My Journey (and Battle) through Shyness and Social Anxiety
Shyness is the tendency to feel awkward, worried or tense during social encounters, especially with unfamiliar people. Severely shy people may have physical symptoms like blushing, sweating, a pounding heart or upset stomach; negative feelings about themselves; worries about how others view them; and a tendency to withdraw from social interactions.
Most people feel shy at least occasionally. Some people’s shyness is so intense, however, that it can keep them from interacting with others even when they want or need to— leading to problems in relationships and at work.
Adapted from the Encyclopedia of Psychology
And so it began…
The kids in elementary school thought I couldn’t even talk, I remember. They literally thought I could not utter a sound, y’all. Assuming I was some deaf spectacle (completely indicative of how much I did not open my mouth), I remember they’d gather around to try to get me to say things and finally one would conclude “She can’t talk!”
(and there was always one kid who–though ignored would tell everyone “Yes, she can talk!”).
This only happened often enough for me to remember because we transferred schools more than the average kid. So we’d go through this all over again; “CAN she talk?!”—but that’s another story for another day, I suppose.
A “battle” with shyness, Shani? Really?
Yes, shyness is a battle. At least it has been for me. I have struggled soo much through this, but thank God He gives us the grace, resources and the strength we need to overcome.
This is not at all something I have completely overcome, but I HAVE come a long way if you can believe that. I have always been shy. I am not only an introvert (shyness and introversion are not the same thing), but I am shy and I struggle a bit with social anxiety—always have. I held on to my mom’s skirt every Sunday after church so that I can hide from greeting people (and she let me smh). I’m sure you can imagine me being 6 feet tall today, that I got way too big for that pretty fast.
A form of pride.
Shyness I learned some years ago stems from not only fear, but pride as well—yes, pride. I couldn’t wrap my mind around that at first when I heard it. Like “Im not prideful! I’m the most humble person that I know!”
How can I be prideful when Im “not”?
You can be so focused inward—SO focused on who you are (and who you aren’t), the words you say (and don’t say), your own thoughts, your own inabilities and faults that you become trapped in this mindset of caring entirely too much of what everyone else thinks about you. That’s when you become afraid. You become so afraid of literally almost any and every possible thing that could be said or thought about you that you just choose to not say anything at all.
I remember being so insecure that I couldn’t even sit by myself (alone) and pray out loud because I hated the sound of my own voice…
I would pray in silence even when I was by myself. “God knows my heart and He can hear my thoughts”, was how I justified that. I would completely freeze up and not be able to even make a sound when it came time to pray with other people. In our small groups in college and whenever it called for praying with others, I learned to just keep my mouth closed. Now, while maybe still a bit awkward and I don’t readily volunteer (baby steps), I can pray out loud with other people. I am not where I need to be yet, but I have come a long way.
It has helped me to have finally come to the realization that “Shani, nobody freaking cares”. Learning to accept myself and appreciate every single things about me is something so invaluable in this journey.
Power in our weakness…
I just believe God has the power to change any one and anything. That may not be a whole lot to most, and I may even still stumble over my words in other situations, but to be able to pray with other people is a little victory. To be able to start a conversation without obsessing about everything to do with it is huge to me and only God did that. This isn’t a post to share about how wonderful or great I am, but how powerful and intentional God is and how He can meet us where we are.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. -2 Corinthians 12:9
We have a ways to go still, but I’m so grateful for the victories so far. <3