Apparently, I was broken as a child.
Everyone said so: my teachers, my friends’ parents and my own parents. I was broken and I needed to be fixed.
What was wrong with me, you ask?
I was SHY!
Ooh, horrors of horrors! Back in my day, being shy was a character flaw that called for immediate and dire action. It meant that you were doomed to a life of failure and pain.
Every single one of my report cards said the same thing:
“Ann learns quickly and does her work well, BUT SHE’S SHY!”
The grades I received and the things I accomplished didn’t matter. Shyness overshadowed it all.
It was easier for the teachers to get to know the outgoing kids. And, let’s face it, they looked more like winners than those of us who sat quietly in the corner. The loud kids exuded confidence and everyone figured they’d go on to great success. The shy ones were misfits and their futures were uncertain at best.
To be fair, I was really shy. I remember sitting in class knowing the answer to the teacher’s questions yet being too afraid to speak up. But, here’s the thing: I listened and I took in everything around me. Because I wasn’t busy talking, I noticed things that no one else noticed. I knew when my classmates were sad or upset. I knew each one of their quirks and personality traits. I could feel when a teacher was overwhelmed or frustrated. The things most kids ignored or were completely unaware of, I carried in my heart and mind.
I spent most of my life feeling ashamed of my shyness and feeling “less than” outgoing people. I never looked at the positives of being shy because back then no one thought there were any positives!
But, the fact of the matter is that shyness has served me well. I actually made friends easily because I listened to people (a rare trait). In my career, I was repeatedly offered promotions I didn’t even apply for. Those in charge saw that I was in tune with the workings of the business and not focused on my own aspirations. It was also my shyness and comfort with quiet that attracted my husband to me. And, it is my love of quietly studying people and hearing their stories that drew me to my love of writing.
Society is just beginning to appreciate introverts for who they are. And, I say it’s about time.
So, if you have kids who are shy, resist the urge to “fix” them. Know that shyness will bring so many benefits to their life. Teach them how to embrace the things they excel at and reassure them that they are not broken, they are perfect just the way God designed them.