Shelley Widhalm

Posts Tagged ‘Shyness’

The Shy Label

In Challenge delay, Shelley Widhalm, Shyness on October 30, 2011 at 7:00 am

The word SHY used to be a label I branded into my identity. I considered myself too shy to do certain things, like network at a party or approach an interesting person (in a safe location like a coffee shop) to start a conversation.

I initiated a shyness challenge earlier this year to take specific steps to overcome my shyness, but for the past two or three months, I haven’t created a challenge for the week.

That’s probably because I don’t think of myself as shy anymore.

However, this past week I realized I have become comfortable in my routines and tend to choose being alone over trying too hard to be sociable if it requires work on my part. I weigh the costs and think, nah. Why, I don’t know.

I do know that I’m an introvert with some extroverted tendencies, like wanting to be around people on a daily basis and to connect with them through talking and doing things together. When I was in my twenties, I didn’t need that alone time but always wanted to go out and, even if I was the quiet one, to be in the presence of others.

In the past 20-plus years, I lived in 10 cities at 12 different addresses and had to start over with each move. I withdrew as I encountered difficulties with making and finding friends. I had to figure out things to do alone because I let shyness keep me from trying too hard, the reason different – actual shyness instead of liking my alone comfort.

With my last move two months before I started the challenge, I wanted “to fix” myself and get rid of the word I used to describe myself, one that, I’ve since noticed, no one else uses.

I don’t have social anxiety or fear of new and awkward situations.

I would say my challenge for next week is to approach someone I haven’t met yet to get myself out of my comfortable routine of letting things happen. I’m not being active but reactive, comfortable in my state of not thinking of myself as shy.

Modeling Confidence

In Body image, Modeling, Shyness on September 4, 2011 at 7:00 am

This week, I found out I made the cut for modeling/acting, a fact I’m still trying to process.

After I picked up my mail in the post office, I opened the large white envelop from the American Mall Model Search (I was too impatient to wait until I got home) and flipped through the information packet, thinking, “Are you serious?”

I did not expect to make it – I’m out of the 20s decade. I want to lose 10 pounds. And I’m not 100 percent confident. I got an 8 for modeling out of 10 possible points, and a 7 for acting.

One of the comments under the modeling category was “confident.” I thought, wow, that’s quite a compliment considering that I’ve been carrying around my shyness label for most of my life.

But my confidence only goes so far. The packet includes a list of casting calls for movies – I don’t have any acting experience, so should I sign up with this company? What if I don’t know what I’m doing? The doubts start entering my mind. I want to be handed a contract, but I didn’t make the top cut. I have to work for it.

And then my overactive imagination took over. What if I get a part and experience a taste of Hollywood? That would give me something to write about. And what if I land a couple more parts and become famous and a regular part of “Us Weekly” and “People”? And what if my being famous made people want to read my yet-to-be-published novels?

I have another six weeks to decide.

Either way, I am glad I walked the runway and recited one of my poems before the judges. My friend who I saw that night (July 16) said that I looked amazingly happy. I was going after an old dream, that of being a model, not caring whether or not I made it. It was the doing that mattered.

“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.

Losing My Shyness Identity

In Shyness, Talking on August 14, 2011 at 7:00 am

I’m a bit disappointed that I keep hearing from my friends, real and virtual, that the word I’ve been using to describe myself may be inaccurate.

I thought I was shy. A wallflower. A misfit.

I considered my name Shelley to be perfect, because I hid out in a shell, insecure of what to do or say, afraid to take risks and scared of getting hurt.

I gave my Shyness Challenge one year, but it’s only been seven months of half-heartedly setting up challenges and following through on most of the time, such as going to a bar by myself, modeling in a fashion show and reading my poetry on stage.

One challenge that I have not carried out is to talk to the hottest guy in a bar, or along those lines, starting a conversation with a man who I think is interesting.

That’s because I’m afraid I’ll look like: 1. a dork, 2. desperate, or 3. boring.

Yep, I’ll have to get over that. So my challenge isn’t over.

