I’ve always been shy. When I was a child, I was painfully shy. And painful it was. Like hate-seeking missiles, the bullies found me every time. I would hang back at times, sort of wanting to do something but really not wanting to call attention to myself.
I was in several choirs along the way. I always loved to sing. When I was singing, something happened.
When I became a teacher, I knew I had to do something. I would have to talk to the students and, gulp, their parents, without hesitation. So, I drew upon my drama experience. I assumed the role of a fourth grade teacher. It worked. Teaching was like singing. It took my full concentration so I forgot to be shy. I became able to chit chat with parents. I still had trouble in social situations, though. But I would draw upon my inner star. I have a wry, but often silly sense of humor, and I was able to make people laugh. I love telling stories, of course, so I was able to do so as well. I don’t mean I was being fake. I just had to use the technique to get me started. I was actually being myself as I was to my friends all along.
I had one particularly obtuse fellow teacher on one of my teaching teams. She was a former cheerleader, loud and attention seeking, and not particularly empathetic or sympathetic. Blond and blue eyed, busty and well dressed. But um, not very nice. I couldn’t stand her. Since we had to work together, I was pleasant and patient with her. I truly don’t think she ever realized how I really felt. We got along well enough. Once when we were having a meeting after school, I said something that made the other teachers laugh. She said loudly, “Oh, look. That’s great. Bea’s coming out of her shell.” Ugh! I remember thinking, What am I, a turtle?
I’ve known so many shy people who were wonderful once I got to know them. Many brilliant performers are shy in their personal lives. There’s no reason to pity shy people, or to underestimate them. For one thing, since we listen rather than talking all the time, we know many different things.
I have a great life, full of volunteer opportunities to help the homeless, a passion of mine, trips to the museums in my city, and other activities with friends who laugh at my jokes and never thought I had a shell in the first place. If you see someone hanging at the fringes of the conversation or hesitating, reach out and be patient. Just don’t call them a turtle.