Monday, 19 December 2011

A Shy Girl's Survival Kit | Watercolour Illustrations

This thing called shyness; it pretty much rules my life. I blush when more than one pair of eyes is on me, I clam up when in a large group of people, I avoid eye contact at all costs- all of the usual shy girl things. The older I get, and the more I accept that I probably wont "grow out of it", the more I realise how puzzling the whole thing is. What the hell is it? And why can't I shake it?!

I'm beginning to wonder if it comes hand in hand with being creative and I very much suspect that it does. Creating, whether that be drawing, or taking photographs, or designing clothes even, is a very introverted activity, and it's hard to see which came first: creativity, or shyness. Are we creative because we're shy, and it's a way to express ourselves? Or is shyness a bi product of being artistic?

I'm hoping this blog will have all the wall flowers and shrinking violets quietly raising their hands and whispering *I'm shy too* but it would be equally as interesting to see that I'm wrong, it's not a creative trait. It's just a thing, an annoying unwavering condition, betrothed to the unlucky few.

But for now, seeing as this shy thing wont be going anywhere for a while, I thought it would be fun to make a shy girl's (or guys!) survival guide to get us through many an awkward social event and to teach those of you lucky out-going people what it's really like to be constantly... 'sheepish'. (I love that word!)

A Shy Girl's Survival Kit Consists of:

1. "I'm really busy" equipment.
This can come in the form of many things, but most likely it'll be a book. An example of it's usage as follows: you're going to a pub to meet your friends, they haven't arrived on time. It's a busy pub, people are looking at the girl on her own, "does she want some company?" "shall I buy her a drink?" QUICK! Whip out the book. You're far too involved in the words of Ian McEwan to talk to anyone.
2. A fringe, scarf or low sitting hat.
Because it is simply TOO MUCH to expect your whole face to be visible to the world. People might actually look at it and that would be embarrassing.

3. Hand occupiers.
This is a strange one, but for me in social situations, as soon as I have something to do with my hands I feel much calmer. Usually this involves a drink (which explains why I get so drunk at house parties!), but I guess for other people it could be smoking (for outdoor social encounters) or maybe some knitting (just kidding).
4. An escape route.
A few years ago, I went through a really stressful time, and it got so bad that my shyness almost became like claustrophobia. I found the school classroom an especially stressful place to be, filled with my peers ready to judge me for being so quiet, and always made sure I had a believable excuse incase it became too much to be there. Now, it's to a much lesser extent, but I still have an excuse (my 'escape route') incase I need a breather. "I've got a commission to finish" "I didn't get much sleep last night" "I have to feed my rabbit." Alternate these to avoid being seen as a bore.

The capital letters say it all. This is very important in order to get by. A few glasses of wine and one can almost feel normal, and suddenly holding a conversation is easy. Just watch yourself, there's nothing more cringey than getting so drunk you end up puking spaghetti carbonara into your pillow (didn't happen..)
6. A happy face.
The face will always be the go-to for judging what sort of person you are, and when you have trouble expressing yourself with words, it's important to have a face that says "I'm a little shy, I'm not being stuck up/ a weirdo."

7. People you can trust.
Sometimes being shy gets a little much. It's hard feeling like you're never quite allowed to be yourself, like theres always a little wall between you and others that stops you connecting. Whenever I see my family, I remember the person I really am, and the person I wish I could show other people.

And there we have it.

Does anyone have anything to add to the survival kit? How do you deal with shyness?


  1. I seriously felt like this post was about me! It's great to know I'm not the only one that feels this way. The book is such a classical 'shy girl's survival kit' from any situation haha.

    Ps. The illustrations are gorgeous :)

  2. I think i've always been quite shy and quiet...over the years i've forced myself to talk to people (which used to really impress my friends as they were shy too).
    I do have slight paranoia though( I think).... If i'm walking down the street I avoid all eye contact cause if I link eyes with someone I think they hate me (maybe i'm just mad)...and I hate making phone calls cause my voice is too quiet and I forget what Ihave to say and get embarassed.
    I work in a shop and have to shout " NEXT PLEASE" but my voice is so quiet and i'm so short that people don't notice me and this makes me feel small.

    Alcohol does help :p I must agree. But don't worry, just take it one day at a time. If you want to stop being shy you could do something small everyday: like say good morning to a stranger :p

  3. Hand is up in the air, waving frantically. I'm okay out in public on my own, I adopt a kind of nose in the air thing - I know it sounds awful, but I tell myself eye contact is less important if my shoulders are back and head is up (it really does help). I find large groups the hardest, house parties etc, where you are expected to make lots of small talk to people you don't know very well, I have no small talk! I also find it difficult to concentrate on the conversation I am having, if there are lots of others having conversations around me, or lots of noise, I just can't focus :/

  4. Another great post Holly! I can't think of anything else to add to the survival kit; I think you've nailed it!
    I've always struggled with shyness and anxiety issues. I think a lot of it is linked to self-confidence as well, and the pressure of making a good impression. For instance, if I have to talk to a stranger to give them directions I'm absolutely fine... but then I'll never have to see them again so it doesn't matter if I feel I've made a fool of myself. Equally, once I've got to know someone even a little bit or if they make 'the first move' in talking to me, I'm fine. Classroom situations on the other hand are an entirely different matter, and I could (and have on a few occasions) go months barely saying a word to most people. (Until the last couple of months of the course, when it no longer matters what people think of me so I can then be myself a bit more and miraculously start talking ;) ) Ironically I do think it's caused by fear of making a bad impression, when actually shyness makes the worst impression as people think you're snobbish or boring.

