Abuja - I am an introvert. Not only that, but I am Awkward Penguin to boot.
I realise that most people who consider themselves to be reserved aren’t necessarily socially inept, but unfortunately, I am one of those who were blessed with both.
Being this uncomfortably shy doesn’t bother me, or at least it didn’t until I realised that people who are naturally more gifted (or more eloquent really) at being able to express themselves verbally, become impatient with me the moment I even open my mouth to speak.
It was Albert Camus who said the following: “Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.”
And I couldn’t agree more.
If people only realised that for some of us, the act of uttering a thought out loud - knowing that you might get weird looks because your sentences are coming out all jumbled - is a tremendous accomplishment on our part, most wouldn’t be so quick to judge.
I’ve always been the kind of person who has been able to express my internalised thoughts better on paper than in person, so it’s incredibly exhausting for me to try and get a point across when I know that it sounds so much better in my head.
I don’t have a problem with people who are better than I am in this area of life. I often admire them and enjoy listening to them. I even mentally take notes on some of the witty repartee that flows so freely from their mouths.
It’s incredibly fascinating that some of you can be so effortlessly sharp with your words.
I can’t count how many times people like you have managed to a) leave me hanging on your words, b) surprise the laughter out of me and c) make me feel really grateful for having you around in my life.
What bothers me though is those who make me feel as if my level of social shyness is a disease that needs to be cured.
I am well aware that this is a handicap in life, but I’ve always been taught to embrace things you love and hate about yourself.
While I certainly am filled with a healthy (okay fine, not so healthy then) amount of self-loathing, the last thing I expect or need people to do is to make me feel bad about it. I am my own worst enemy, I don’t need to add you to my list as well.
So, for those who have foot-in-mouth disease, or don’t realise how much your impatient glares hurt, I thought I’d compile a list of little things you should a) be aware or b) avoid doing altogether.
1. Please don’t tell me I’m adorably awkward.
I know you mean well, but it doesn’t make me feel better, so stop saying that. Especially if your remark was preceded by a comment on how socially inept I am.
The only time you get to make fun of my awkward penguin status is when I’m mocking myself.
2. I know my words are often garbled and come out all mixed, but I will eventually make some semblance of a point.
The worst thing you can do to me is dismiss what I have to say. A friend and I were just talking about how much this hurts. Just because I don’t know how to say something, doesn’t mean I’m not worth listening to.
3. Don’t glare at me when I take too long to get what I’m trying to make across.
People like me know we take long to get a word out.
We know we’re wasting your time, but the last thing we need you to do is for you to allow your body language to show just HOW much of a time waster we are.
4. Instead of trying to change me, accept me as I am.
I acknowledge that being a shy creature is debilitating. I even acknowledge that I feel a lot of self-hatred towards this aspect of my personality. What I wish though is that people could learn to be okay with me learning to be okay with the fact that I’m just wired this way.
And maybe one day I’ll stop feeling this way, but I’d like to hope that it will come from my own free will instead of people constantly telling me to “go out there and just be bold”.
Boldness, after all, doesn’t necessarily lay in being the loudest or the most confident. Sometimes, the chronically awkward win at life too.
Even though the victories are harder to see.
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