"I'm shy at first, but once we get to know each other I can be very outgoing."
When people describe themselves, I hear that sentiment quite often. A long time ago I was someone who may have said such a thing thinking it was just a part of my personality. Now I see the tragic implications of those words.
To understand the implications let's first define what it means to be shy. I'm defining shyness as being fearful of expressing yourself around others. This does not include introverts, provided that they aren't timid or nervous when they are with company. Introverts can be shy but not all are.
I happen to be both - for the most part, I like to be alone, but when I'm with others fear does prevent me from expressing myself properly. Because of this fear I have held back many laughs, smiles, dances, singalongs etc. Basically everything that makes life worth living.
In short, I have refrained from expressing myself in those ways for fear of facing punishment.
So where does this fear come from? I believe that shy people were once sensitive children who developed this fear as a result of past traumatic occurrences. I mention sensitivity because it seems to be a big differentiating factor. It explains why things which left lasting scars for me, my brothers were able to take in stride, as they were relatively more outgoing.
Though shy people may not have a present reason to be timid, they once did. Shy people were once in an environment where, to some degree or another, it was dangerous to be fully themselves. This danger can come in many ways and from many people including parents, siblings, teachers or school bullies.
Perhaps, like me, these shy people had their curiosity squashed, their propensity for being playful and loud tamed, their feelings exploited, or their unique quirks ridiculed. Whatever it was, I guarantee that they had an expression that was natural to them that others around them didn't like and so, much like a nail that sticks out, they got the hammer.
Pretty soon they learned that not all of who they are is accepted, so they start to suppress their true selves in order to survive. But the problem never stops there; this self-censorship is then internalized. It stays with them as they grow, even when there's no possibility of retaliation. What was once a necessary adjustment in response to their environment has now turned into unresolved trauma.
Now you understand why I think this is tragic. It's almost even more tragic that there are people out there who think shyness is just part of their natural personality rather than a result of the trauma-inducing environment around them. Without this knowledge, they have little chance of ever reversing it.
I remember being outgoing and carefree once. I believe basically every person was born that way. It is not until they get tested, silenced, controlled, humiliated, scorned, or beaten that they become anxious and reserved. One of my goals in life is to reconnect with who I was before that happened.