For most of my life, people told me that I was shy. They didn’t ask if I was shy. They didn’t suggest that I might be shy. They were sure. It was obvious. And I didn’t have a way of telling them that it wasn’t true, so, outwardly, I agreed with them, even though inwardly I disagreed.

Now, finally, I know how to explain, so now I can say what I always thought.

I am not shy.

If you met me and told me I was shy, the conversation might go like this:

I’m not shy; I suffer from social anxiety.

What’s social anxiety?

Basically, it’s a fear of other people and especially of their thoughts.

Isn’t that the same as shyness?

No. Shyness is a characteristic that people are born with. Most people grow out of it at some stage in their lives; others don’t. Social anxiety appears later on, usually in adolescence. It envelopes the sufferer, masking their real personality.

So they’re two completely different animals.

No. Because most people with social anxiety have always been shy, and their social anxiety developed out of their shyness.

And you’re saying that you’re different?

Yes. I’ve never been shy. As a child, I was anything but. And if you’d met me first on the dance floor or performing on a stage in front of you, you wouldn’t have suspected me of being shy – unless you tried to talk to me.

Once, I participated in a course that included giving a short presentation. The course instructor couldn’t make me out. I’d hardly said anything during the group discussions, and yet I gave my presentation with no sign of nerves. He called me an enigma. I was an enigma to myself until I discovered the term social anxiety.

In fact, the conversation wouldn’t go like that, because I wouldn’t be able to say that. And so you would go away “knowing” that I’m shy. But I’m not. Really I’m not.

Tune in again, keep in touch and don’t suffer in silence.

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