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!).