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'My Shyness' by Gordun Irlum
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I am 28 and recently discovered I was shy.  It may seem strange, but I

had never been aware of this fact.  I only found out I when I began to

suspect I might be, and asked friends if they agreed.  They told me I

wasn't simply shy, but that I was chronically shy.  All I had ever

been aware of was there where some things I disliked doing, and so I

simply tried to avoid doing them.  Things like:

    - ordering drinks in a bar or food in a restaurant

    - talking to people I didn't already know

    - leaving messages on answering machines

    - asking for assistance in shops

    - phoning people up

I never sat down and thought why I disliked and tried to avoid doing

these things.  Instead I just spent my time doing the things I


If it is true we learn the most when we make the biggest mistakes then

in the last six months I have learnt a lot.  My shyness and poor

communication skills recently got me into a lot of trouble.  I made a

very bad mistake.  I don't ever want to make a mistake like this

again.  It gave me the motivation to confront and I hope overcome my


Why I am shy

I looked back at my life to try and figure out why I am shy.  Three

different factors have contributed to my shyness:


    People that know me don't have any real problems understanding me,

    but many people have some difficulty when they first meet me.  I

    have a less than 50% chance of being understood when I attempt to

    order something in a restaurant. 

    I don't think there is any one cause for this, rather it is a 

    mixture of accent, diction, pronunciation, pitch, pace, and volume.

    Here is a conversation I had today with someone I don't know, but

    that lives in the same apartment complex as me while checking my


        Her:  Looks like I have got lots of

        mail today.

        Me: : I didn't get very much ...

        I guess that's good, no bills!

        Her: You didn't get what?

        Me: I didn't get any bills today.

        Her:  I didn't quite catch what you

        said ...  it is a little noisy in



         I just said, I didn't get any

        bills today! 

          I don't owe anybody any money!

        Her: Oh, yes ok.  

        This happens to me all the time. 
	It is embarrassing for a simple friendly comment to build up 
	like this. We both felt particularly embarrassed because what was 

	said wasn't even important.  My efforts to try and be friendly 
	failed badly.  I don't know, but I suspect next time she sees me 

	she will probably not attempt to make any small talk.  Nor
	will I, it is just too embarrassing.

	I used to go out of my way to avoid meeting or talking with

	unfamiliar people.  I always knew I didn't like talking to people

	I didn't already know well, but I had never stopped to think why,

	to think that perhaps my discomfort was the result of the

	difficulty people had understanding me.

        It was embarrassing for both them and me.  I subconsciously
	learnt it was more comfortable to interact with people in the 

	following manner:

        Her:  Looks like I have got lots of

        mail today!

        Me:  Yes, ok.



	This is sad.  I think people often think of me as cold or

	unfriendly, but I care about people, and I just wish this wasn't

	the impression I conveyed.


    Some people build themselves up by knocking other people down.  As

    a child people would make fun of my accent and the way I spoke.

    This made me dislike speaking, and want to speak to people as

    little as possible.  I retreated
          into my shell.  (Help, I'm a

    snail!  A snail!)  Whenever I tried to come out of my shell people

    would gain pleasure putting me down. 
          I withdrew into my own

    little world within which I was safe.

    Silly behavior

    I am a silly person.  Silly

        - practice things they are already good at

        - avoid doing things they are bad at

    I used to spend all my time practicing the things I was good at

    (physics and computing) and avoiding the things I was bad at

    (interacting with people).  I was able to do very well at the

    things I was good at, yet I would still spent all my time striving

    to do better.  This doesn't make any sense.  But I was a very very

    silly person.

    A common misunderstanding

	Some people think of shy people as rude, unfriendly, or as snobs.

	This is a very bad misunderstanding.  Most shy people care a lot about

	other people.  In my case it is because I am often so worried about

	saying something inappropriate, that might be misinterpreted, hurt

	somebody, or that I don't genuinely mean, that it takes me a long time

	to think precisely what I want to say and how to say it before

	beginning to speak.

	Taking time to think what to say is particularly a problem in group

	conversations because by the time I have figured out what I want to

	say, someone else has already started speaking, and the thought I had

	is no longer is appropriate.

	Overcoming my shyness

	Communication skills are very important.  My communication abilities

	will probably greatly affect both my own life and the lives of people

	around me.  It is worth spending time trying to understand them and

	get them right.


	I have taken an interesting in understanding how well other people

	understand me and what aspects of my speech they find difficult.

	Once I understand this I will see if I can improve the way I


	I would like to be able to make people feel less embarrassed when

	they don't understand me and more comfortable telling me to speak

	more clearly.  I don't know how to do this because the problems I

	have mainly occur with people I do not know.


