When I began writing this essay I thought I was an introvert. I am. But I incorrectly thought introvert was the current term for shyness. Then I did some research and discovered that they are actually two different things. Here are the definitions of shyness and introvert.
Shyness: Apprehension, lack of comfort, or awkwardness, which commonly occurs in new situations or with unfamiliar people. Shy people often want to connect with others, but don’t know how or can’t tolerate the anxiety that comes with human interaction. — Wikipedia & Psychology Today
Introvert: Introverts are drained by social encounters and energized by solitary, often creative pursuits. Their disposition is frequently misconstrued as shyness, but some introverts socialize easily; they just strongly prefer not to. Introverts feel more alive and at an equilibrium in quiet, minimally stimulating environments. — Psychology Today & K. Lori Hanson, Ph.D.
It turns out I am both shy and an introvert. Although I am far less shy then I used to be. This is the story of how I became less shy. And perhaps a little less introverted.
When I was a child I was called shy. That definition fit. I remained that way for most of my adult life. I was comfortable around friends, family, and co-workers (after a time.) But meeting new people was difficult, and having to talk to them was extremely uncomfortable. I couldn’t do small talk. I envied those who were at ease around everyone.
Getting married and having children didn’t change things significantly. By the way, my wife is an extrovert. She is very social and comfortable with strangers. That “opposites attract” thing, I suppose. I still hated going to any kind of gathering of people because I was so uncomfortable and awful at conversation. I usually stood by myself while my wife chatted up everyone. I could tell my awkwardness made other people feel awkward. Although most people tried to engage me with limited success before abandoning the effort.
Then eleven years ago my life went through a dramatic change. My airline job of twenty years was contracted out and I began a new career as a guitar teacher at age 46.