Today’s Daily Prompt: Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.
I used to be painfully shy. I was the girl in elementary school that would blush when she got called on in class. So self conscious, I was the wallflower at school dances, and rarely spoke up in large groups. In the privacy of my own playroom, without an audience, I was wild, gregarious, arms flung wide open- unapologetically me. I created imaginary worlds in which I was the heroine- strong, independent, and debonaire.
Ironically, the stage is where this shy girl broke out of her shell. I was chosen for a major role in the spring play my freshman year. While still shy in classes and in the lunchroom, I found my voice and confidence as I took on the role of Marianne in Tartuffe. Being on stage gave me such a thrill. It’s funny how through pretending, I was able to find a way to be more me in public.
Throughout high school, I slowly shed the cautious, protective layers I had put up around me and learned how to carry a conversation, hold someone’s gaze, and give a firm handshake. Now, when I share how shy I used to be, or admit that I’m an introvert, people are often shocked. They don’t see it, they claim. While I do feel a lot more confident than that seven year old girl blushing in math class, that part of me is still very real. Madeleine L’Engle has this beautiful quote, recognizing that we are the culmination of all our ages.
“I am still every age that I have been. Because I was once a child, I am always a child. Because I was once a searching adolescent, given to moods and ecstasies, these are still part of me, and always will be… This does not mean that I ought to be trapped or enclosed in any of these ages…the delayed adolescent, the childish adult, but that they are in me to be drawn on; to forget is a form of suicide… Far too many people misunderstand what *putting away childish things* means, and think that forgetting what it is like to think and feel and touch and smell and taste and see and hear like a three-year-old or a thirteen-year-old or a twenty-three-year-old means being grownup. When I’m with these people I, like the kids, feel that if this is what it means to be a grown-up, then I don’t ever want to be one. Instead of which, if I can retain a child’s awareness and joy, and *be* fifty-one, then I will really learn what it means to be grownup.”
So that shy little girl is still a part of me, one that I would be negligent to ignore or try to cover up. Twenty years later, I am more able to understand the deeper root. What is shyness? Fear of being known– or that in being known you will be found out to be fraud, or somehow not desirable. Somewhere along the way, I bought into the lie that in any given interaction, my worth and identity was on the line. If I perceived that someone didn’t approve of me, I was undone. The fear of that risk kept me from being that vibrant, uninhibited girl I was behind closed doors.
Now, the problem with being very in tune internally and self aware is that you can identify and eloquently articulate all that is happening in your mind, but you still lack the ability to make immediate changes with lasting results. A very frustrating place to be in!
So, I haven’t fully mastered the art of being unapologetically me and 100% authentic all the time. Truthfully, I would be distrusting of any human who claims to have “arrived.” But the realizing is helpful because I can name my insecurities for what they are. And that gives them less power. I can know that regardless of how I’m feeling in a given moment, my worth is not dictated by anyone or any circumstances. More than that, the older I get the more I realize that everyone really is in the same boat. Everyone feels insecure. Realizing that we’re all on the same team helps me let go of my ugly defenses of pretending or comparing. Naming my insecurities helps me to claim that I’m a mess, and I don’t need to have it all cleaned up. It’s ok to be a work in progress– those are the kinds of people whose company I prefer anyway.
So I have lost my shyness. There are still some bits in me that are insecure, but those voices are getting quieter by the day.