Nobody believes that I am shy. In fact, when I tell folks that I am shy, they tend to tell me that they think I am full of shit. This bothers me, so I am going to explain a few things, in far too much detail.
Admittedly, these days they have no reason to believe me—except for the fact that I tell them, and that it’s the truth. I’m shy. I have, over the past decade +, managed to overcome socially crippling levels of self-doubt and low self-esteem and to mask my shyness in more social behaviors, such as actually getting out of the house, introducing myself to people, and then talking to them afterward. I have managed to tame and control the sarcasm and snark that seem to be part of my genetic code in such a way that they are no longer hurtful defense mechanisms, but are instead tools for bringing more laughter into the world.
All of these things felt virtually impossible when I was younger. Terrifying, even. I was an extraordinarily lonely child, a fact I tried to hide under a too-tough and too-cool exterior. I escaped a problematic and troublesome childhood through books. I read more books in a week than some children read in a year. Books saved me from having to talk to people even as they refined my understanding of language and how to listen to people. They were part of my armor, yet another way to say, “Stay Away.”
At some point I began to look up from my books and realize that I wasn’t in high school anymore, that I wasn’t a child anymore, and that the conscious and unconscious cruelty of youth was not nearly as dangerous to me as it once was. And when I did that, I realized that there were people in the world I wanted to meet, and know, and hold close to me as friends, or as lovers, or ultimately as members of my chosen family.
But if I was going to find them, I was going to have to change.
It took years. Years to learn how to shed the armor. Years to learn how to break down the walls and fortifications I had put up (with good reason, by the way). Years to realize that my self-esteem was growing as I became the person I wanted to be. I was, after all, not always the funny, kind, loving, dead sexy Whiskeypants who writes this blog today. I did not always have the same amount of integrity that I do now. I was not always as considerate as I am now (when I’m considerate, anyway). Everything I am is part of a conscious effort to improve myself. Of course, none of it was easy. And of course, I’m far from finished.
However, I never shed the shyness, not really. It’s always there, behind my handshake when I meet somebody new, behind my requests to get to know somebody better, behind every flirtation. It’s there in the books I never leave home without, to this day. Every time I leave my house, there’s a moment when I know that some part of me really just wants to stay, because every time I put myself out there it’s a risk, and I have never really gotten over my fear of that risk. I just bulldoze over it, because my will is stronger.
In short, I am a great example of fake it ’til you make it.
Gentle reader, when somebody who appears outgoing and friendly tells you he or she is shy, don’t call bullshit on them right away. You don’t know the path that person has taken to get to that moment, and you don’t know what it took for him or her to get out of the house that day, and place themselves among people, and take the social risks that so many people in the world take without a second thought.