As my friend, Tim Byrnes, said to me Tuesday evening over coffee, “Anyone who can address being shy in a public place, well, that isn’t shy.”

Oh, okay.

A writer friend of mine said she doesn’t see me as shy but as funny and vibrant. Another friend said I shouldn’t be labeling myself as shy.

Add the fact that I don’t even feel shy most of the time.

I go to work and interview lots of people, more worried that I will forget to ask a question and leave out an important fact than about the impression I’m making. I find that I engage in multiple conversations every day with coworkers, interviewees, friends and people I encounter as I work and play.

Someone who is shy is inhibited in talking with others, being in large groups and taking chances.

That’s not me.

A shy person is distrustful or wary.

That’s not me either.

Being shy is avoiding whatever is the cause of the anxious feelings.

I don’t do that either.

But I do avoid my cool New York City-style walkup like the plague. It may be the coolest apartment in town (in my opinion), but I want to get out and about and live and not stay home doing loner activities.

I like being around people and engaging with them. Call it postmodern shyness where the state of being shy is a slippery thing that, most of the time, is not associated with my identity.


Now what am I going to do?

Shyness Revelations

In Uncategorized on August 7, 2011 at 7:02 am

There’s a connection between tattoos, Facebook and shyness that has to do with concealment.

I’ll start with tattoos (granted I do not have one, but I do have a belly-button ring, indicating that I am a slight but inactive rebel).

Tattoos used to be associated with bikers, head bangers and tough guys, but in the last few years, they’ve become as common as wearing earrings.

They make a statement, be it personal, political or religious. They leave a mark. And they tell a story.

The storytelling is similar to what happens with Facebook. Put in your profile, tell a little bit about your likes and dislikes and post photos of whatever describes you, your interests and what you’re doing.

It’s a big Here I Am world kind of deal.

Tattoos cover up the real person underneath, as does having a Facebook page to socialize, Facebook sets up a scant biography to replace the personal stories that arise out of face-to-face dialogue.

It’s not a matter of three-dimension life but of a face looking at a monitor, click, clicking toward connectivity.

I admit I get suckered into social networking as I check out wall postings on a daily basis. I want to find out the gossip. I want to communicate with my friends who live elsewhere. And I want attention from Likes, posts and pokes.

But, to me, it doesn’t feel real.

As do tattoos – they don’t mark a rebel anymore, just a trend.

As I heard one person call them, tattoos are mainstream.

So, here’s where the shyness factor comes in. It’s easier to hide out behind a book, a Facebook page or even a tattoo than to step out into real life and take chances. You have to be in your real skin with your real self out there, instead of in the ether world.

With shyness, you can carry around the label, as if tattooed on your heart, not realizing that to connect you have to remove the ink and take chances, lots of them.

Even if they scare you. Or break you. At least until you see that it’s better to risk than to lose.

With Facebook, the only rejection is a de-friend.

In real life, it’s more complicated and painful.

Poetry on Stage

In Poetry reading, Shyness on July 24, 2011 at 12:18 pm

I hit the stage again this week, my shyness in tow. My friend Tim Byrnes, a multi-talented musician who writes his own songs and plays the guitar, let me have a few minutes of his stage time Wednesday night at the Mandolin Café in downtown Loveland.

After Tim introduced me to the dozen or so people at the coffee shop, I read three poems, including “Leaves, Me,” which I memorized and performed last week in a fashion show competition.

I told myself that I wasn’t nervous and that I’ve done this before.

First, I threw in some humor, comparing myself with Emily Dickinson, because we both have written 1,000 poems, well except for one difference: most of mine remain unpublished.

I told the story behind each poem.

And I used gestures and expressions to act out some of the lines.

Despite a rapid heartbeat and the printouts gripped in my hands, I tried to look up at the individual audience members. I was surprised to see that they had stopped what they were doing to hear my reading. I expected them to talk, put in orders and ignore me.

Again, I eased into the spotlight. By the second poem, I engaged my serious poem reading voice, using the right cadence and tone to capture the meaning of my words. In other words, I got into what I was doing.

My heart calmed. My hands stilled. And again I fell in love with the stage.

