The Misunderstood Curse of Shyness

Photo by April Todd

From a very young age I've been shy. Up until I was about 18 I was absolutely petrified to ask for anything, to talk on the phone or to even speak to strangers if they addressed me. There were times, and still are times when acute shyness affects my life. Since going to university and moving out of my parents' house my shyness has lessened, but there is one negative effect that constantly haunts me, even to this day.

The other day, I saw this tweet that resonated with me so much that I wish I could have retweeted it more than once:

Now, I've never been diagnosed with anxiety and from what I've heard from people who do suffer, I'm extremely lucky to be able to do a lot of the things I can. But for me, a recurring consensus amongst people who don't really know me is similar to the above tweet: I'm stuck up or rude. 

It's an extremely odd experience to deal with and anyone who's ever been in a similar scenario will know how frustrating this can be. I think one of the main reasons I am shy is because I so badly don't want to make a bad impression, yet it always seems like that's exactly the kind of impression I make. 

Shyness is also selective. For example, I have a lot of body confidence, so doing an underwear shoot for example wouldn't bother me at all, but speaking to someone on the telephone just puts the fear of God into me. I think this might be why a lot of people find it strange that I'm shy, especially after reading my blog and seeing my fashion shots. 

I think the best way I can go on with this post is by telling a little story. Recently, I moved away from Brighton so went about searching for a new job in Kent. I eventually got an interview with a jewellery company (who I won't name) to work in their store as a sales assistant. This company had an extremely long interviewing process. At first I had two different interviews before having a trial shift. The first two interviews went really well, I felt. I find one on one scenarios less intimidating now, and the second interview took place in a Costa, so the environment was extremely relaxed. 

After getting through to the three hour trial shift, I did my very best to try and make a good first impression. I tried to listen to everything the girls were saying and take in exactly what I was meant to be doing. It was an extremely different working environment to any I had been in before so there was a lot to remember, so this was obviously a scenario where my shyness decided to show itself more. Anyone who knows me or has worked with me in the past knows that when first meeting me I'm rather quiet until I get to know me (at which point full crazy is released). So, at the end of the trial shift the manager sat me down and told me that I hadn't got the job. She said, 

"In your interview you seemed to be really interesting and exciting, but we didn't really see any personality today. We wanted to see a bit more. Also, the girls felt that you wouldn't really fit in as you only spoke about yourself". 

As you can imagine, this was kind of like being strapped to a set of weights and shoved into the ocean. I couldn't say anything back. I just sort of mumbled my way through a "thank you for having me" and left, passing by all the girls who were staring at me.

Looking back, I'm glad they didn't hire me. Anyone who thinks that they can judge somebody's entire persona within three hours is clearly not very open minded. But this isn't the first time it's happened to me. Over the years, there have been many scenarios where I've been called a "snob", "stuck up" or "think I'm better than everyone else" when in truth I'm just shy. I'm not being silent because I think I'm above anyone, I literally just don't know what to say! 

Anyone who suffers from shyness or anxiety will know that it's awful. There's nothing worse than being in a scenario where you feel extremely uncomfortable in the first place, let alone having people judge you because they think you're being rude. I also find that people will frequently ask you questions about you if you're shy, which I'll obviously reply to, but the introvert in me will completely blank on questions to ask them, aka another scenario in which I come across as being self-centred. 

I wasn't sure whether or not to write this post, but I'm really writing it for anyone who's ever felt like they've been misunderstood because of their shyness. You're really not alone! I'm also writing it for people who have known a shy person and maybe considered that they were stuck up. I've lost count of the number of times I've had this happen; on dates, at school, at jobs, so you could probably even see this as a bit of an educational post.  

One of my favourite quotes comes from To Kill A Mockingbird

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it." 

I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt. So the next time you see someone who seems a bit quite or uncomfortable, it may just be that they need a bit of time to settle. I turn into a right nutter when I'm finally content, so I'm living proof of it! 

Let me know in the comments if you've ever experienced this kind of judgement as a shy person, or if you know a person like this! I'd love to hear your stories.