	Schools are extremely important to the way children grow up.  It

	saddens me how badly messed up schools are.  Peoples lives are

	constantly getting destroyed.  Schools care very little about

	personal growth, or creating a rewarding experience.  For me it

	was 12 years of competitive study. 
	Those of us that succeeded got to go on, those that fail were 

	simply discarded.

	I think school, and society generally, would be a much nicer place

	if we were to include classes on subjects like compassion, caring,

	trust, altruism, and group cooperation.  

	I never want to put other people down. 
	My (very late) New Year's resolution has been to try and listen to 
	other people in the hope of giving them the support and encouragement 

	they need to be open.

	I especially want to try and find and listen to people that no one

	else might otherwise listening to.

	Silly behavior

	I have decided to spend less time practicing the things I am good

	at and more time practicing the things I am bad at and haven't

	done enough of.  I find it more productive to talk about my

	weaknesses and flaws rather than my strengths.

	I have found several wonderful people that I trust and who are

	willing to spend time listening to me.  I no longer feel ashamed

	to admit ignorance or ask other people for their advise or help.

	Things about shyness I have learnt

	I am not at all shy when I interact with people via email.  I am able

	to backspace, correct things, and take all the time I need to ensure I

	say what I genuinely mean.  People that know both on and offline get

	to see two different sides of me.  This is helpful because it gives

	them a better sense of who I really am.

	Part of the reason it is important to engage in small talk with people

	is to let them know that you are friendly, approachable, or interested

	in doing things.  There are other ways in which it is possible to do


		- I sometimes try and buy t-shirts, tickets, or other small gifts
		for friends.

		- At work I sometimes took the initiative in trying to organize
		parties or other fun events.

		- You can use email to let people know you are friendly.  (I once
		got upset because my manager told me to take the smileys out of an
		email message I was sending.).

		- One of the best things I did was one day simply buy a box of
		ice-creams and walk around knocking on doors of people I didn't
		know giving them out.  Not only was I armed with a good reason to
		introduce myself to people, but they also perceived me as being
		very friendly, and I had a starting point for a conversation.  Try
		it, it is very effective.

	It is often easier to practice overcoming your shyness with people

	whose opinions you don't care about.  Have a look at:

Every time someone sends me some junk mail I phone them up ask them

not to.  This has been a good opportunity for me to practice talking

with people I don't know on the phone.  Junk mail annoys me, so it has

also helped burn off some angst, and cut down on the amount of junk

mail we receive.  Since it didn't matter at all what the people at the

other end thought of me, I was far less conscious of what I said.

If you tell people you are shy they are likely to be sympathetic.
They are often prepared to go an extra yard, or seize the initiative

in conversation.

Don't be afraid of making mistakes.  Mistakes are one of the best ways

to learn.

Try not to worry what other people think of you.  Don't worry whether

other people like you.  Instead simply enjoy yourself.  Enjoy finding 

out about other people. is a sympathetic 

environment for shy people.  I found it interesting to read it for 

a while, but then I started to find it a little depressing.  

Stories exist of people overcoming shyness, but new people keep 

appearing all the time and retelling the same old stories.  

Many of the messages posted might be better headed which is a topic 

I can't offer you very much helpful advise on.

Writing and talking about my shyness and its causes was very helpful

to me in trying to understand and overcome it.  Also very helpful was

finding people I was comfortable talking with about it and that were

willing to listen (thanks dudes!)

Supposedly a gene had been identified that is characterstic to

shyness.  At a purely rational level -- we are who we are, and so it

shouldn't make any difference.  But knowing this gave me a sort of

wonderful warm happy feeling!  A kind of feel that being shy in some

sense wasn't my own fault.

Me today

Becoming aware of my shyness and having a strong reason to want to

change may have allowed me to overcome my shyness.  I don't know if 

I am still shy.  I probably won't know for some time.

I don't think of myself as shy, but I never really did.  (The reason

for this is probably because of a different aspect of my personality -

I have never felt any pressure to behave like other people).  My

shyness was simply a desire to avoid interacting with other people

that resulted from my finding it so difficult to do so.  Now it might

still be difficult, but I do have a strong desire to interacting with


I continue to have some difficulty in making small talk, but this

could just be a lack of experience in knowing what to say rather than

a fear of saying things.  People also still have difficulty understanding

me, but I no longer feel embarrassed.  I am actually seeking out 

opportunities to talk with people because I am interested in finding out 

if they understand me.  Once I have gathered enough data on this topic 

I will consider and attempt to change the way I communicate and see 

what effect this has on peoples responses.

     "...shyness is nice,


     shyness can stop you,


     all the thing you want to ...",