I don’t think that shyness is as simple as just not saying a lot of things, but rather, I think that it’s a correlation of the fluctuation of one’s ability to say the things that they actually want to say. I know it’s confusing, but give it some time. Maybe shyness is more accurately associated with the process of somebody’s thoughts becoming disturbed by aspects of their environment. We all have thoughts, let’s just put that on the table right now that everybody, to some degree, has ideas running around in their head most of the time. I don’t think that anyone’s degree of shyness is distinctly related to the amount of thoughts that are cultivated in our heads, and because of this, I don’t think that anyone’s degree of shyness is stagnant and definitive either. I think that it is constantly fluctuating based on all of the outward forces that can affect whether or not the thoughts in my head can actually make it, undisturbed and unaltered, all the way from my mind and out of my mouth. Sure, there are people out there, usually categorized under the umbrella of “extroverts” (even though I don’t think humanity is simple enough to be categorized as such). But there are some people who, regardless of their surroundings, environment, company, mental state, temperature, stress levels, hunger, or discomfort, the bridge between thought and speech remains completely intact. This bridge is sturdy, reliable, and never fails to support all the little thoughts as they make their journey across the mind and out the mouth. Those little thoughts can easily put on their adventure caps, and use this bridge to trek over the waters of the mind, and make it safely to the other side, producing real human words.
Now, my mind works a little bit differently. Sure, there is still a river of sorts that runs between the place where my thoughts reside, and where they exit my face through my mouth hole. But I don’t particularly think that there is a bridge to get from one side to the other, but rather, something closer to an old rope swing from one of those coming-of-age romance movies set in the rural 1940’s countryside. Oddly specific, I know. But I have a feeling most people can picture this sort of rickety abandoned rope swing that everyone in town knows about despite nobody knowing how it got there. So I think that given the nature of this rope swing, my baseline ability to speak my thoughts is at a disadvantage. Rope swings aren’t always reliable, they require some skill and practice, and unfortunately there are a lot of factors that can prevent somebody from using one to get across a body of water successfully. In this scenario, however, when I say “somebody” I mean “my thoughts”.
Sometimes if I’m in a crowd, and I have a little thought forming that I really want to say, It’ll gear it’s little self up. My thought will get ready to soar to the other side, grab the rope and push off. My thought can see where it wants to go, and it’s going. And it’s going, and going, and then somebody I don’t know looks at me, and it’s like a huge gust of wind comes along and knocks my thought right off the rope swing into the river. Damn. Not dam though, because it’s a river. Maybe sometime later I have another thought forming, and I’m ready to try again. Off on the rope swing my thought goes, but this time, out of nowhere I get a tummy ache and the thought falls into the river again. Or my ex walked in, another thought thrown off the rope swing and flows down river. Or I have a missed call from my mom, another thought. Or a missed call from my dad! Or I suddenly feel like I’m about to pass out. Or I need a glass of water. Or somebody changed the subject and I don’t want to try and drag a group of people back to the previous subject so that I can say my thing that was probably stupid and irrelevant to begin with. All of these things can affect my ability to get my thoughts over that river and out into words. It’s kind of exhausting, It’s kind of embarrassing, and I swear if somebody asks me “Gabby, why are you being so shy?” the rope swing will fucking break. Believe me, I would love to answer that question with this intricate and expansive rope swing analogy, but if I’m asked that question, then it’s already too late, because the swing just broke. Now I can’t even get my answer across, let alone get out enough words after that for me to actually convince people that I’m not as shy as they think. At that point, I’m done, I give up, and I want to put sweat pants on and go home. All of the thoughts are lost, flowing downstream, and they’ll fall out of my butt in three to five business days. And that’s just the way it is. Sometimes it sucks, I can feel small and voiceless, but other times it can be amazing, because when I feel comfortable and supported, I can feel my mind flourishing in fantastic ways.
It has taken many years for me to accept this about myself, and even more to embrace it. I understand that this isn’t the case for everybody, but it is for me. And regardless of how many of the thoughts that I really want to speak actually make it out of my mouth, I still feel like a whole and complete person with thoughts and ideas and feelings. Sure, we all occasionally say things that we don’t mean, and don’t say things that we do mean. Everybody has their own different relationship between thought and voice, and however they are able to manifest their voice in different crowds and environments, that is okay. It is okay to be shy. Because regardless of your ability to produce certain words in certain social environments, you are still a whole and complete person.
I knew one person at that party that night. I had one beer, met three people who’s names I forgot instantly, posed for one photo, and left. And that is okay.