Melting Pot

Painfully Shy

Despite any character assumptions you might make about me based on my blog(s), the truth is that in real life, I am painfully shy. I don’t do “social” very well, and am incredibly awkward and un-trusting of most people. Be forewarned, this post is long and probably the most depressing thing you will ever read here. I don’t know why I am writing it, and I am probably making a mistake in doing so, but I’m good at mistakes so whatever.

I was always shy, even when I was a kid. In my adolescent years, as many tweens/teens do, I started to open up a bit and become more vocal, actively seeking out new friends and trying to be sociable.

Unfortunately for me, my efforts were nearly always met with unexpected, and often very cruel, reactions. I said “Hi.” to a boy once. Just that – one little word, accompanied by a smile. I liked him and wanted to know him, so I did what any normal person would do and said hello. He flipped out on me, telling me that he didn’t know me, didn’t want to know me, didn’t want anything to do with me and nobody else did, and to just leave him and everyone else alone. One of his friends was with him at the time, as was the girl who was supposed to be my best friend. Neither of them said a word in my defense.

Another time as I was walking home from school and had just managed to get across the main street, which was heavy with traffic, I was called back to the other side by the brother of another student who I talked to on occasion, who was one of very few who were nice to me. I knew he was likely just humoring me because he didn’t want to hurt my feelings, but when so many other students actively did things to hurt me and went out of their way to be rude toward me, I appreciated his kindness. On this day his brother called me back across a very busy street to talk, I (very stupidly) thought maybe he was going to be nice to me as well. Instead, I was humiliated in front of the girl he was with (who had also at one time been a friend but we had not been friends in quite some time) as he had called me back simply to tell me off, to tell me that his brother didn’t like me, nobody liked me, and to leave him and everyone else alone. My former friend mostly just stood there observing but to her credit she did eventually tell him to stop because he was going to make me cry. I never talked to his brother again after that. I hardly ever spoke to anyone after that.

Yet another time, I was in the cafeteria reading during breakfast before classes started. The girl who was supposed to be my best friend came in and told me another girl was outside wanting to talk to me. I really did not want to go and argued that it was not worth my time, I didn’t care, and if this girl had something to say to me, she’d come to me. Eventually I gave up and went out, though. The girl who wanted to talk to me had several friends with her to back her up, but during the entire “conversation” she and I were the only ones who spoke – and once again, I had been sought out for no reason beyond someone wanting to humiliate me in front of others by telling me how horrible I was and that nobody wanted me around.

School was hell for me, because this sort of thing happened so often. People stole things from my locker and pushed me around in the halls. I was called horrible names. I had things thrown at me. Once someone somehow figured out the combination for my locker, which was a lock that could be set to a custom number, and they changed it, just to watch me panic and get frustrated over not being able to get into my locker. At one point, one boy decided it’d be fun for him to sexually harrass me, grabbing my butt and boobs any chance he got. He managed to pinch my boob hard enough to leave a bruise, once. Even the people who had been my friends slipped away from me; some of them walked away of their own accord while I admit a couple others I pushed away and they gave up on me and walked away. The people who just ignored me were like angels to me because even if they hated me at least they didn’t make any efforts to make me miserable. I didn’t have any friends. I had people who hated and tortured me any way they could, and people who just ignored me. Friendship was non-existent in my world.

I never told anyone in my family about any of the things I dealt with at school. I didn’t know how to – and I knew it wouldn’t change things anyway. I tried to reach out to a couple teachers I trusted but their efforts to help me failed, because the principals and so-called guidance counselors tried to say the kids who bothered me didn’t even exist, or that I was the one causing trouble. My guidance counselor would schedule meetings with me, which I would show up for, then she would hide from me in the back office. I’d hear and see her in the back office talking to other people; she and the other staff would stay there, whispering quietly, just around the corner. I’d sit there waiting for entire class periods, I’d call out to them because I knew they were there, and they would get quiet and not respond. They effectively made me miss my classes, for which of course I got in trouble with the teachers. Since I knew this was how the school staff acted, I knew even if I could ever find the nerve to tell my parents, it would not matter. My dad was the only one who eventually found out a very small portion of what was going on when one day I called him to come pick me up because I was sick (I wasn’t really sick, just so very sick of the way I was being treated) but once he got there and we were on the way home I couldn’t hide the tears anymore, and since I was crying I couldn’t avoid telling him what had happened that day that had made me upset. All he ever got to know was that one incident, in which I was threatened. But that was all I could manage to tell him. I wanted to tell him more, I wanted to let it all spill out, every horrid detail… but I just couldn’t do it.

