My Certain Shyness.

People who have known me a while but don’t know me deeply are often surprised if not shocked when they find out that I don’t mind public speaking, or performing on stage  in most cases. They see the quiet, supposedly aloof guy who doesn’t like to engage people at parties, nor shove his business card in everyone’s face, and they assume, “he’s too shy to give a speech.”

At that point of course I am forced to remind people once again that shyness and introversion are not the same thing. That while the two often go together, they are  not synonymous anymore than a hamburger roll and a  hamburger are the same thing simply because burgers are often found on such rolls.

Shyness, in its various degrees of severity indicates a sort of social anxiety. A fear of being judged by others, or somehow threatened by them should one behave naturally. I suppose just as everyone has some degree of both introvert and extrovert in them, everyone to some degree under certain conditions is a little shy. It’s a matter of whether or not shyness is one’s default position that makes it an appropriate descriptor for any given person. I would say that shyness is not my true default position, despite how I may appear to some.

So when is this introvert actually shy? I have given this question much thought, to be honest. Sometimes the line is blurred between being uneasy about sharing or doing something in front of others, (shyness) and just really not giving enough of  a damn to waste my time on doing something with or to others. (introversion).

Perhaps to some degree I am a little shy about sexual topics. I have a rather open view on human sexuality as a whole, but outside of general things, (I am a heterosexual…I prefer brunettes…I find intelligence sexy…Butt man), I won’t get into a detailed discussion as to my turn-ons and what not in an open forum.

I discuss those things with partners of course, or once I have gained a certain level of trust from friends, but in most cases if it were a discussion in a group at a party somewhere, I would refrain from sharing much. For some that would just be privacy, and for others it would be shyness. It’s probably a little of both for me, because I don’t want those with whom I am not sexual to judge the quality of my friendship based on my sexual preferences. That is probably shyness at work to some degree.

Certain aspects of my appearance sometimes cause shyness. Some of my teeth are a bit crooked, and I have a small gap between two of my front teeth. All things I have thought about correcting when I have more money, but for now are a part of me. I don’t hide my face, but I do sometimes try to minimize the impact as it were. The same thing in regards to the fact that I have no defined musculature. I am in good shape by and large, but there is nothing there to look at, and I sometimes allow that to make me feel like less of a “real man”.

Every once in a while I am shy about the stigma some people place on being a writer full time. I am not ashamed to be one, but sometimes I wish the “what do you do” question would be banned from social gatherings so I could just meet new people without having to answer and explain that I am not some drunk luxuriating outside in front of a laptop all day. I’m not getting rich, but this shit is hard, you know?

The oddest one is perhaps entering someone’s home. I am a bit shy when I am in somebody’s house. Even friends. There are people nearby I have known for years now, and yet for the first ten minutes or so I am in their house, I feel off. The world seems somewhat colder and feel constrained from being myself. Not sure if I should sit on the same couch I have sat on every time I have been there the previous dozen times. I don’t know why. I just have a thing about being a guest. It fades quickly with friends. It can last a while if I am new to a house.

There may be a few more examples of my being shy, in that I fear being judged for what I am by nature. Yet there are far fewer such times now than there were when I was a child. Back then one could accurately label me as shy. But not today. Today I am mostly an introverted man with specific moments of shyness, just like anyone else.

I wonder if the moments that make me a little shy now will someday vanish as well. I think the chances aren’t good at this point, but I’m okay with that. After all, I am not shy about admitting I am shy every once in a while.

When are you shy? Would you call yourself a shy person, or just someone who at times feels shy?




  1. I am shy. Took me a long time not to be shy about saying that haha. I’d say it’s my default position. With certain friends, a lot of that fades away, but not all of it. Being an introvert as well can make me seem pretty reserved and quiet.

    When the shyness gives way and I let certain honest impressions slip through, people are often shocked. “It’s always the quiet ones!” I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard that, in reference to me. But of course it’s the fear of negative judgment that keeps most of those honest impressions under wraps most of the time. It hasn’t quite sunk into the emotional part of my brain that I get more negative judgment about simply being shy than I usually do when I step out of my comfort zone. Go figure lol.

  2. It took me a long time to realize that my introversion and my shyness / social anxiety were two separate things. I’m now much more accepting of my introvert tendencies and, in fact, embrace them. But I often feel my social anxiety holds me back.

    This anxiety is most in evidence at large gatherings. When I’m hanging around with 1 – 3 people and I mention my social anxiety, they invariably express surprise because I seem so friendly and outgoing. But when I go to a party where I won’t know many people, or to a networking event, I’m a mess. I sometimes have panic attacks that lead to me becoming so freaked out I have to leave abruptly.

    Then there’s public speaking, another nemesis of mine. If I agree to do something like a reading or a panel or a speech, I get so worked up about it… even if it’s months in the future. In the past, I’ve gotten so worked up during public speaking that I’ve almost passed out.

    I actually just joined a local branch of Toastmasters in the hopes of working on this. I have my first official speech this coming Tuesday. Fingers crossed!

    • I sometimes consider if I might not have some degree of social anxiety as well as shyness. I don’t generally go to pieces in socially situations, but there are several types I will avoid. And certain interactions will have me nervous and anxious for the whole day before hand. (Especially if it is a group of 100% strangers, like my writing group was a few weeks ago.)

  3. I think I gravitate toward shyness too, and this comes to being in crowds or with a bunch of people I don’t know. With all the visiting I do in NYC, you’d think I could break out of my shell with a fellow concertgoer or a fellow poet. But no. I pretty much keep to myself unless I’m approached first. If I feel I have something to say to a poet who’s reading at open mike night or to the musician who plays at the end of a show, I will. But my just generally starting out a conversation with someone is rare. I guess I don’t give enough credit to “Hey, how’s it going?” in real life, when it doesn’t really work online. Ha.

    I notice I tend to gravitate toward shy people, and then I guess I make it a challenge for myself to interact with him or her first. Challenges motivate me, oddly enough 🙂

  4. Tobi Drabczyk

    I am most definitively an Introvert but not shy. Ty, I have always admired your ability to speak in front of large groups and to be on stage. I am the exact opposite, with small intimate groups of people I am comfortable with I am not at all shy or at a loss for words. You would never however, call me the life of the party or see me be the first to approach a stranger. In fact, I will often be found hanging on the edges of even a group I am comfortable with. I am a listener and observer, one can learn so much about people this way. Introverts are truly misunderstood by most people, I love to go to events but on my own terms and when I’ve had enough I have to leave. Don’t misjudge my quietness for weakness though, it is my introspective nature that gives me my strength.

  5. I think that my comfort with such things is probably the outlier in the family, and most of us feel as you do about the talking and the larger groups. I of course can do it, and when it is important Mom can. Maybe Sis, in a business setting, but I am not sure. In any case, both types of course have their place.

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