Monday, April 25, 2011

Stalled by Shyness

Do you get tongue-tied around strangers? Do you feel self-conscious in public? Maybe you're shy...

I felt especially shy when I was 18. That year, I ordered from a drive-thru window for the first time. I became so self-conscious, I paid for my order and sped away without my food:

That same year, I entered university. Without friends or familiar settings, I became too embarrassed to eat alone on campus. A public bench would've felt like a public stage:

One day, my grumbling stomach led me to a private setting:

I closed the door to my washroom stall and brought out my lunch:

When I bit into my sandwich, I realized how severely my shyness had stalled me, literally:

Since then, I've resisted my shy impulses. Though not every anxious battle is won, I can now eat alone on a public bench (reluctantly). Yes, my girlfriend still orders for me at drive-thru windows. But I have never again dined in a lavatory.

The best shyness-management tip I've followed: Act as if you're outgoing, and most people won't notice that you're shy. After awhile—ideally—neither will you.

Was there a memorable moment when shyness stalled you? Please share! And please dine sanitarily.

Bon appétit!


  1. hahaha! Oh I love this as I can totally relate! I have always felt really shy - so started acting outgoing in my late teens and even now people find it hard to believe that I am really a shy person.

    Loving the crochet Howie in the loo... I must confess that there have been many a times that I've hid out in a toilet just to escape people!!


    I used to have stage fright when talking to people I didn't know, especially on the phone, but even in person was tough. I also had a phobia of balloons... not the balloons themselves, but their propencity for popping... hate it, makes me cry. My first 2 jobs as an adult... Customer service rep, on the phone all day... and singing balloon-o-gram person. I realized that I needed to get over it, so I went the full immersion path.

  3. You sister went through that whole not being able to order in public stage. I don't know what got her over it but something happened for her.

    BTW, LOVE your little guy. How tall is he? I'm wondering how you made that tiny little sandwich. :)

  4. Another shy soul here, I can totally empathize, even though I have eaten alone, I really only will do that at mcdonalds, since it seems like people eat there alone because it is fast and even though I don't like cold mcdonalds I will get take out most of the times that I have to eat alone. I remember going in a trip where I was alone and eating breakfast alone, pretending like I was this awesome person who likes to eat alone. Later a couple on my tour said they just had to meet me because they noticed me at breakfast, and they thought it was so amazing how I came on the trip alone.

  5. I'm quite the opposite- since I was a child, I've always been very independent and outgoing. Shy people and shyness in general has always baffled me. Some of the most interesting conversations I've ever had have been with complete strangers! Once, while riding the bus, I spoke to a young man from Morocco. He was very chatty!

    To answer your question, I suppose the most shy I've ever felt was to feel nervous when giving a presentation to a large group of people.

  6. I am extremely shy, but get by if I have to.
    I will purposely avoid getting help at a store if I can't find something, just so I don't have to bother the workers. I will scan the aisles over and over again until I find what I am looking for.
    I will eat my lunch at my desk at work instead of going out just so I don't have to be around strangers. Plus, I bring crocheting projects with me to work on on my lunch break ;)

  7. I was very shy until freshman year in high school when I made a conscious decision to no longer be a shy person. In my town, you "graduate" 8th Grade and the next year go to a regional high school with two other towns. I faked it 'till I made it. Since only 1/3 of the kids in my class knew me, I figured it was a great time to make a fresh start!

  8. Wonderful post Howie. I never would have pegged you for a shy person. Acting outgoing is probably the best thing to do. I still get horribly frightened of people and my tongue gets all tied up when I talk. I think the bathroom is the safe haven for all shy people. Unless they have to make boom boom and there is someone in the stall next to them. Eeeep.

  9. omg, I confess I also had my lunch-in-the-stall phase. I was the nervous new girl at the office and I was on a special diet. Yep. Not anymore. Now I'm the annoying girl who eats all over the place.

  10. Oh. Man. I have done this in high school, a couple times. I am better these days, but I still have trouble talking on the phone to people I don't know, going to parties, and driving a car (well, I guess that's a different phobia, but still.) :D

  11. "Act as if" works for a lot of things!

  12. You just made my day! When I was young, I was extremely shy around adults, especially cashiers, librarians, and school secretaries. Finally a friend addressed the issue. She brought me to a cafe and gave me money to buy a sandwich. Then she left me in the ordering line and watched me from a nearby table. I did what you mentioned- act outgoing- and by doing that, I felt more confident. I ended up having a pleasant, if short, conversation with the man at the register. Since that day, I haven't had much trouble.

  13. Dear Woo!

    This is an eye opener to me. I didn't realize that I was shy, I just thought that I was very self-conscious. I recently startet at a new working place, I discovered that I felt so self-conscious when waking through the hall and stairways. I know the feeling from thousands of situations but never realized, that I might be shy...

    Thanks for the fun story and the eye opener!


  14. Funny story, reminds me of my internship days, when the toilet was the only place I feel relaxed and comfortable
    tho I never eat there

    I miss that toilet :D the toilet here is not as calming as that toilet

    btw, nice expression on the little guy

  15. I can totally relate! Even as a senior in high school, I had a hard time relating to people. It was just too nerve racking to sit by myself in the cafeteria (usually near a group of people who seemed like really good friends themselves). Now in college I have quite a few more friends, but sometimes I feel just the same---although I have decided to dine in my dorm instead of the public restroom! :D
    Thanks for sharing this!

  16. It's still a mistery to me how do you manage to do such amazing amigurumis. You're really and truly a WONDERFUL inspiration to me. Thank you very very much!

