Shyness is nice, and
Shyness can stop you
From doing all the things in life
You‘d like to.
“Ask”, credited to Morrissey and Johnny Marr.
It probably puts me out of step quoting one Steven Patrick Morrissey, once adored by indie fans as frontman of The Smiths, nowadays controversial for his pronouncements on race and extreme (to many) views on animal welfare. Still, I think these lines will speak to anyone identifying as shy.
I’ve been thinking about shyness and its effects after reading an article (Shyness didn’t happen overnight. It was a process of feeling exposed) in yesterday’s Sunday papers about how we can be made shy through our experiences, particularly those in childhood. Shyness is not, in fact, all that ‘nice’; it can tie you in knots of anxiety and lead to self-sabotage. So I have been thinking as well about how pushing my own boundaries recently, particularly through writing, have helped me become a little less socially reticent.
My mother will insist that shyness is inherited. I am not sure I agree, though the behaviour learnt from parents can presumably be an influence. I did not suffer a life-changing childhood trauma comparable with that experienced by the article’s author, writer Hayley Webster, but certain childhood events certainly made a difference. I also wouldn’t say I have let shyness stop me from doing all the things in life I wanted to – moving away from home to study, living abroad, a job that requires a good level of communication skills, forming relationships – but it has made a difference in ways that are hard to calculate. I don’t want to dwell on the ‘might have been’; I’ve been lucky in so many ways.
Instead, like the Webster, I want to focus on change, on not letting shyness hold me back. Like her, I also have a daughter and therefore an obligation to be a better role model when it comes to inhibition and self-criticism. I consider, too, how pushing gently outside my comfort zone in the past couple of years has helped. Sometimes it’s been a classic case of ‘faking it ‘til you’re making it’, but slowly, dare I hope, I have gained strength.
First there was the writers’ course. Other writers, and all bloggers, will know how exposing it is to share one’s writer. Particularly when offering it specifically for the purposes of criticism. However, those who’ve been on writing courses will also appreciate how supportive these are, in general. Yes, I suspect some of us were sometimes a little ‘too kind’ at times, careful always to balance “constructive” with positive, but this helped us all take some baby steps forward.
Then ‘daring’ to self-publish work. True, this has been to a – ahem – modest readership. But it needs a degree of self-worth (or, arguably, blind bloody arrogance) to do it. Once you get on, it’s a difficult carousel to step off. With all the millions of books on sale every day on Amazon alone, success may be a giant long-shot, but I think the experience has toughened me up (okay, until a stinker review comes along). And on the practical side, I’ve learnt a lot; that helps the confidence levels, too.
Now blogging. I wasn’t sure what I wanted at the start. Probably I should have put more initial thought in, been savvier and set up a very different type of site. One focused on selling books, created a boudoir draped in red velvet and black lace. Instead it’s taken a different turn, blogging on writing and the writing process, on the challenges of writing with a job and kids, etc., on matters related to the female experience, the human one – a mixed bag. And again, to a modest audience. But I am enjoying it. Enjoying most of all dipping into the communities of folk – writing on writing, writing on lifestyles, mental health, well-being, sharing their thoughts and creativity – amazed at a lot of the talent out there… Sometimes on familiar, followed sites, sometimes a happy lucky-dip.
“Pick one thing,” Webster writes in her article, “…as long as you know it’s something that isn’t likely to hurt you or put you at risk, it’s a really good place to start.” Writing is an odd choice because it is generally very solitary. I really need to make the time to meet and share with other writers more, particularly in person. But I have made that start and, at the time of typing this, am up for a few more spins on the carousel. Maybe it won’t throw me off.
Hayley Webster, Shyness didn’t happen overnight. It was a process of feeling exposed, in The Observer,
retrieved 17 June 2018.
Photo credit LuidmilaKot / 193 images, Pixabay