I am starting to see that this label I put on myself, that of shyness, does not apply to every situation. I didn’t feel shy on stage. Maybe a little nervous and scared that I would make a mistake. But that’s different.

I guess I have to get rid of the baggage of my past, which includes calling myself shy, socially awkward and last pick, and step into the rest of my life, not as if I’m on stage, but as if I am in the now, being real and living, breathing and doing.

Runway Walk

In Body image, Modeling, Runway, Shyness on July 17, 2011 at 5:36 pm

I am doing a model pose during the fashion shoot.

I found a new love, or as my mother put it, I got the bug: I love the runway, the stage, the bright lights and the call, “Ready? Go!”

On Saturday, I participated in the fashion show for the American Mall Model Search after making the first cut.

I tried out last Sunday at the Foothills Mall inFort Collinswith a runway walk and monologue, or short commercial skit. As I staggered down the runway in four-inch heels, I pretended to be on a balance beam and in a bad mood to emulate runway models. For the lines, I pretended the staging area was empty and I was in drama club.

I got these marks on my evaluation: weak delivery, too low of a voice volume, stiff body language and, get this, shy and timid. (They knew!!! And I had thought I was trying not to be shy.). There were some positive marks, too, like beautiful eyes and model figure (that’s thanks to my five-foot, 11-inch frame).

I made it to the second round (I find out in three weeks if I’m going to nationals or receive a contract). I had to do another runway walk (I researched just how to do a pivot turn, hold a stance and show attitude) and present a talent: I memorized one of my poems that compared the dance of leaves tapping across cement with a woman’s dance in the streets. I wrote “Leaves, Me,” in fall 2011.

For some reason, my confidence crashed.

I began (or really continued) thinking I was fat, ugly and a boyfriend-detractor.

By Saturday morning, I saw that I had a choice: continue beating myself up or be the one to lift up my mood and go for an old dream from my teenage years when friends and relatives told me I should be a model. I. Am. Too. Shy, I had thought then, letting it continue as my motto and serve as a roadblock to being Who I Am – poet, dancer, writer and dreamer.

I went for the mood lift and told myself to have fun. It’s just a tryout. It’s not a judgment of my worth. I acted out my poem, and I walked the runway to the announcer’s comment, “She’s sassy.”

I felt good. I felt free. I was being me, or that internal core that got dumped on by layers of hurt, insecurities, shyness and fear. I’m going to look into other modeling opportunities, along with places where I can recite my poetry. I had that glimpse that I love the stage, a place where shyness certainly does not belong.


Reaching for the Next Bar

In Challenge delay, Shyness on July 10, 2011 at 7:00 am

I took my not-so-broken heart to another bar to try out my challenge for this week.

The barometer for my heart status, to my surprise, was that I didn’t care about A’s newest Facebook photo (A is for, you know). Okay, I take that back, it’s not his fault that he finds me boring, or whatever he thought.

Maybe it’s mine, or at least in part. After A went back to the really boring state where he lives (it’s not New York or California, let’s say), I realized that I wasn’t exactly having fun reading books all of the time to avoid life.

So to defibrillate my heart, I went to a bar a week or so ago. The handsome man that I wanted to approach me didn’t, though plenty of drunks did. I went to another bar on Friday night, researched the premises for top handsome man and passed by my chance for conversation when he stood next to me at the bar top to order a draft.

I did my usual self-talk of, oh he probably has a girlfriend, or he’ll think I’m boring (see Mr. A above), or I won’t be his type. The rejection will be just awful, and I’ll have to put my face on some wall of rejected women of shame.

Over the course of an hour, I saw him with guys a few times, and then with a woman, and I did the mental self-kick for letting another opportunity pass me by. Not that I expected this handsome unknown to become my next drool, because I was in a bar after all. I’m just disappointed that even with the excuse of my blog to go ahead and do something outside of my shy zone, I couldn’t find the courage to do it.

I’ll have to try again.

But I don’t want to keep going to the bars, particularly by myself.

