Did you see this week's article on the shy and how shyness might be an evolutionary tactic? The author talks about two kinds of people: sitters and rovers.
Sitters are the 20(ish)% of the population who are "watchful, slow-to-warm-up types who stick to the sidelines," and rovers are the remaining 80% who "sally forth without paying much attention to their surroundings." Both have evolutionary advantages and disadvantages: sitting will keep you safe if you are slow to walk into a trap, and roving will keep you rapidly acclimated to differing climes which might help keep you alive.
I am SUCH a sitter. I'm shy. This is hard for people who know me to believe because I'm very friendly and it looks like I leap, early and often. But I don't. I may make quick judgements about things and it might LOOK like I'm leaping, but I'm not. I wish I were.
The the article made something clear to me that I hadn't before understood: shy people are worried about negative attention, whereas introverts just prefer to be alone. Ah! The light bulb went on when I read that. I'm not an introvert. I like to be around people. But the fact that I've always been worried about negative attention creates such a conflict that it's hard to decide which way to go sometimes. I like to sit and watch and determine the best, safest course of action so that I don't make a great OOPS and cause everyone to look at me and laugh (like in fifth grade, when the mime wanted me to form a conga-line behind him, but I jumped on his back instead, misreading his clues to my GREAT chagrin). But I also want to make friends and laugh with new people!
I remember as a child, my ultimate fear was being called on in class. I developed all kinds of methods to avoid it: I'd look my teacher straight in the eye, to make sure she knew I wasn't dodging the question and then I'd become suddenly absorbed in the tip of pencil. Was it sharp enough? Oh! Perhaps it needs sharpening! And then she'd say, "Rachael? Do you know?" And I did, I really did know that the answer was Guatemala, but instead I'd get too nervous to say anything or I'd say, "Guh..." and she'd move on. I'd feel the class looking at me in judgment (which they weren't! But I didn't know that then) and I would want to dig a hole to Australia.
When I was in my early twenties, I was extremely self-conscious about my bad skin. I thought everyone was looking at my acne, all the time. IT WAS ALL ABOUT ME. I thought when I walked down a street that the person who turned aside to whisper to their friend was talking about my skin. It was horrible. I died a thousand deaths every time I went outside, to school, to the store.
I'm not sure how I realized this, but I think it was a combination of therapy mixed with time: I finally figured out: NO ONE CARES HOW I LOOK. Or how anyone else looks. People might notice if my hair is cute. They might notice if there's a big hole in my pants and my ass is hanging out. But apart from that, no one really notices, or cares. I look like Rachael most days, and they like me or they don't. How I apply my eyeliner or how my skin looks doesn't matter a whit. If I gain weight or if I lose it -- it doesn't make people look at me differently. I'm still Rachael to them.
I'm still Rachael to me. Sitter at times, rover at others (hello, RWA National! I'll be roving! I hope!), I'm still just me, and I'm not getting negative attention (unless I walk into a pole in the middle of sidewalk, which is a thing I'm prone to do, and in that case, oops -- just pick me up, and thanks, in advance, for choking your laughter back. I appreciate it).