- Mental Health
Living with shyness
Shyness and getting by
I remember my very first day at Catholic school when my mother dropped me off and said goodbye how scared and nervous I was. I also remember crying as she left me and I suddenly felt all alone despite the fact that I was in a classroom of 30 students. I always seemed to struggle with shyness as a kid and all throughout my life. I always felt uncomfortable in large gatherings and was always very quiet. It took me a long time to find a level of comfort where I could open up to someone. In school I was a good student but I always dreaded being called on even if I knew the answer. I remember very rarely raising my hand in class even when I enjoyed the lesson. I always paid attention and was very well behaved in the class room.
I went to Catholic school from 1st grade through the 5th grade in Brooklyn, New York at Little Flower (St. Theresa of Lisieux) and I will never forget one day in particular. We were assembling in the class room and we had to pay attention to the sister (nun) teaching our lesson and I remember talking to a cute girl sitting next to me as our teacher was teaching us our morning lesson and she heard me and turned in my direction and went to the chalk board to get her yard stick and she walked in my direction and said "young man, there will be no talking in my classroom when I am giving a lesson and she proceeded to hit me on the head with the yard stick. I was so embarrassed and felt awful as she did such a cruel thing. I believe that was a turning point that put me into a deep shyness because I never talked again in the classroom. She really put fear into me after that experience. I always felt the nuns at Catholic school were very strict and some were very mean to the kids. There were some who were a delight but there were some who really made you fear them.
I was never one to cause trouble at school so I was deeply hurt by the actions of the nun that day. I had some friends in school but I pretty much kept to myself because I just felt safer that way. I don't know why shyness seems to stifle a person and inhibit them preventing them from really getting involved with others. I was very respectful of others and if I felt comfortable in someone's presence I would then start to open up. I believe shyness is a social phobia and it has to do with how we perceive things. I tried to find opportunities that would help bring me out of my shell and I believed I had truly found the answer wIth baseball. You see I had a gift for playing as I had the ability to play and I had the love of the game which I owe to both my parents. My mom for getting me interested in the New York Mets where we would watch games together and my dad for all the baseball catches we had throughout the years.
I was also very fortunate to have a neighbor's brother take an interest in my baseball abilities as he encouraged me to continue to practice and he made time like my dad did to have a catch with me. He encouraged me to play in little league and I will never forget him for that very reason. His name was Dennis and he was the driving force in getting me to sign up for little league. I was very grateful for his persistence. I joined my first season in 1970 in the Little Flower baseball league and I played for the Indians. I remember that was a wonderful season as we had a winning record and was the best team in our division. We went on to play in the playoffs and championship game and we won it all that season. I was the starting shortstop and I remember making some spectacular catches in the field and was pretty good at the plate also. I remember we were having our celebration dinner at the Carslyle and my coach had told me I was in for a surprise. As we were called up to receive our trophies I was all excited as I went back to sit at our table with my proud parents. It was wonderful. I then heard the honors being bestowed on the MVP for the season and it was a fellow teammate who I was very happy for. It was now time to call out the name of the MIP (Most improved player) and as they called out the name I actually heard my name and I was so surprised. My coach knew it all along and he managed to keep it a secret but hinted to me when he said i was in for a surprise. It was wonderful and my parents and I were so very happy. During the dinner they had a special guest speak and it was a player from the New York Mets who was a backup catcher to Jerry Grote. His name was Duffy Dyer and I thought he was great as he autographed the bottom of my championship trophy. I was on cloud nine that night and I owed it all to Dennis, my parents and my coach for encouraging me to play.
When I was playing baseball my abilities spoke for themselfand although I didn't talk all that much I managed to still become popular because of my abilities to play the game and excel at it. I managed to play little league for three seasons until I had surgery to remove a non malignant tumor that was on the back of my knee after we moved to Long Island. I missed the next season and somehow never found another opportunity to play in a league although I loved the game. I felt upset that I never pursued it after we left Brooklyn. When we moved to Long Island I found it was a difficult adjustment and I fell back into my shyness. It was hard enough saying goodbye to my friends from Brooklyn and having to make new friends in Long Island. I did over the years manage to make some really good friends although I still struggled with shyness. I was always shy of the girls and whenever I noticed a cute girl I would shy away from talking. It really limited me and I do regret that I was so shy but I felt I had no control over those feelings and it was smothering at times.
As the years passed I managed to make strides but still considered myself to be shy in situations where people gathered as I was not one to easily start a conversation. I certainly can see the parallels between shyness and autism as both view the world different from most and they both feel disconnected from the mainstream.
I am now a concerned parent and I am sad to see my son alone alot which is attributed to his autism but I want to help him find opportunities to fit in with his classmates and find areas of interest that will allow him to freely participate and make friendships and to excel. I know what it is like to be shy and I want my son to overcome those feelings and to grow and feel comfortable in his surroundings.
I have learned a great deal from my personal experiences and I am now learning from my son and I am very hopeful for him that he will find connections and establish friendships and find opportunities that will benefit him and help him mature. We all have to come of age and sometimes it can be very scary but we have to take one day at a time and never lose hope. It is possible for a shy child to achieve and grow. They may never overcome their shyness but if they can find something worthwhile they can excel at then it is all worth the struggles if they can become a better person for it.
I learned that shyness does not have to limit us. We can think and act more positive and that can be our way to get by the painful shyness we live with. We just have to change how we view things and how we relate with others and ourselves.
Edward D. Iannielli III