    I think it's important to push yourself a little bit and as Emma said, do little things frequently that you're a bit scared of. Someone told me years ago to write down little achievements of things you thought you were too shy to do but managed anyway (no matter how silly), then you can look through them all and realise how much you can do when you put your mind to it :) I don't think being shy ever goes away fully, but little things like that do help you manage it.

    As for it being linked to creativity, I don't know... I know shy people who are creative and very outgoing ones who are, but as you say I think the more 'introverted' activities that tend to go hand in hand with creativity probably exacerbate the problem in shy people!

  5. Ah! There you are, my fellow shys :) Thank you for your comments.
    Adrianna - thank you. Very glad you enjoyed the post, glad my words related to you too!
    Emma- I think paranoia has a lot to do with shyness- when I talk to people about how I feel they are forever telling me I over think things. Being introverted I tend to make things up in my head, such as , like you were saying, "everyone hates me!" I hope recognising the problem is the first step!
    Dawn- I completely relate to what you're saying, I also adopt the head in the air thing. I think there can be negative connotations to looking so composed i.e being thought of as stuck up or rude. Feel like I should wear an "I'm shy not a bitch!" badge or something...
    Very much get that overwhelmed feeling in large groups too, it's a shame but that's just the way it is I suppose.

  6. Also I'd just like to bring to everyone's attention this marvellous illustration in case you haven't seen it yet! An afflication that I'm afraid goes hand in hand with the shyness. ;)

  7. I am guilty of 1,2,3,5 &6. n fact I have a long fringe & ALWAYS wear a scarf! However I have overcome my shyness... 5 years of working in rough pubs took the edges off it (it's impossible to be shy whilst shouting at 50 odd drunk men that if they don't stop fighting right now you will turn the football off...) and working in the catering industry means that you talk to people all the time. The traces of shyness are still there though. I think that's why I find it difficult to open up on my blog!

  8. Ah yes, I remember seeing this print a while ago and loving it!
    Thanks for your brilliant (as always) comments Bryony! I think that's so true, setting little 'challenges' can really help to overcome shyness- and often you realise how silly you were to worry so much.

  9. Charis - Thank you for your comment. I so agree with you on the job front - I used to work in a busy restaurant, and sometimes I momentarily forgot I was shy - when you're rushed off your feet trying to remember orders etc, shyness takes a back seat I guess!
    It's strange you should say that about your blog, because for me my blog is a place to open up, and get my thoughts across!

  10. I have always been shy.
    My mum said I was "painfully shy" when i was little and she was a bit worried!
    My teacher in school told my parents that she stopped asking me questions in class because I would go bright red everytime and it made her feel bad.

    I'm a bit better now (I think!)

    My boyfriend cant understand it. He can talk to anyone and gets frustrated because he cant understand why I find it difficult, or why i go wierd sometimes, or why i cant use the phone - i hate phonecalls.


    I always wear a scarf too and always need something in my hands otherwise I would pick my fingers off!

    I tried working in a pub and a shop to see if it would help but i quit both those jobs pretty sharpish. no thank you.

    If anyone has a cure for shy-ness i would like to try it.
    I am glad that I am not the only one.
    I agree with the bitch-face thing... someone needs to make that badge that you said about!
    I'm shy and nice really! Not a miserable bitch wierdo.

    The escape route is way too tempting to use even before you've gone out.

    Thinking too much is a classic, I have the ability to turn ANYTHING into a negative and somehow come to conclusion that everyone hates me.

    Oh dear.... I'm glad I'm not the only quiet mental!

    I dont know if it is just a creative thing... although there is alot of us! Maybe it just suits the job?
    I quite like being on my own most of the day, locked away drawing or whatever.
    and I like blogs and emails because I can write what I think and can sound cheerful and outgoing and no one will know.

    Thank you for writing this post!

  11. Dear People,
    That is all very well and we all feel we don't belong sometimes but the best thing to do is stop whining and just get on with our lives and art etc. It works. Really.
    x o x o

  12. ahhh what a fabulous list!

    I have to ask- when it comes to your own art, do you find yourself feeling shy when sharing it with others or is it just in social situations?

    I'm creative but not shy. However I do find it a challenge to show my art/ crafts (but maybe thats just because i'm not every good!).

    I'm so pleased to have found you!
    xo em

  13. Haha this is great, it made me chuckle. I've accepted that I like being alone actually, I just don't talk much. I think it's just how I was brought up, to not talk about your feelings which has lead me to art.

    Some people then think I'm shy or don't like them which isn't the case at all. Being with people takes a lot of energy out of me so most of the time I just like to spend that energy doing something I really enjoy.

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