Why one student believes the media is sending the wrong message about shyness
Millennials are trying to ward off nerves like they’re a disease. Under the influence of celebrities who constantly show us their sass, we’ve become a flashy society that worships extroverts. Nerves have been pitted against confidence, and now, being shy is seen as a sure-sign of insecurity. Well that’s garbage. The truth is, you can actually be both super shy and super confident.
It starts by unlearning what the media has taught us about confidence. Pop culture promotes confidence as the ability to handle the spotlight. Confident people are those who easily hold conversations, address crowds and bring the room to life. According to this logic, the easier time you have expressing yourself face to face, the more confident you are. The problem with this definition is that it makes confidence all about your rapport with others, when truly, it should be about the relationship you have with yourself.
To me, confidence is less about how you talk to others, and more about how you talk to the person in the mirror. More specifically, it’s exuded through an ability to show yourself unconditional love. The keyword here is “unconditional.” Truly confident people are not those who never get flustered, but conversely, those who do mess up and don’t hate themselves for it.
Our generation underestimates the coolness of being shy. That’s right, I just used “shy” and “cool” in the same sentence. Here’s why: if you don’t automatically feel comfortable in every room you walk into, that can actually be a statement about how well you know yourself. The fact that you feel less comfortable in certain environments simply means you’ve explored your personality enough to know that other activities, topics and people interest you. By sitting quietly instead of trying to insert yourself into the conversation, you’re showing that you’re not a shapeshifter who molds their personality to fit in—and in a society of posers, that makes you a breath of fresh air.
Sure, eloquence and extrovertedness demonstrate some level of self-assurance. However, being bubbly in front of others doesn’t automatically mean you treat yourself with love and enthusiasm. Lots of effervescent public figures battle insecurity behind closed doors. They cannot bear the idea of messing up, and therefore, the belief they have in themselves is conditional. It rests on the requirement that they constantly control their nerves.
Except, the healthiest bodies are those whose organs don’t need to be manipulated; stomachs that digest without the help of an electrical stimulator; hearts that beat without the prompting of a pacemaker; blood that flows without the aid of a circulation machine. There are so many reasons to be grateful for our body’s intrinsic clock. Why on earth do we punish ourselves for blushing cheeks, accelerated heartbeats, and lungs that get short of breath? Society wants us to view nervous reactions as weird and embarrassing, when the truth is that they’re just as natural as the reactions keeping us alive.
For me, the most impressive people are those who refrain from gossip when they see other people’s nervous tics, and those who don’t talk themselves down for getting awkward. How wonderful it is when a person can get nervous, laugh about it or simply carry on with their day because they know it’s not a big deal.
So long as you can identify a few environments or specific individuals who bring out your more conversational side, you don’t have to feel bad about getting shy. You’re not chronically insecure, nor are you missing out. You’re simply an individual with specific interests and friends, who isn’t automatically titillated at every turn. In a generation filled with attention-seekers who require constant validation, that actually makes you quite rad.
Graphic by @spooky_soda