The Worst Possible Combination of Shy and Introverted

My own selfish ego aside, I genuinely look forward to her posts which are insightful and funny, and I will be buying her book when it comes out this fall. Clearly, she knows a thing or two about networking and how to win friends and influence people, because I think she’s great, and I don’t even know her. Of course, now she may think I’m a weird, internet stalker, but my favorite way to find out about blogs is recommendations from other bloggers, so go to her site and like her too. Now!

Carrie posted recently about a subject that I think is dear to the hearts of many writers regardless of their level of experience or number of WordPress followers. Social Networking and Introversion.

I have had this on my list as a potential blog post for a while, and with my goal to out my blog and myself to the public this week, today is as good a day as any to address it.

I would describe myself as the worst possible combination of shy and introverted. Shit-troverted in my mind, because, in my life, it has been debilitating to be both.

What is the difference between being shy and being introverted?

Quite a bit really, but they tend to be viewed as the same thing and both labels carry negative connotations in a world where extraversion seems widely preferred. I’m not going to get into all of the differences because I don’t have time and you will probably get bored reading it. The most concise comparison I found of the two is below:

“Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments.” Susan Cain

I believe shyness was both a learned behavior and one that I inherited from my father, who was described as withdrawn and sullen by many, even in his eulogy, which in theory should be the most flattering summation of one’s life. But, he never shed these labels, and it bothered me because he was funny, and decent, and troubled, with no outlet for those qualities, other than drinking a little too much. And, when he drank, everything he ever wanted to say came bubbling to the surface, but came out all wrong. I got that, and I’ve repeated that mistake more times than I care to recall. Writing is a much more productive way to express myself.

On to the funny part of the post. It can be both, relax.

Not a perm. Do I need to make any more jokes?

Tracing shyness back to its beginning in my life is pretty easy. It all comes back to this picture and this year in my life. I grew up in the country and attended one school up until 6th grade (it only went to 8th grade and then residents of this small town were forced to transfer to the “city” to finish high school. Thank you, Mom, for making us go earlier).  There were about 10 kids in my class which included multiple grades. I was blissfully unaware of myself, and this hair, and you have no idea how much it pains me to put this picture on the internet. Cheers to getting over yourself.

I received a rude awakening in the bigger school, and people made fun of me. A lot. And, I don’t blame them because I was an easy target walking around like this. I’m surprised they didn’t stone me. I retreated into my own head, and worked hard to make myself invisible to avoid scorn. I’m pretty sure I didn’t speak for most of 6th and 7th grade (most of the rest of my years there, really), and when I did, it came out wrong, and awkward, and sometimes I pissed people off. I worked hard in school, excelled in sports, and I had my groups of friends that evolved over the years as we continued to be mean and awful to each other.

Enough therapy. There are situations in my life that are extremely difficult and hilarious as a Shit-trovert–those are the point of this rambling post.

  1. Job Interviews: I am the worst interviewer in the world. I honestly can’t believe anyone has ever hired me. I stumble, I mumble, I can’t think of anything to say, people become uncomfortable with my discomfort, and if there is any kind of logic test, I will fail it because I’m in a fog until I leave the premises. I come across like a complete moron, every time. I still have nightmares about botched interviews (at least 20 that I can count off the top of my head), and I have a physical reaction every time I face one. Other introverts probably get this, and that is why I once had a successful career. That and email. I’m better on paper.
  2. Public Speaking: Fear of public speaking trumps my fear of death. Without exception. I sweat profusely, I blush, my hands pour sweat and shake. It is not within my control and I avoid holding notecards because the shaking is visible.
  3. First Dates: Nope. Thank you for loving me, dear husband, and saving me from any more of this torture.
  4. Hair Salons: Chit chat. Not my thing. If I can find a hair stylist who is content to not talk to me, I will stay with them for 12 years until they move away and force me go to someone else.
  5. Book clubs: I love books, I read them, I have opinions about them, but put me in a room full of women who have read the same book and want to talk about it, and I won’t say a word. I’m going to one tonight, and I’m going to try to join in, but it makes me anxious, and I don’t really want to.

The good news, is that shyness can be conquered with practice and repetition. I plan to continue putting myself in awkward situations until I get over myself. No one cares.

Introversion is a quality that I embrace. I think it makes me more observant, a better listener, more sensitive to people’s feelings and reactions (I’m still an asshole sometimes on this blog), and by default, a better writer than I might be if I processed things verbally. If you share this quality, I consider it a strength, even though I have listed it as my greatest weakness in interviews because in that moment, it is, and I try to be honest.

So high-five to introversion, and a big middle finger to shyness. Laugh it up about that hair though. It is fantastically bad, and a source of permanent insecurity for me.

Any other shy introverts out there? How do you feel about it?

18 thoughts on “The Worst Possible Combination of Shy and Introverted

  1. Every morning I spend about an hour going through my email and reading blog entries of those I follow. Imagine my surprise today to click on your entry and discover such kind words directed at me! As a fellow introvert, you may, like me, feel you are completely out of other peoples’ thoughts, so it was a genuine treat to see your support of my blog.

    To make things even more interesting, as I was working out this morning, I jotted down a blog idea (as I often do when I’m sweating), about how different I might be if exposed to the girly-girl culture as discussed in the book “Cinderella Ate My Daughter”, a book I discovered through your blog. And at the bottom of my scribbling, I reminded myself to link to your blog in my post to give credit for where I first learned about this topic. Just this morning! Weird.