So I did the only thing I could do – withdrew, and started building walls around me that nobody would ever be able to get through. I stopped trying to make friends because it always backfired. I just shut everything out, and shut down inside. And I quit going to school, much to the dismay of my family. But they had no idea what I was going through… the way I felt every day in those halls, and trapped on the bus rides… it was quit school or quit life.

To this day I have major problems being social. I don’t open up easily to people. Even family. I find it incredibly difficult to even hold a normal conversation with somebody. It makes me uncomfortable when people try to talk to me – even if all they try to do is talk about the weather or tv or something stupid and mundane, I can’t let the walls down. I’m just not a talkative, people-person. The hell I dealt with when I was younger taught me not to be. People take my silence and short responses the wrong way. I’m accused of being a snob, or weird, or whatever other negative thing people think. Most people don’t care to stick around long enough to give me a chance to feel comfortable around them and to open up – they just write me off as a freak or a bitch or whatever and walk away. My reluctance to being sociable is not a “one bitten, twice shy” kind of thing. It’s more like a “Been burned a hundred times and I am not going to let it happen again” situation. I’m not quiet around people because I think I’m better than them or because I have something to hide, or because I don’t like them… it’s because I’m in the state of protection/self-defense that I learned to slip into around people long ago. I don’t know how to be any other way.

I try. Nobody would ever believe me, I am sure. But I really do try, when I can muster up the courage, to be more sociable and talkative to people. But it’s incredibly hard. It takes so much effort for me to do the small-talk thing with people I don’t know very well, and it leaves me drained. There are just a couple of people in my life who I am comfortable enough to speak freely and be myself around. But everyone else falls into the category of strangers, even if they aren’t actually strangers because some of them are even family, and that means that when I’m around them, my walls are up. The more people try to get through them, the more I just add to my defenses and lock myself up tight. Some people don’t understand that pushing me to open up is not ok. I get that there’s a “you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone” idea, and yeah sometimes, in some situations, that is a good thing. But for me, someone trying to force me to be more open and talkative when I’m not ready to be that way with them is not going to have the desired effect. It’s going to do more harm than good. I need to be able to learn to open up slowly, in my own time, once I am sure that I can trust them. Again, most people don’t care to stick around long enough for that to happen; they make their judgement about me, who I am and what I am like, long before I am comfortable enough to open up and let them see the real me.

I don’t think this is something that is ever going to change about me. It’s simply who I am, whether I like it or not. Mostly, I’m ok with who I am. Sometimes though, I hate it. I hate that because of how shy and un-trusting I am, so many people in my life think horrible things about me. I can’t help that I’m not an open person. It really sucks that people choose to interpret my awkwardness for very negative things, like me being stuck-up or whatever. It is what it is though. If someone is going to think ill of me based on a couple short interactions in which I really was trying harder than they will ever know and I was being as outspoken, friendly, and sociable as I possibly could be, that’s their prerogative.

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One thought on “Painfully Shy

  1. You know what, Leah? People who can’t be bothered to work for all that you have to offer them are not worth YOUR time or energy. I have known you for how many years, now, and personally, I think you’re one of the most amazing people I know. I told you very early on in our friendship that I could sense there was a lot of stuff in your life, but that I was going to be around for the duration – if that was what you wanted. So far, though we don’t talk as often as I personally would like, to me, it always feel like we’re picking up right where we left off when we do talk; it’s like there’s been no gap at all between our virtual visits with each other. Personally, I think that’s pretty extraordinary.

    If people truly care about you, my friend, they will not walk away or otherwise give up on you. You have so incredibly much to offer people, and those who can’t be bothered to put the effort in to earn your love and trust are not worth even thinking about. For whatever it’s worth to you, I understand what you have gone through – I was there myself when I was in school – and I count myself very blessed to know you as much as I do. You are a rare kind of person, sweetness; not just anybody is fortunate enough to meet someone as precious as you are. Please don’t ever forget that.

    Sending you tons of love, hugs, and good energies, beautiful lady…
    ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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