We all know high school is brutal. Teenagers can be merciless. High school for a shy person is clearly no exception and we are usually the ones who take the brunt of the abuse. Like an animal, high school students seem to be adept at smelling fear. Show that you’re timid and you’re easy prey for the unruly.
By high school I had gotten rid of my braces and glasses and was starting to leave my ugly duckling phase. Becoming mildly attractive proved advantageous. Boys started to find my quiet demeanor alluring and I didn’t have problems making friends.
As I continued through high school my insecurities started to become overshadowed by anger. I was growing a tougher exterior. I still had the same shy fears and anxieties but my newfound toughness disguised them. I felt small inside but on the outside you might not have known it. My shyness had grown a rougher edge, at least temporarily.
I was lucky that I was never bullied much but I was very acutely aware of others who were. I knew I had dodged the bullet but every awkward insecure voiceless teased and tortured soul was inside of me.
It was about this time that I learned just how strong seemingly meek souls could be. Despite feeling so small for most of my life, I grew extremely brave when others needed me to, stupidly brave. For a variety of reasons, bullies didn’t scare me much, they infuriated me. I’m sure I didn’t always do enough, there were definitely situations I stayed out of, but I interjected myself on behalf of others as much as I could, sometimes when I shouldn’t have.
Standing up for others started to become an ongoing pattern. I enjoyed being strong for others (animals included) where I was weak for myself. It was like a switch would flip and I’d transform from soft spoken shy girl Liz into super Liz. There were situations in my life where I simply couldn’t stand up for myself, I was voiceless, always wishing someone would say the words for me. But standing up for others came naturally to me. It was instinctual, primal, a fury almost. And it would get me in trouble in more than a few instances…
To this day bullying in any form is one of my biggest pet peeves, as it is for many of course. My older brother and I didn’t get along growing up (we’re close now) but he was a fellow insecure introvert, far more awkward than I was. And he was bullied mercilessly. Seeing what he went through broke my heart.
This drive to protect others taught me something. It taught me that I wasn’t as weak as I always felt. In some ways I felt like two totally different people. On the one hand I wanted to hide under the covers from life and pray that the world wouldn’t notice my shy sensitive self. On the other hand, I was a lioness willing to risk her mental and physical wellbeing to protect someone I felt was being hurt either emotionally or physically.
It took me years to even acknowledge this source of strength within me. Now I try to never forget it. And now of course I channel it more constructively than I did as a teenager.
The moral of this story? Shy people may appear to be weak and are often soft spoken, but never underestimate them. There is a fierceness in shy people. Wherever people have a weakness, a well of strength emerges. Each person’s strengths may be different. If you’re shy recognize your strengths and you’ll start to live a little fiercer everyday.
Are you shy or introverted with a fierce side? Does it surprise you? Does it surprise others?
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