I am a shy person, genuinely. This often surprises people, because in social settings conversation comes easily to me. I don’t act like an introvert in social settings, so I can’t be one, surely? What people don’t see are the hours and sometimes days of dread I feel leading up to any kind of social engagement, and then the hours of agonizing that take place afterwards.
For me, social skills were hard won. I attribute a lot of it to having worked in food service for years, where various bosses hounded me day in and day out to find ways to make conversation with total strangers, or else. I also had to learn to get along with coworkers, where the two choices were to find something to talk about or stand around in awkward silence for 6 hours every day. So I learned, I observed, and though I am not a naturally social person, I can pretend to be one so convincingly that even I believe it, for a while at least.
One area where I still get the worst social anxiety is in my appearance. I don’t know why, because I have so many positive examples to draw from.
I’ve had pretty colorful hair in the past, my favorite was lime green. It was fantastic. What I did not expect was how many little old ladies would go out of their way to tell me they thought it looked great. That always made my day.
I could only keep up lime green hair for so long before it started to disintegrate and I decided to shave my head. (Which I know sounds scary, but I genuinely think everyone should do it at least once, it’s the best feeling in the world. I am not constantly tempted to shave it all off again.) My little sister gave me a hard time about it, if anyone else thought it was a bad idea they kept it to myself. Some of my coworkers marveled at the roundness of my head, which is near the top of the list of weirdest compliments I’ve ever gotten. One day, newly shorn, I was out at my favorite thrift store and a young girl came up to me to say she thought my hair was cool. What stood out to me was that she had a pretty bad speech impediment and seemed very shy. I don’t know how much courage it took for her to approach a total stranger, but the fact that she did carried a lot of weight with me. I told her she had an awesome shirt and I for one left feeling a lot more optimistic.
I don’t do what I do because I like attention. I just like what I like. But more often than not, I’ll put down an outfit I love and choose something bland because I just don’t want to feel other people’s eyes on me. This is becoming a big issue for me once again on account of the whole pregnancy thing. All of a sudden, I don’t exactly recognize what I see in the mirror and my wardrobe is entirely made up of stretchy fabric. Who knows what I’ll look like at the end of all this?
I just try to remind myself that one the whole, people aren’t going to be as rude as I can be to myself. Friends have told me they wished they had my confidence. I want to tell them that I’m not a confident person, I just sometimes dress up as one. I’m creeping up on thirty, I’ve been faking it in the hopes of making it for a long time, kinda thought I’d be there by now. Oh well. I’m going to go dress up like someone who knows what they’re doing.