One of my common phrases has always been, “I was a painfully shy little girl, but I overcame it”.
However, over the last year or so and particularly when I was reading about Aspergers with regard to Leif, I am wondering if I was really all that shy?
Because I actually think that a lot of my behaviors are more in line with a child with Aspergers than an introvert. I think I will hit this area of Aspergers in three posts - this is the first of three posts with regard to introvertedness/shyness vs. Aspergers.
A few years ago my mentor laughed when I said I was an introvert and said that he would have never pegged me professionally as an introvert and found it puzzling that I was once shy. As an expressive expressive person speaking to an analytical analytical, this was huge to me.
Mild tangent here over to social styles. I think this can be a good tool, however, I think that it is only a tool. In my social styles class there were only two analytical analyticals. Myself and another guy. Both of which our teacher said she wouldn’t have pegged us as such an extreme. She referenced later on our presentations class whereby we gave two of the funniest, most interesting impromptu speeches individually. By definition of analytical analytical, we shouldn’t have been comfortable in this situation at all, yet she found it interesting that we both thrived and didn't display any signs of being uncomfortable with the situation.
Public speaking… this is one thing that surprised my mom when I was in grad school. I was good at it. It isn’t that she thought I would be bad at it, by any means. But it didn’t necessarily fit my shy demeanor. Even now? I actually enjoy getting up and speaking in public and I am not half bad at it.
Off my (somewhat relevant) tangent.
When I headed into kindergarten I had not had any preschool. I had been home with my mom for 5.5 years and it wasn’t like we had bunches of playdates. I met some kids in the neighborhood and she occasionally babysat other kids. But I headed into kindergarten with a lack of social skills. I do not believe that it was a lack of preschool or playdates that caused my lack of social skills. They may have attributed to it, but in no way do I believe that the difficulties I faced with personal interactions well into college, were because I didn’t go to preschool.
I tended to make friends easily as most kids do, but keeping them was a different thing. I had a knack for saying the wrong thing, which then often resulted in the other little girls looking at me funny and walking off. I loved answering questions in class, I loved being at the center of attention (I played Jingle Bells on the piano at our kindergarten Christmas pageant and reveled in being the center of attention) and I always wanted to play the cymbals in music. I enjoyed reading out loud to the class.
What I *think* happened as I look back was that because I didn’t know how to effectively interact in a friendly manner with the other kids, I simply quit trying. If they didn’t want to play with me then who was I to push it? Not to mention, who really wants to spend time with kids who look at you funny when you say something? I didn’t. It wasn’t long before I was spending my recess by myself walking the perimeter of the playground. I remember watching what the other kids were doing and trying to figure out how to behave like them. Some kids saw staying in for recess a punishment, but I was thrilled to stay in and help the teacher with something because it meant I didn’t have to try and interact and it wasn’t in my face that I didn’t have a set of good friends.
In 1st grade we had dancing and I remember being the first one up and in front of the class shaking my booty while the other kids watched and slowly would come up. The shy kids were the last, if they came up at all. We would have annual plays every spring in elementary school and every year I BEGGED for a speaking part. I wanted lead parts and speaking parts SO badly, but was never awarded them. I blogged once about Mrs. Peacock our music teacher. I truly believe that she didn’t give me speaking parts because first, she placated the popularity contest, second, she didn’t like me and third, I had speech problems. It wasn’t for lack of trying for a speaking part. When I was in fourth grade I was finally given a speaking part… I said, “He’s so cuuuute!” and then giggled. One whole line. I wanted the job of memorizing the lines that the other kids had. In fact, I wanted it so bad I memorized all the lines for them so I felt a part of the action.
These things – all told don’t add up to a child who is shy. Instead, I think I became so used to hearing “she’s just shy”, that I thought those were the expectations of me. I didn’t have to learn to interact with the other kids if I was just labeled as “shy”. It was easy!
I wasn’t alone all throughout elementary school by any means either. When I was in third grade I obtained one best friend and she and I navigated our way through the following five years pretty efficiently. Once we hit junior high we hooked up with another couple of girls and had our own little network until I moved at the end of 8th grade. (I was always perplexed that after five years of hanging together, that she never wrote back or returned my phone calls. I figured that once again I had done something stupid.)
Next post - on to junior high and high school.