    Daniela from México

  17. Thank you for sharing this - and doing so beautifully and creatively!

  18. @PaisleyJade: Wow, you're right, I would never think that you are a shy person either, especially with your outgoing & sunny adventures :) Who knows, maybe there are many future crafty bloggers enjoying lunch in lavatories right now! ;D

    @Amethyst: I agree that talking on the phone can still be tough, especially as we become accustomed to texting&emailing! Your globophobia (fear of balloons) is a surprisingly-common phobia, even gaining some notoriety on tv! Congratulations on tackling your fears :)

    @AmyLynn: Like your sister, my niece also had trouble ordering her food at restaurants… though now she orders quietly enough to have to say it twice haha

    As for size&scale, here's a photo of crocheted-me next to human-me :)

    @RollerScrapper Thanks for your inspiring solo-travel breakfast story! I recently read this body language book which similarly said that how you carry yourself will influence how others respond to you. I hope you meet many friendly souls on your future travels :)

    @NancyMcGill: I admire your independence and outgoing nature! My gf is similarly adept at conversing with strangers, and I get to hear some funny&fascinating chats :)

    I bet your presentation went over well with that large audience! Ironically, I did ok in a public speaking contest in 9th grade, but only after memorizing every word and every supposedly-impromptu gestures :D

  19. @Cori hehe Yes, asking for help in stores is a shared challenge! At least we get in some extra cardio, right? :)

    Your crochet projects must invite much interest when you work on them at lunch break! If I was your co-worker, I'd eat my sandwich while watching you crochet haha

    @Melissa: I like how you viewed a new crowd as an opportunity to refresh your public persona. WIth a change of wardrobe and hats, the transformations could be extra convincing :))

    @lolaforpresident hehe Yes, the washroom would be a perfect hideout if it weren't for all the inherent washroom activity :D

    @MagneticMary: I admire your transformation from stall-diner to public-eater! I will now imagine you eating in everyone's personal space, crumbs everywhere ;)

    @JenGoPop: Hmm, maybe high schools should offer more private places aside for the shy souls… though that could lead to some unfortunate situations too haha. I'm glad you're better these days :)

    And I hope—in one triumphant night—you call a bunch of people to dance in your party-mobile (complete with disco ball)!

    @fingersandtoes: Yes, "Act as if" should be our new motto! Or at least be worn on a t-shirt :)

    @Kate: Wow, you had an awesome friend who gave you that tough-love to indepently order at that cafe. I like how the man at the register responded to your pleasantness. If we all tried being outgoing, one measure of our success would be whether more people engage us in chit-chat, maybe?

    Congratulations on your enduring outgoingness :)

    @Fru.Ekelund: Thanks, Rikke! I wish you much social success at your new workplace, and that you stay far away from the washroom for meal breaks :)

    @zuperdzigh: Yes, some washrooms possess ambiances that are too inviting haha Good thing the public toilets here aren't too fancy with their features. Otherwise, there might as well be twin buttons for "Mealtime" and "E.Coli" ;)

    @T-McD: Dining in your dorm is a smart choice :) A school cafeteria is nerve wracking enough, even if you're at a table with friends! I was ok eating alone in my 12th grade cafeteria, but only because it felt so familiar after a couple years. Good luck in college!! I only attended two years of university before dropping out to be a full-time starving artist haha

    @DannyFlo: Well, if my imagination isn't providing amigurumi inspiration, those childhood moments often provide creative fuel! Thank you for encouraging me, Daniela!

    @cpeezers: And thank you for reading this post :) It's only fortified souls who can read about eating sandwiches in the lavatory haha

  20. Hi again

    One of my collegues told me today, that she often go to the lavatory to work with her laptop when there is too much noise in the office :-)

    I gave you an award - find it on my blog, if you like.


  21. Howie, that is great advice xD I actually get really nervous talking to other people, but I always act like I'm really outgoing and everyone believes it.

  22. Love this read! Did you craft the bathroom scene, too?

  23. In France we have a canteen for lunch.When my son was about 15 he started a new school and was so shy that he would not eat with others so sometimes i 'd go there and stay with him during his lunch break..;2 hours.Y.S

  24. @Fru. Ekelund: Thanks, Rikke! I like the mental image of your colleague setting up a productive office space in the lavatory ;D

    @Michelle: I'm happy to hear that acting outgoing works :) I've only tried that technique recently. I'm still working on controlling the spontaneous blushing/sweating though!

    @Oanhderbread: Thank you! Yes, I cobbled together the bathroom scene too. A breakdown of the set can be seen in this photo :)

    @BUSIR: That's so sweet & supportive of you to visit your son in the canteen, to reassure him :) I'm sure he'll always remember your kindness!

    @AniDoll: Awesome at Stall-Sandwich Eatin', yup! ;) Thank uu

  25. I truly feel for you. Although I'm not shy - I love meeting new people, it's an adventure - I am introverted and need my alone time.

    Overcoming one's fears is always worth it, though. Good luck!

  26. Thank you so much for sharing this! It was really touching, because I know exactly how you feel! I really struggle with it. I can order through the drive-thru, but sometimes I'm too overwhelmed to go into a store by myself to buy something. In high school I never went to lunch without a book so I could have something to focus on and hide my face :P Luckily I have a really sweet guy who encourages me when I'm feeling brave, and helps me out when I'm feeling freaked out! It can be crippling, but I hope to conquer it someday! : ) So thanks again! You're seriously the best!


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