For one, I like to be in bed by 10 or 11. Plus, I don’t like what alcohol does the next morning. Granted that on Friday, I had my one drink, scanned the room, talked to a few people I know from my job as a reporter and slinked across the street back to my apartment.

So my challenge for next week is to do that one thing I want without the inner negative dialogue preventing me from taking action.

Bar Hopping it Alone

In Going out, Rejection, Shyness, Talking on July 3, 2011 at 7:00 am

I took my broken heart to the bar on Friday night.

A few months ago, I begged out of my challenge to go to a bar by myself, believing it would make me extremely uncomfortable to stand around alone with my rum and Coke.

What led me to go it alone is my big disappointment a week ago. I had reconnected with an old boyfriend, or whatever he was at the time. But when he came to visit a decade-plus later, he made it quite obvious that in his eyes, I was very, very boring and not very fun to look at – he kept wearing his stupid sunglasses and if not, he’d look everywhere but at me.

But enough about him, because I don’t want to go on and on about what is not.

Anyway, I gave my bar visit one hour.

I bought a drink at this big-city ultralounge in the small city where I live. Tad, the owner of the bar, was at the deejay booth, so I put in a request for Lady Gaga.

I knew Tad from a work-related interview about his new bar concept, so I felt comfortable enough to tell him about my blog challenge. He introduced me to three twenty-something men playing pool. I said “hi” and stood there, waiting to be overcome by brilliant conversation on theirs or my part.

When it didn’t happen, I scurried across the dance floor and up a flight of steps to a sitting area with box-shaped chairs with no backs. I felt like a dork sitting ergonomically correct with my drink. I looked at my glow stick-lighted watch. I had made it 20 whole minutes.

“I can do this,” I said to myself. I took a tour of the bar, though I already knew what it looked like from the interview, and returned to the deejay booth to request another song by Lords of Acid.

And then a drunk but handsome man offered to buy me a drink. I accepted and tried to hold a conversation with him as he swayed and slurred. Drunk number 2, short but cute, came and chatted me up. I started to feel like the drunk guy magnet. Come and talk to the shy girl. And they did.

Between chatting up drunks and talking to Tad, I ended up staying at the bar for 3 ½ hours until close. I guess it was because I was having fun. I had done something I hadn’t wanted to do (go to a big, scary bar all by myself) and I got through it. Plus, I got complimented enough that it started to negate my awful weekend with Mr. Wishy Washy.

Next challenge: start a conversation with a handsome man (sans ring) in a bar. However, if I get the sense that I’m boring him like I did Mr. WW, then I can take a tour of the bar and not let me ego get trampled on along the way.

The Town Cry-er

In Rejection, Shyness, Talking, Vacations on June 26, 2011 at 7:28 am

I took five days off for a friend’s visit but it didn’t turn out so well. It’s the classic case of uneven liking – I like him lots and he thinks I’m more boring than eating pasta shells sans sauce.

During these five (reduced to three because, yep, you got it) days, I realized that besides hating being shy, I hate that I’m sensitive.

Actually, a better way to put it is I have a penchant for crying. You would think I would be dehydrated and ultra skinny from all the energy I burn from letting the water roll. But I have to lift weights and diet and all that crap.

Plus cry.

Add to that the fact I got my hopes up and don’t know where to put them now. In my anticipation of this visit, I jumped out of my comfortable numbness, though I didn’t know that I was numb until, well, now. I’ve been going through the motions of living as I impatiently waited for the weekends when I could sit outside and read or work on my writing.

But hey, I now see that my problem is that I’ve let my shyness keep me in this introverted state where I hang out by myself. My problem is I really do like to talk. It’s just I don’t know how to open my mouth and get words out. Sure I can talk to people who approach my dog to pet her or if I have to interview them or want to make small talk.

But if there is a pause, or silence or discomfort on my part, I don’t know what to do.

Unfortunately, after not reading a book for three weeks because I went on a vacation, tried to finish my novel editing and had this five-day visit coming up, I realized that, unlike what I’ve been telling myself, real life is more fun then books. Now, I just need a how-to book to read to tell me how to live, hence returning me to my comfort of reading instead of living.

For my dog Zoey’s perspective, check out

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