A few years ago I was invited to a glamorous party in London, full of famous writers.
As a teenager in the suburbs, it was the kind of event I dreamed of going to and I felt I had to go, even though I didn't have a plus-one. But as evening approached, I felt nothing but paralyzing fear.
& # 39; Don't be ridiculous, & # 39; my girlfriend said when I trusted her. & # 39; You are always the life and the soul! & # 39;
There was a truth in it. I brought my & # 39; 30 years together with organizing uproarious dinners and had built up a reputation as the Fun Person in my small group.
But what I generally ignored was that this social whirl entailed significant personal costs – since I have had difficulty concealing my deep-seated embarrassment since my early childhood.
Writer and journalist Flic Everett (photo) spent years covering deep-rooted embarrassment
I attended the party, my face red with nerves. I had two glasses of champagne on my neck before I could get myself to talk to a stranger – of course when I did, they were delicious and I was glad I was gone. But the experience reminded me that as a natural introvert, every event is a challenge.
I always assumed that my hidden shyness was rare, but according to a new Yougov survey, 47 percent of people identify themselves as shy, with a huge 58 percent saying they don't trust new ones groups, and 10 percent admit that they are & # 39; very shy. & # 39;
There is of course no clinical definition of & # 39; embarrassment & # 39; and most of us feel a nervous ripple before they enter a noisy party or first appear at the school gate.
It's just a part of who I am – but instead of accepting it and building a life to house it, I have done my best to ignore it for many years.
I always assumed that my hidden embarrassment was rare, but according to a new Yougov survey, 47 percent of people identify themselves as shy & # 39; (stock photo)
I was in my forties when I realized that pretending to be a cheerful extrovert while in reality I was a shy introvert was both unnecessary and very tiring.
Embarrassment usually starts early. As an only child, I enjoyed playing with my dolls, reading stories, and dressing Grandma & # 39; s hats. It seems incredible now, in this age of play dates and baby groups, but I didn't know any other little kids.
Going to the nursery at four was a huge shock. Instead of being excited by the possibility of new playmates, I was shocked by the rough and tumble like a kitten in a playground full of puppies.
On my first day, I remember painting a dress with green poster paint and then, for the rest of the afternoon, I tied myself to the skirt of our teacher Mrs. Wetton – and nothing really changed over the years.
I found school demanding and although I eventually made friends, I just wanted to spend time with them. Group dynamics were confusing and I kept back, quiet and worried.
At primary school I would always rather stay inside and learn spelling than roll out with the gang.
As a teenager I went to a girls' school and only met my boys when I was 17 – around the time I discovered Dutch courage.
I have never had & # 39; problems & # 39; with drinking, but over the years I have certainly drunk a lot of cheap wine to increase my confidence. Without it, my shyness would leave me paralyzed, one foot out the door, the other desiring to be back to the fire and a book.
Introverted people can have fun, but are exhausted by socializing, while extroverted people are stimulated by being with other people (stock photo)
At the age of 25 I left to take the train to a small birthday party in a friend's house, reached the station and returned because I couldn't bear the idea of socializing with strangers.
It wasn't that I was really scared of the other guests, or really believed that I couldn't have a mild conversation – it just felt too overwhelming.
One of the definitions of introversion and extraversion is just how tiring your company is. Introverted people can really enjoy themselves, but are exhausted by socializing, while extroverted people are stimulated by being with other people.
Despite the fact that I knew this, I spent my 30s trying to ignore it. I didn't want to be boring and shy, sitting at home with a sense of being robbed, while others were having fun somewhere else. I would drink, collect myself and transform into a party girl.
And more often than not, I finally had a good time – but I was always shattered afterwards.
At work I was involved as a journalist in meeting new people. But I have rarely felt embarrassed because I am used to doing my job. Just like actors crumbling off the stage, it's when I just & # 39; myself & # 39; must be that embarrassment comes into effect.
And I will always avoid using the phone when an email is sufficient. It is usually seen as a millennial disorder (or affection) to & # 39; afraid of the phone & # 39; to be. But some of us felt that fear as early as 1982 and pretended we hadn't heard our parents & # 39; ring it & # 39; instead of risking an uncomfortable conversation.
Yet I have never tried a formal remedy for shyness. For an introverted person, the idea of a & # 39; workshop & # 39 ;, where I have to open up to strangers, is anathema.
The cure at the end, however, was not an assertiveness course or a self-help book about feeling the fear. It was just accepting that I am a shy introvert and organize my life accordingly.
A few years ago I moved to the Western Highlands to live with my partner Andy, and I have never been so happy. I no longer need to call chit chat at school (my son is an adult) and I don't have to go to parties in case people feel offended if I don't. Living where we live, there are few social occasions – we have a small group of friends and I think that's fine.
As soon as I didn't have to drown my fear in Dutch courage, I realized that I no longer needed alcohol and I stopped drinking two years ago.
Now I have rediscovered my childish passions. I like to read, I love long walks with the dog, I like to write short stories and watch movies in front of the fire. I work alone and I like it so much.
Seeing other people is no longer a test of social courage – it is now a treat because it is a choice, not an obligation.
I am 50 next year and I have always assumed that I would give a big party. Now I think differently. Sometimes admitting you are shy means you can enjoy life much more.
How To Sober And Keep Your Friends, by Flic Everett, is published by Quadrille £ 12.99.
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