Painfully Shy

For as long as I can remember, I have always been scared of people. One of my first memories is busting into tears when my mom asked me to go ask the cashier a question. I couldn’t do it! Talking to a person—any person—terrified me. I never grew out of this fear. Every time school started, whether I was starting a new school or returning to an old one, I would feel sick as I walked into class. For the longest time I never played sports or joined clubs because of this fear.

However, as I grew older, I grew more adapt at hiding my fear. My mother taught me to always have a list of questions ready to ask people so I wouldn’t feel trapped in those awkward pauses. I would hide in the bathroom and calm down before coming out with a confident smile on my face. And if things became too much, I could go hide in the corner, or better yet—go home.

In college I discovered I was an introvert which means I gain energy from being alone, but lose energy around people. Great! There are people like me! Until one day I asked my husband if he felt like throwing up every time he met someone new. He gave me the strangest look and said no. Wait, I thought everyone felt nervous when meeting new people (or needed a barf bag). There were actually people out there who didn’t feel this fear?

The more I asked this question, the more I realized that even most introverts are not shy, they simply cannot be around people for a long time since it drains their energy reserves. I, on the other hand, not only have my energy drained, I’m petrified when I’m around people.

A double whammy. Introvert and shy. And no matter what I do, both of these traits are built into my DNA. I cannot change either characteristic, they are part of my core being.

Because of that, I’m still shy. I shared a couple years ago when I attended my first American Christian Fiction Writers conference I took the elevator down, saw all the people, and took the elevator right back up to my room and hid for an hour. Even last week as I was driving to my book release party, I felt ill and wanted nothing more than to hide in the bathroom. Instead, I prayed and got out of my car. Admittedly, it took me about ten minutes before I felt comfortable walking around the room and greeting people.

I write this because there are others out there like me, although we have never met because we were most likely hiding in our hotel rooms or bathroom ;). I decided I would not let my shyness cripple my life. Every time I am afraid to meet someone or take a chance (like teaching a class), I consider what I would regret if I didn’t do it. My desire more often outweighs my fear. It’s like jumping off the high dive, you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it or you will convince yourself it’s not worth it, when it is. Instead, you jump.

So if you meet me at a conference, party, or even church and I have a green tint to my face, it’s not you, it’s just me fighting my shyness. Give me a moment and I’ll be ready to talk :). And if you are shy, take the plunge (and have your barf bag ready!).

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17 thoughts on “Painfully Shy”

  1. That’s funny, because I wouldn’t have noticed. I recall you came right up to me and picking up that we had both done the CSFF Tour. And it was my first time at a big conference, so palling around with you and John Otte helped me get through.

    So good job dealing with it! I have heard the term ambivert, and I think it fits me. Sometimes I need people and get energy from them, and sometimes I need my quiet time.

  2. I’m just like you, a lot of people think I’m not friendly, because when I first meet them I don’t say a lot. I have always been around family who have force to come out of my shell and I use to get angry with them. Now when I faced with meet new people or doing something new I rehearse questions in my mind or I will just remain quiet and observe until I feel comfortable to open up.

  3. Oh, boy. Me too. I’d rather spend the day with my dogs and cats than have to deal with people. When I was a kid, I forced myself to do public speaking because it terrified me. I remember lying in bed the night before the contest, which I always lost, and thinking ‘This won’t matter in five years.’ I was wrong though. It matters to me today in the best possible way – and it’s a long time since those days – because I taught myself, like you, how to deal with this terrible shyness. I still tell myself ‘It won’t matter next week’ or whatever. And my job requires me to deal with people all the time. And God helps. I learned to love people because of God. Even if I don’t always like having to deal with them! 🙂 Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Oh yes, I remember my first speech (sixth grade). I got up front, saw all the people, and busted up in tears. God has a sense of humor because my spiritual gift is teaching, which many times has required me to stand in front of people and talk 🙂

  4. Oh Morgan, I’m so sorry we never got the chance to meet in person while you were in Kansas. Thank you for sharing your heart in this. Being an extrovert, I had no idea what you went through. I admire you and your mom for learning how to plow through. You are my hero!

  5. I have to agree with Jason–I would never have suspected you were “shy” when I met you at Realm Makers. Cheerful, smiling, sweet, and energetic…but shy? That comes as a surprise!

    That said, I was the same way growing up. It took a long time for me to get over it–not that I ever really did–but I’m not nearly as shy as I used to be. Still an introvert, but like you I determined that missing out on certain opportunities was worse than having to face them :).

    1. I made that decision when I went to hear Timothy Zahn speak at a local woman’s luncheon. I really, really wanted to meet him, but I was so scared to go up front. I then realized if I didn’t step forward, I would regret missing that opportunity for the rest of my life. So I went and introduced myself. Every time I want to just slip out the back door, I remember that event and move forward instead.

      I think being a pastor’s wife and growing up with an extrovert mother who always encouraged me to get outside myself has helped me with my shyness. In many ways, I’ve learned how to cope with it so it doesn’t cripple me. However, once in a while I will have a panic attack while I’m with people and need to get away to recover.

      1. Timothy Zahn is at the sf/f con I go to every year here! He’s a super-nice guy :).

        And yeah, I can’t deal with really crowded places and sometimes my nerves get the best of me. I have a really extroverted husband (very odd, considering he’s an engineer, lol) and he encourages me a lot, too.

  6. I totally relate. I remember being a child and having to gather all my courage to go up to the cashier and pay for my purchase. It was so stressful. Years later, I still choose the self-checkout whenever I can. I’m not shy, but I can get easily overwhelmed by large groups of people. Great post!

  7. I know exactly how you feel. I chose you to critique my first chapter at the Realm Makers Conference. Hopefully, neither of us will throw up.
    🙂
    God’s Blessings.
    Rick

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