by Emily Conrad
A couple of days ago, my mom pointed out to me that not all introverts are shy.
I agreed but added that sometimes, we introverts just have zero idea of what to say. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been silent not out of shyness but because I’ve drawn a complete, yawning blank.
Interesting conversation? What’s that?
One of the biggest areas this affects me is when I need to ask an expert a question for a story I’m working on.
I write about things I haven’t experienced all the time. Research and the knowledge of my close friends and family only take me so far toward what I need to know to portray scenes accurately. Happily, there are Facebook groups for writers who need to run fictional situations by professionals in legal, medical, and law enforcement roles. I joined one group for each of these fields a couple of weeks ago.
And then, I promptly posted all of the questions I need answered to polish my stories.
Okay. No, I didn’t.
After joining, I felt shy.
Shy about explaining my story to someone I don’t know well. Shy about confessing what I don’t know. Shy about fielding stranger’s responses to my thought processes and work.
As I considered why this might be, I realized it’s a blow to my pride to admit to not knowing something. It’s a risk to put my ideas forward for scrutiny. By leading with my questions, I can’t really control what these people think of me.
On the other hand, if I make errors in a story that gets published, the mistakes might get by some people, but others would notice. More than that, they’d care. So I knew I needed to get over it and ask my questions. But… I was afraid to.
I don’t mind being an introvert, but bowing to fear when there’s a reason to speak up is something else. That’s the kind of shyness, the fear-based kind, that’s best to avoid. It’s crippling, and it’s not how Christians are called to live.
Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18), and, secure in Christ’s love for us as His followers, we don’t need to retreat into shells of fearful shyness.
For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control. – 2 Timothy 1:7, NET
Yet, I found myself hesitating until a question finally occurred to me: Am I more afraid of asking this question and potentially being told I’m way off or of not asking and facing the fallout of being wrong after the work is published?
Hands down, I’d rather know now, when the work is still changeable. Suddenly, posting my questions didn’t seem so hard after all.
When I got my answers, I had to make some minor adjustments to my stories. But I also got assurance that other aspects of what I’d written did work. So now, I have more peace of mind all around.
And then shyness attacked in another area.
I tried to use email to make plans with someone I’m just getting to know. When she didn’t answer my message, and the window of opportunity was closing, I realized I need to call. But phone calls… I know I’m not the only one who avoids them. Maybe my friend would see the email in another day or two and reply then. So, I waited.
Still no reply.
I recognized fear-based shyness was the only thing stopping me from picking up the phone. In this case, I was afraid the call would be awkward and maybe my friend wasn’t interested in the event we were planning after all.
Then, I asked myself: Which would be worse, me making a potentially awkward phone call, or my friend both missing an opportunity and feeling bad if/when she eventually saw the email?
Immediately, I knew I didn’t want her to miss out or feel bad, so I made the call, my hesitation gone.
You’d think after that, I’d be done with shyness, but, here I am again, battling it in another situation.
My pride would rather I not admit I struggle with shyness over such basic tasks. So as I edit this post and consider whether to go through with it, I ask myself: Would I rather keep my pride in tact by keeping all of this to myself, or would I like to pass along something that helped me on the chance someone might really need it?
If you’re reading this post, you know what I decided.
What good things is shyness holding you back from? Where is fear of embarrassment encroaching on your life and your relationships?
Partner with God. Pray about the areas where fearful shyness has a hold on you.
And then, ask yourself: Would I rather face the discomfort of asking/reaching out/speaking up or risk the consequences of staying silent?
Or, perhaps, that question ought to be spun to the positive: Is what I gain (or retain) by staying silent more important than what I could gain by reaching out?
Let’s refuse to succumb to fear when the situation calls for courage.
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