I was shy. Painfully shy. Though my mother tells me that when I was little I would pretend to be lost in the grocery store so that I could talk to people and ask them to help me find my mommy, I have no recollection of being anything but shy.
I couldn’t order my own happy meal.
If asked to speak up, I whispered.
I avoided being called on in class.
“Getting to know you” games were a personal hell.
Even through college, I didn’t participate in class often. If I worked up the nerve to speak, but answered the question wrong or had my idea rejected, I would never speak in that class again. In one class, I would whisper my questions to a friend and she would ask them; until one day she raised her hand and loudly announced that I had a question for the teacher. Any question that I had was lost in an overwhelming desire to sink into the floor and disappear from the 23 pairs of eyes that turned around to see what that question I was going to ask.
In small groups of friends and co-workers, I was fine – soft-spoken but funny and thoughtful. But raise the number of people to more than 3 and my palms would sweat. I would get tongue-tied and nauseated. It was awful. Awkward. Limiting. Horrid.
Then I became a teacher. Then the technology director. Then I started a one-to-one tablet PC program. I talked in front of my students. I trained groups of faculty. I spoke to groups of over 500 with grace and a wicked sense of humor. I volunteered to be the opening convocation speaker. It was a true transformation.
But lately, I’ve noticed that I still live with the legacy of being a shy child. I want to feel like I have something really valuable to say before I say it. I don’t speak up often in meetings unless I know that I have a real contribution to make. But the biggest legacy of spending two-thirds of my life in the shadow of shyness is that social media is hard. Really hard.
I’m on Facebook, but I’m more likely to “like” than post a status. I’m on twitter, but I’m not sure if what I have to say is valuable. I have a blog, but am averaging less than a post/month.
At first, I thought that this was just because I lead a crazy-busy life, but now, I think it’s the legacy of being the shy child. Parents at my school tell me that they always look forward to my segment of the opening assembly. Co-workers tell me that they love when it is my turn to speak because I’m concise and hilarious. What I can’t figure out yet is how to recreate the transformation from shy student to comfortable public speaker into the realm of social media. Suggestions anyone? I’ll be over here sitting in the back of the twitter feed trying to hide behind the tall kid…