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Monday, July 25, 2011

Is Shyness a Form of Narcissism?

“Shyness has a strange element of narcissism, a belief that how we look, how we perform, is truly important to other people."

-Andre Dubus

I came across this quote while randomly reading about narcissism and self-love. It really made me stop and think, as I have been terribly shy since childhood. I have never, however, made any connections between my shyness and narcissism. It really does make perfect sense, though, that the two are connected in some way. When I was younger, my shyness was certainly more extreme and even debilitating at times. I remember feeling like a complete outsider during the second grade. I think I maybe had one, possibly two friends that year. My dad had moved my sister and I from California to New Mexico, so everything was different and unknown to us. I felt like everyone was watching me all of the time and judging me. I had always been shy prior to this, but in school I had been fairly social and relaxed. The next year Dad moved us to Georgia, and my shyness continued to be a painful part of my life.

As I entered Middle School, it just got worse. I felt as though I was being filmed, and everything I did or said was being watched by everyone. Everything I wore was being scrutinized. I was all anyone saw and they were judging me hard. It didn't help when I started working in the 8th grade and a popular cheerleader shouted at me amidst a huge crowd of kids, "Do you like pancakes?" She knew I was working at IHOP and for some reason she found pleasure in mortifying me in front of what seemed like hundreds of kids. To this day I would like to tell her how belittled she made me feel that day. I would like to tell her that my family had no money, and that if I had any intention of buying new clothes or owning a car when I was 16, that it was on me. What blows my mind is that she didn't even know me, as we had never spoken. She was just one of the popular kids and a big bully. I was just a random target, I guess. But boy did it hurt.

Up until that time, I don't think my shyness was narcissistic at all. I had had a really rough childhood and we moved around a lot. My sister and I lived with uncertainties and an unknowing of what to expect at home and for our futures. As far as I'm concerned, my shyness was a protective blanket from the existence that was my life.

I came into my own a bit more during High School. My family life was quite a bit more stable, though still pretty messed up in comparison to the norm...whatever that may be. My friends and I weren't popular but we also weren't the "geeks". We were pretty much the ones who got by without much notice. I was involved in art and the drama club, as well as some other activities. I continued to be shy, but now my shyness was more connected to how I felt others viewed me. Did my hair look okay? Were my boobs big enough? Were my clothes cute? Is that hot boy talking about me? Was I prettier than that popular girl who gets any guy she wants? These were the type of questions fueling my shyness and inadequacies. This is certainly when my shyness made a turn towards narcissism and never looked back.

I became a changed person during High School. I began to believe in myself. I knew that I was smart and felt that I could accomplish anything in life that I wanted. I could be anything, despite where I had come from. I realized that I was no longer that awkward kid and I had grown into a pretty cute girl. I was nice too, unlike some people I had encountered through the years. Even back then, I knew that who you were on the inside was a great measure of one's beauty. Overall, I thought I was a great package...I still do. So is my beautiful sister who survived with me, along with a couple of extra bumps in her road. And my wonderful best friends...they made it through their own trials and tribulations. We all grew up enveloped in our shyness, and we all eventually transitioned, or might I say, blossomed, into the "narcissistically shy" women that we are today.

How I look and how I perform is important to me. I do care what others think because I am trying hard to be a beautiful person in every way. Maybe I shouldn't care, but to me it's a positive because it encourages me to be my best. When I am feeling shy, my mind is telling me that people are watching me and judging me. Well, I want them to see a person who respects and loves her body, and who takes care of herself because she deserves it. Just as any person should. I want others to see a woman that they can look up to. I want young girls, my daughter especially, to see that inner beauty is what shines the brightest.

As I grow older, I can see that my shyness is slowly fading. I am becoming more sure of myself with each passing day. I now aspire to be different and would rather not fit the mold of what people expect of me, a 31 year-old married teacher with an 11 year-old daughter. I don't think I'll ever live without a lingering bit of shyness, however. It is who I am. And I'm okay with that, because I am pretty awesome despite it.

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