doing the blogger meet up.
    Baby steps. :)

  9. Shyness is our way of protecting ourselves from rejection.

    The day you lose your fear of rejection you'll find it easier to face the crowds.

    As someone who has cancelled at the last minute more than once I feel your fear.

  10. proud of you lady! beautiful and eloquent and the first step in overcoming something that does not need to be part of your life!!! congrats my love...youre moving forward! xxx

  11. As a fellow shy person, I think that despite it's negatives (and I frequently curse myself for not being more outgoing!), being shy is sometimes necessary. I actually find my reserved nature is quite useful in my job, bizarrely enough!
    As BabyMac said, though, I don't believe your shyness is holding anyone back. It is part of you. And many people accept that and love you regardless.

  12. I posted a comment the other day, but I keep forgetting to confirm my post and it never makes it on here! Well I am inspired enough to try and rewrite it.
    Ahh my lovely friend, perception is a funny thing. In our growing up together I was always in awe of your confindence and poise in situations in which I was truely uncomfortable.
    You have been to date one of the biggest influences on my life and I constantly flash back to our times together. I have in turn been impressed by you, surprised, in awe of and truely astounded by the way in which you have dealt with situations that life has thrown at you.
    My life has been better through having known you and you will have far reaching effects into the way I live my life and deal with what it throws at me. I am a better person through having known you and your advice and reassuring words of comfort when I have needed it are a gift.
    Quite impressive if you ask me for a shy person.
    Lots of love xxxxxxxxxx

  13. My husband is incredibly shy. So much so, that he kind of comes off as rude. That's what I thought when I first met him. And although I am not the polar opposite, I have had to overcompensate I guess whenever we are at a social outing.

    I end up looking like the lunatic who cannot. shut. the. fuck. up and he's the cool one standing over the corner nursing a beer. Wanna have us round???

    Hope to meet you at the ABC where we will ALL be having a few bevvies to loosen our tongues. x Bern

  14. I just saw this post Corinne. Bless you, I wouldn't have picked you were shy!! You were funny and sweet and easy to talk to and very lovely, and I'm so glad I got the chance to meet you. I can't wait to see you again.

    And, you are perfect, just the way the are xoxox

  15. I used to be quite shy as a child and well into my teens. I slowly conquered my shyness during my early 20's. I guess I learnt how being shy can impact your life in many ways, as you described. That said, I find people who are quieter and more reserved much more appealing than those who are over the top & in your face!

  16. A beautiful post Corinne. I think we all have moments in our lives where the shyness just creeps in and takes over our true selves. I think being quiet and a good listener is a good quality in a person.

  17. Deep down I am quite shy. I've always been able to 'fake it, til I make it' though. I have loads of trouble meeting new people and I freak out about saying the wrong thing, or making an idiot of myself. I STILL have panic attacks before every prekinder class and every playgroup.

    However, on the flip side of things, I'm great at public speaking. I'm a mess of contradictions.

  18. You know, I have a feeling that you don't come across to others as being nearly as shy or aloof as you imagine. I think we all imagine the worst. I would take to heart the comments of those above who have met you and their genuine responses.

    I would also imagine most of us are plagued by some degree of shyness or insecurity when we meet new people. I know I am. I don't like large gatherings, at all! I'm not a good mixer and I'm a failure at small talk. I'm much more comfortable with writing or one-on-one interactions than anything else. I don't think we're such a minority.

  19. you know, i think there are different forms of shyness. people would never say about me that i am shy, but i have had very similar experiences at playgrounds or with (cancelled) meetups of all kinds. my husband and his kids are the kind of shy that people can find snobby or rude. I am more the kind that talks too much, too fast. to avoid questions. thanks for sharing, also, so openly, your experience with alcohol which many probably can relate to. thanks for sharing. :)

  20. Hi Corrinne, I've just discovered your blog through PPMJ's and can I say... I'm so glad I did!

    As I read through your post I was thinking this girl has written about me...this is my life. I know exactly...and I mean EXACTLY how you feel. A lot of people don't see or look for the real me - they can't see past what they think is an aloof or snobby exterior. I've just turned 40 and still wondering how I can break through my shell....still trying & one day I'll get there (i hope!).

    I look at my own children and think about how my behaviour (ie shyness) has held them back in some social situations too...ugh the mother guilt of it all!

    I absolutely loved this post. Thank you so much for writing it and sharing your story. I'm looking forward to adding you to my reading list.

    Alison : )


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