I have always battled with shyness, right from when I was a very little girl, hiding behind my Mum or brothers and sisters.It is one personality trait that I wish I didn’t have and have spent years trying to overcome….
Coming from, and growing up with a large family, you would think that I would be a lot more outgoing and assertive, having had to fight for my share of attention over the years, but no, I was the little mousey one, who in fact, never wanted to draw attention to myself in any way! Unfortunately for me though, I am extremely clumsy, and always have been, so there have been many times in the past when I have unwittingly been the centre of attention.
Once, when I was about 12, some of my siblings and I were visiting my Dad,we went for a walk along the prom. I was linking arms with my older sister, but somehow managed to become separated from her and I tripped and fell 6ft onto the sand below (luckily the tide wasn’t in). My Dad was frantic and came down to get me. Luckily I was unhurt, but of course it caused a bit of a commotion.
Another time I was swimming in a pool with my little sister who was wearing her inflatable armbands (she was about 5 and I was 7). My Mum and Step-dad were watching from the side as I was bobbing about holding a football to float on, and my sister splashed about nearby. I floated out of my depth and the ball slipped through my grasp, leaving me floundering and going under as I couldn’t swim. My little sister tried to get to me, but the next thing I knew I was being hauled out of the pool and pummeled by an old lady, who had seen what had happened and jumped in fully clothed, sunglasses and all to hike me out. Again, this caused a bit of a fuss and I cried, not only because of the fright I had just had, but because everyone was looking at me!
It didn’t really get any easier as I got older, especially as my Mum moved around quite a bit with her job and we had to change schools each time and make new friends. I always dreaded it; the worst time was when we moved from north to south England so even our accents made us stand out! My younger sister and older brother who were still school age were much more outgoing so didn’t seem to find it such a pain as I did!
When I was 14, I got a part-time job in a cafe, working weekends. I couldn’t have picked a more unsuitable job for my personality if I tried! I had to approach customers, get their orders and deliver food to them without knocking it all over them. I remember once plonking a plate of fish and chips down a bit heavy handedly in front of a customer and half of it slid off of the plate and onto their lap. I scrabbled about picking it up, putting it back on the plate and apologising. What made it worse was when I took the plate out to the kitchen, and told the female boss (who terrified me) she just rearranged it back on the plate and told me to take it back out there.! That was dreadful as it had taken ages for them to get their order in the first place and they would know that we had just brought the same food out, Needless to say I did it, and the customer said nothing.
I joined the Army as I thought I would overcome my shyness, plus it was something I really wanted to do. I got humiliated many times during ‘drill’ for cocking it up, but then so did everyone else, so it wasn’t that bad. I hated going into the cookhouse as it was so busy but I loved my food so I did it, rather than go without! The experience helped a bit but I was still quite shy.
Social situations were always a nightmare for me. I would talk to people one-on-one but I could never just go up to someone and start a conversation, so people probably thought I was stuck-up and aloof, but I would have loved to have talked to them if I wasn’t so worried that I would put my foot in it or say something stupid!
I do love people and once I went into nursing I really enjoyed it, I applied for the job I have now and when I was accepted, it meant starting at University plus moving to a different ward in the hospital where I knew no-one. I am determined, even if shy, so I did it. Uni was a real struggle at first as nearly every week we had to get out in front of everyone and either do a presentation, or a discussion about things. It took me nearly the whole 2 years to be able to do it without tripping over my words and going bright red.
That is when I finally turned the corner I think. I love the staff on my ward, and am confident about my job, so will actually talk to doctors now(before I kept out of their way). I have been asked to give a little talk to the new recruits on their first day that have signed up for the job I do This can be 20 odd people in a room that I don’t know but not only have I done it once, but twice!
Even now I have to psych myself up to go somewhere new or attend a large social gathering and I am still clumsy ,and draw attention to myself. However now I just make a joke of it, laugh it off, and it will probably end up in my blog to cringe over!
It would be great to know how others deal with their fears or personality traits that hold them back.