I used to get nervous before lunch at school. Even in college. I always made sure to arrange to meet someone right outside the lunchroom, so I didn’t have to walk in alone. All that noise. Looking for a friendly face while carrying my tray through the chaos. The potential of having to eat alone with everyone witness to the fact that I had no one to talk to was terrifying. Or worse, having lunch with someone I must talk to but do not know.
As an adult, I have to consciously force myself to rise above my innate shyness. I pretend that small-talk is easy, although I am still not good at it. If there’s a bar, I stand right near it, because the bar is always busy and someone I know will see me and chat. I arrange moms’ nights out, mixing the group up every once in a while to strengthen friendships in an environment that feels safe.
But I am still shy. I wish my logic could win this battle. “There is no need to be shy. You are perfectly cool…for a forty something mom. You might even be funny every once in a while. You have plenty to share. You don’t dress as badly as you used to. And everyone is a little bit nervous most of the time. Even that really cool woman who you think is amazing.”
Of course, then when I’m introduced to someone new, I forget their name immediately because as we were introduced, I was silently rehearsing, “Hi, I’m Jenn” with a small pit in my stomach.
This week, I went to a school fundraiser. It was an evening of wine and shopping for moms. I was so busy beforehand, that I neglected to make my usual arrangements to walk in with someone. And as I walked alone from my car to the school gym, I realized that everyone else had her safety net, her friend by her side.
I thought about going back home.
But I went in.
I will not be shy.
I went directly to the bar. “Do not pass go. Do not collect $100.”
And I stayed there for a good deal of the night. But not for the wine. Instead, I found myself talking to a handful of women I don’t know well, but like. I put on my “I am not shy” mask and chatted the evening away.
And I had a blast. I like them even more. I hope they come to my next moms’ night out.
I am still shy.
I have to force myself out of my social comfort zone. But when I do, I almost always feel stronger, cooler, better about myself. I even imagine for a day or two that I am no longer shy.