Shelley Widhalm

Archive for the ‘Finding friends’ Category

“Kindergarten Crybaby”

In Communication secrets, Finding friends, Separation Anxiety, Shyness on August 28, 2011 at 7:00 am

Though I don’t have children, I’ve had the chance to witness the first day of kindergarten a few times as a reporter for my hometown newspaper.

Every time I cover the separation anxiety between parents and their five-year-olds, I’m reminded of my own “trauma.” I didn’t just cry on the first day of school, I screamed and clung to my mother for the first week – but I got over it and turned my tears into dreading the end of the school year and having to say goodbye to my teachers.

In my hometown, school for students in grades K-5 started on Wednesday. A staff photographer and I went to a kindergarten class to search for crying children. The photographer found a father trying to comfort his son, who buried his face against his father’s chest.

Once inside the classroom, the boy huddled against the wall near his desk, wrapping his arms around his knees, continuing his crying jag for the 45 minutes we were there.

I tried to get a quote from the 5-year-old, but despite my investigative efforts, he wasn’t about to talk, not even when the photographer commented on his new shoes.

The boy, I figured, might have had a case of separation anxiety, just like I did.

I don’t know the cause of his, but mine derived from my shyness. Shyness can result from the fear of entering a new situation, in contrast to familiarity with the known that provides safety and comfort.

New to the school world, I felt anxious about finding friends and not having anyone to play with at recess. I was hesitant to talk. I made little eye contact. And I felt insecure and unlikable.

My “friend” across the street who went to another school called me “kindergarten crybaby,” and if I had been more confident, I would have said “no thanks” to her meanness.

As an adult, I can get teary eyed next to the crying kindergartners, but I know I have turned it all around to the point where I really can’t say I’m shy. There are few situations where I feel uncomfortable. I know how to start a conversation. And I can look people in the eye.

The Shyness Factor

In Finding friends, Fitting in, Shyness, What's important on November 28, 2010 at 8:41 pm

I have read several how-to books about overcoming shyness. I think the advice on how to start and maintain a conversation, as well as the various explanations of the possible causes of shyness, have been helpful.

What I don’t understand is why I take this beaten-dog approach to some of my conversations. I sometimes wonder: Did I reveal too much? Did I say the wrong thing? Does this person think I’m a bore?

All of this comes to mind because I felt insecure after a wine and appetizer get-together in late November with members of my writers group, which meets on a weekly basis to freewrite and critique each other’s work.

I remained quiet most of the evening, though I was eager to tell the story about my covering a lung cancer awareness event and crying halfway through it. I wanted to tell the story because the group members (there are six or so at each meeting) knew about my mother’s hospital emergency a month earlier.

One of the members brought up that she had wanted to go to the awareness event and missed it, and I said that I was there and then told my story (as described two blogs ago). And then I segued into how I feel left out with some women in another social circle.

I felt guilty – later – about bringing up my problems, particularly the telling of the second story when I was venting.

I figured the group members all thought I was a bore, and then I realized I was taking that beaten-dog approach. I talked. I said things. And, of course, it being me saying the things I said, those listening would think I was an outcast. Get out, I could hear them say. And then I realized, it’s me being insecure, walking on the self-created eggshells, wondering how I appear to the rest of the world when, really, it doesn’t matter what people think.

It’s my first step, or another actually, in letting go of my shyness label. I’ve carried it so long, it weighs me down, so that I have to duck my head whenever I fear I’ll be laughed at, picked on or ignored.

Popular Unpopularity

In Alone, Finding friends, Fitting in, Shyness on November 7, 2010 at 8:27 am

I’ve always wanted to fit in, but I wonder what that means. I was kind of an outcast in high school, though I had friends. They were not of the popular crowd. That’s what I wanted to be: popular. I joined a few sports teams, believing that if I was an athlete, I would have instant friends.

That didn’t work, plus I was not very coordinated or good at getting balls into hoops or hitting them with bats or tennis racquets.

I became a journalist and at the small-town newspapers got a lot of attention, but that’s because sources wanted their story told, or they recognized me. They liked my writing. Or my reporting.

I liked the attention, but it didn’t make my phone ring.

Plus, I went into journalism to write.

I wanted to be the center of attention, but I was shy. And now I shy away from situations where there are lots of people. I linger on the edges. I keep conversations short. I look for any clues that I’ve overstayed my welcome.

As an adult, popularity doesn’t matter, but does fitting in? Why do I, no matter what I do, still feel slightly unpopular? It doesn’t matter how many Facebook friends I have, particularly because it’s a virtual world of social interaction that doesn’t feel real. Nor does it matter how often my phone rings, or not. I still see myself as left out. And alone. That is, until I come home from work and get a greeting from my dachshund Zoey. She makes me feel popular, at least with her.

As an adult, I know that fitting in does not matter. What matters is the meaning we make out of the friendships we are lucky enough to find – and keep – whether in human or dog form.