Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


I'm Shy and I'm OK

A Guest Post from a College Student Interning in Oklahoma City

Celia Ampel is a Journalism major at the University of Missouri. Currently she is interning in Oklahoma. I ran across her writing and she kindly gave me permission to share it here. She writes about her own shyness, how her mentors handle it, and the many ways she is learning to accept shyness as being OK.

I’m OK

Greetings, all, from Edmond, Okla., the place where the following piece of musical history was made:

My adventures here have followed that strange duality that exists for all shy journalists: the one where you leave an art museum with in-depth knowledge of your docent’s immigration history and an invitation to go paintballing with him, and then you go home and eat Oreos for dinner because you’re afraid to go into the kitchen in case you might be bothering your new roommate.

Oh, do other people not do that?

Listen, world: I am still shy. It won’t be shocking to you that I haven’t yet transformed into Queen Latifah, despite my editor’s felicitous advice. But now that I’m on the other side of the “WWQLD” (What Would Queen Latifah Do) semester, I’m thinking maybe it doesn’t matter that I’ll never be Congresswoman Bookman; maybe being shy is working just fine.

I say that for a few reasons. One is that I have to, for sanity’s sake. The more I convince myself that being quiet is the same as being weird, the more quiet I become, and the more Oreo dinners I have. It’s probably better to make peace with it now.

(By “make peace,” I mean spend my night soaking up the entire shyness oeuvre of the psychologist parents of this sweet kid from my freshman dorm. Quiet is not a four-letter word!)

But you know what? I really think it’s true. My Missourian semester showed me that being shy doesn’t mean being incapable of doing my job. For whatever reason, I don’t get paralyzing stay-out-of-the-kitchen fear when I’m working to find out information for readers.

I’m afraid, for sure. But that level of fear only pushes me to be certain I know what I’m talking about so I avoid embarrassment, and to stay mostly silent, which allows me to absorb what the source is saying.

The real revelation for me, though, is that being shy isn’t even necessarily a social handicap. Shy people have a great gift: their gut about whom to trust. It comes from years of observing people and a deep fear of being burned, and it pulls us away from the frigid, hateful and fake.

Donc, tonight, I renounce my shame. Being shy is, if not a virtue, at least a blessing: it’s a heightened social sense, an intuitive risk aversion that keeps us far from broken bones and broken hearts. There are the occasional malfunctions, when I hide from perfectly nice people all day, eating nothing but Milk’s Favorite Cookie. Maybe I’m totally acting like this. But I no longer think I need to change.

I’m OK, see? (OKC. OKC. OKC!)

Celia Ampel