My life-long shyness has never been fun. I used to dread going to high school dances and ended up standing there like a dork watching the popular kids dance. I could never understand where my lack of confidence came from. It was a secret mystery that must have manifested from a past life.
My childhood was remarkably normal. I was never abused or traumatized. My dad could be pessimistic at times, but was always the life of the party and very funny. For a long time, he had the idea, like many dads did in the 50’s and 60’s, that his little girl would eventually get married and be taken care of. He didn’t push me to go to college or start a career. I pushed myself out of necessity. My mother was creative but more subdued and was always supportive of what I wanted to do.
I was able to overcome my life-long shyness to some degree because I got involved in my school’s Drama Club. In high school and college, I immersed myself in the theater department performing as an actress in plays. For three years I worked as an actress at Knott’s Berry Farm doing melodramas and then moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. I won several awards for outstanding performances, starred in two movies and did some TV before making a name for myself doing voice-overs.
Overcoming life-long shyness in real life
When I was acting I didn’t feel shy because I was playing a character other than myself. However, in “real life” one on one situations, I still sometimes feel like a wallflower. To this day, I dread promoting myself to look for the next gig, hate picking up the phone to call a client and am lousy at telling people I’m in a relationship with how I really feel. Instead, I freeze up or procrastinate to avoid doing it.
People can’t tell I’ve suffered from life-long shyness when they see me in public. In fact, I’ve been called a social butterfly. For years I networked at networking events and Chamber mixers and was even a Chamber Ambassador chair. I’ve always enjoyed being part of a group that forces me to go out and socialize, in either a business or social situation, because I’m a people person.
When I reinvented myself for the umpteenth time as a blogger, I found that I was starting to become isolated. It’s easy to spend all day staring at a computer screen. Then, I found communities online that hold conferences. Attending them physically removes me from my office chair and transports me to places where I can collaborate with others. It’s exhilarating being around like-minded people who are willing to help each other succeed.
I still struggle with comparing myself with others.
Other bloggers have massive engagement on their websites with lots of comments, shares and page views. It’s hard not to go “high school” and think of them as the “popular kids.” Others are so expressive in their writing style it makes me feel unworthy. But that’s kind of dumb because we all know that comparing ourselves to others is silly. Everyone is unique with their own special gifts to offer. Some may be loud and “highly visible,” while others are quiet and more subtle, but both can be successful if they want to be.
I’m scheduled to attend a conference soon and am excited about who I’ll meet and connect with. They will fill my middle-aged brain with inspiration and wonderful new ideas. If my life-long shyness kicks in, I’ll ignore it and won’t stand there like the dorky wallflower from my high school past. Women over 50, at least the ones I choose to know, are supportive of each other and not competitive. We’ve been around too long and have had too many life experiences to let shyness get in the way.
Life-long shyness may be painful but not worth letting it get the best of us. Staying connected is important at any age but particularly after 50. It’s one of the keys to longevity and happiness and helps us be better at what we do.
Have you experienced life-long shyness? Does it stop you from doing things you love? Please leave a comment below.