    So thank you so much for the mention. I truly enjoy your blog, and many times when I read Craig Wilson’s entries in USA Today, I think of your posts, which, like his, are often humorous takes on the absurdities in life. I think you could easily get them published for some $$ in mags (like you have the time, I’m sure…)

    Oh, by the way, I desperately want to sign up for a massage at my salon, but have been reluctant because I worry about the “chit chat” I might have to make :)

    • Well, I think you are the bomb, and it is a deserved nod; not that you’ll be getting a great number of hits (18 followers and hoping for more :)) from my blog, but all press is good press! Oh, the massage dilemma. Well worth the awkwardness, but an added uncomfortable element of nakedness–I can’t believe that didn’t make the top 5 today! Thanks so much for your kind words and for taking the time to read my silly blog. Looking forward to your girly-girl post.

  2. I found your post in a rather roundabout fashion, but I really enjoyed it and found myself laughing and cringing in sympathy. The hair salon thing! That is one of my pet peeves. I HATE the chitchat. I found that the semi-disgruntled stylists at the chain salon near my house almost NEVER make chitchat, and I’m in and out in about 15 minutes. I was, I’ll admit it, overjoyed to find this out.

    Anyway, yes–shy AND introverted here, with a lot of extroverts in my life who don’t really get it. And sometimes the shy/introverted combination affects my life in weird and unexpected ways, like I’ll get into moods where even blogging feels like too much exposure. (Not a good state of mind for a writer…)

    Glad to find another kindred spirit. :)

    • Oh, thanks for chiming in! I’m glad you stopped by and commented. Even a comment can seem too much sometimes for us, so I understand where you are coming from on the exposure thing. Glad to hear from another kindred spirit :)

      • Oh and ditto on the being surrounded by extroverts thing. After a few hours around my extremely outgoing and loud family, I have to get the heck out of dodge. Luckily they know it’s nothing against them.

  3. And…once again, proof that we are the same person. I am naturally very shy and introverted as well. Always have been. I’ve slowly forced myself to get over some of those social fears by facing them head-on, but I’ve also accepted the fact that it’s 100% who I am. I don’t apologize or feel bad about it anymore.

    You’re lucky you were good at sports. If I didn’t have the good grades thing working for me I’m pretty sure I’d be living alone in a hole somewhere.

    Love the stoning comment. That made me chuckle.

    • That picture was especially for you, Carly! Your comment about blogging without shame stuck with me until I forced myself to finally post it.

      I envy your ability to not apologize for it–it seems I’m always saying sorry for being the way I am. Yuck.

      Thanks for joining in!

      • I’m glad you posted it! It’s freeing, right? (I mean after you get over that initial feeling of utter humiliation).

        I have yet to post my worst childhood picture. It’s so much worse than the one in this post. That’s probably the one thing (blogging-wise) I’m just not ready for. I’m gonna have to work up to that.

        I’ve always lacked confidence in myself. I make it a priority to be less sensitive though. I know that if I don’t make the effort, every little thing will wear on me. It’s kind of like riding a bike- once you get it, you get it, but sometimes you fall. Today is a prime example of a fall…a few days ago I thought to myself that I could tell I was starting to age (ever so slightly, but still). It was like I woke up Monday morning and had transitioned from the 18-26 demographic into the 27-65 group. Anyway, today a lady I just started working with told me that I looked old in a picture (followed by a “sorry…I’m just being honest.” Don’t even get me started on that type of “sorry.”). I’ve never been told that before and given her timing, I thought I might shrivel up and die. I came home, cleared my mind and now I’m over it. I really could’ve let that get to me.

      • It was very freeing. I don’t blame you for not wanting to put up the worst picture of yourself. I’m sure I could find some worse than this (like my oldest brother’s wedding pics and the rat’s nest) but I just don’t want to. The worst school pic is plenty.

        And, ok, what kind of person makes a comment like that to anyone, especially to someone as young as you? That screams jealous and insecure to me. Ughh. I’m offended for you if it helps at all.

        I’m hyper-sensitive as well though, and I’m always working to not be. So little of it is intended to be hurtful or has much to do with me anyway-it’s all about where the other person is coming from.

    • It’s not the best feeling in the world. I’m always happy to hear from other people in the same situation, so thanks for reading and commenting :)

  4. Boy can I relate! I am by nature a vivacious extrovert, but over the years have put my foot in it enough to become a quiet introvert. However, when I look back I see something totally different. I see an awkward, smart, depressed child trying to be something I’m not. Hmmm. It begs the question, How many extroverted introverts are there in this world?

    • Very interesting perspective. We waste so much time trying to be someone other than ourselves, and trying to conform to other people’s expectations. I’m wondering the same thing about extroverted introverts now.

  5. Wow. I am laughing because I can totally relate! I too am both introverted and shy and yes the shy part sucks. My son is an introvert but doesn’t care a whit what others think of him. I am envious of that.

    I too was mocked by kids because I was a chubby child and I totally withdrew into myself. I remember before this that I would always raise my hand in school to answer teacher questions. I was proud that I was smart, but that wasn’t as valued as being thin I guess. I have always felt less than, and that my every flaw was magnified. I’ve gotten better with that over the years. When I tell others I feel comfortable with how awkward I feel in social situations, they can’t believe it So I guess I’ve come a long way or I fake it pretty well

    I don’t understand people and I know they don’t understand me. It is easier to be alone. And, yes the idle chatter of people is unnecessary and exhausting. But we’ve got to live in this world. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only person in the world like this.

    • I wish I didn’t care what people thought.
      As I get older, I really do care less and less, and embrace the introversion.
      We do have to live in this world, and you are certainly not alone in this struggle. I appreciate you commenting here.

Okay, you talk now.

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