Online, it’s so easy to portray yourself as this person you’ve always dreamed of being. But what happens when you meet up with someone you met online and (because of the impression you gave) they’re expecting you to go on a 60 km bike ride followed by bungee jumping and a nice cold beer afterwards, but you’re a recovering alcoholic who’s afraid of heights and hasn’t been on a bike since it had training wheels on it! Dis-a-pointing!
I used to be shy. Like, very, VERY shy. I was the kid who was afraid to order french fries at McDonalds because I was scared to talk to the cashier. I used to go to bed before the babysitter got there, even if it were 2 hours before my bed time. I would do EVERYTHING in my power to avoid talking to people. Why? I really don’t know. I think I was born that way. My mom says that little old ladies would stop her on the street to come over to baby cuddle me and I would just glower at them to make them go away. From a very young age I loved to be alone. I’d be playing in my bedroom (I loved my little plastic animal collection) and my mom would come in to see how I was doing. Her account is that I would shoot her a look akin to f*ck off, I WANT to be alone! Say that last line like you were Greta Garbo… I VANT to be ALONE! Yes, that’s right! Luckily my mom was good enough to respect my need to be alone and not force me to be something I wasn’t. Social.
|Greta wanted to be alone.|
In pre-school and kindergarten I remember feeling lonely, but I did start to learn how to interact with other kids. Still, my favorite thing to do was put pieces of wood in a vice and hammer bottle caps into it. Alone. That might sound like a strange thing to do in pre-school but my teacher was very unconventional. She had the school in the basement of her house and had pets like an iguana, a de-scented skunk and for a while, a spider monkey (I think it bit someone and had to go away.) It was the perfect place for an artsy gal like myself to get an introduction on how to think outside the box.
Elementary school was OK, I had friends and got by but I didn’t really start to get over my shyness until early high school. I still felt like a freak (but what 13 year old doesn’t?) but I became aware of how I was being perceived and decided to make a concerted effort to be more outgoing and not so “weird.”
Fast forward to today. When I tell people that I’m shy (the feelings of shyness are still there) they don’t believe me. I have worked so hard over the years to put myself out there and not be as afraid of rejection or failure that even I would consider myself a gregarious and outgoing person, an extrovert, if you will. Does this make me any less authentic? Does this make me a phony? Or did I make a decision of who I wanted to be and train myself to become that?
|And so do I… sometimes.|
My natural instinct is still to hide away and be alone, but my curiosity about the world and it’s inhabitants have forced me out of my shell. Kind of fitting that I’m a Cancer, isn’t it? A little hermit crab happy hanging out in her shell. But hermit crabs continually outgrow their shells and need new ones. Ooh, that’s kind of a cool metaphor, isn’t it?
So, what does all of this have to do with being authentic? Well, should we ever meet, just know that I will enjoy getting to know you, I will ask you lots of questions and try really hard not to interrupt (I’m bad for that) but my authentic self will eventually need to have some quality time on her own, so don’t be offended if I squirrel away to my room to play with my plastic animals or hammer bottle caps into something. Or more likely, read a book.
Quotes on solitude…