From Our Readers
May 12, 2015 2:06 pm

I’ve been shy for most of my life, which can be a struggle when navigating the world outside my head. For me, engaging in small talk can feel like diffusing a bomb. Parties and group conversations are my worst nightmare. My ideal work environment contains me, myself, and I.

I keep a lot of that to myself because we live in a world where being shy is often seen as a detriment. Even self-identified shy people seem to talk more about the struggles and the difficulties of being shy than anything else. But what if I were to tell you there are actually lots of benefits to being shy? Some might even say…superpowers? That might sound crazy to many living in the extroverted world, but remember: even Superman couldn’t be Superman if Clark Kent was always talking about how cool it was to be Superman. Sometimes it’s good to be shy.

Shy people can tell the difference between nice people and jerks faster 

I often know that an acquaintance is not a superficial person long before most of my friends. It’s not because I’m smarter or because I talk to strangers more. It’s because in my experience, jerks don’t give shy people the time of day. They run past shy girls like they’re chopped liver. My theory as to why this happens is that superficial people are often looking to get something out of others, and shy people’s strengths aren’t always apparent. Someone who is looking to use other people will look at a shy person and assume they have nothing to offer, and move on.

Truly kind people will say “hi” and introduce themselves, because they aren’t looking to gain anything other than a hello or a conversation. As a result, shy people are like human canaries when it comes to jerks. I’ve remembered years on the people who said “hi” to me or tried to have a conversation with me, and they almost always turn out to be good people down the line once I get to know them. The people who are initially rude to the shy kid and kind to everyone else usually turn out to be not so nice. And if you see someone who is hiding in the corner talking to no one? Don’t assume that they’re arrogant or think they’re better than everyone else. They’re probably just shy too.

Shy people hear and see things extroverted people don’t

One of the fun perks about being unassuming is that the majority of people think that means you’re not paying attention. That is the opposite of true. People who hang out on the edge of conversations get to see everything as a whole, because they’re not actively participating. So shy people often see the full scope of interactions, not just the little details. As a result we often pick up on things that people too busy having a conversation might miss.

Shy people have a built-in excuse not to go out

Don’t want to go to that party? Can’t sit through another improv show? Really don’t feel like putting on pants and going outside? Most people will have nights where they’re tired and don’t feel like going out, but only shy people have a built in excuse not to. One of the best parts about being a known shy person is that people who have met me or have heard about me expect me to be shy. That is all the information they need to explain any of my anti-social behavior. But what most people don’t realize is that sometimes the thing stopping me from going out the door or engaging in small talk isn’t my shyness, it’s just my energy level or my patience. But since I can hide the real reason under shyness, I can duck out of a lot of social obligations, and people will think I’m just being shy. (Well you know, until this gets published.)

Shy people are often faster at busy work

It’s 2009. I’m a senior in high school, and my entire math class is yelling at me through an open window. Why, you might ask? Because I’m reading a book in a sunny courtyard while they’re all stuck inside doing worksheets. This is because while everyone was chatting with their seatmates, I chatted with no one and finished up all the worksheets early. As a result I got to spend the rest of class hanging out in the senior courtyard. My classmates had to use the rest of the period to finish up. So they were essentially mad at how genius my long game was. As a shy person I find I work harder and faster than a lot of people, not because I’m more industrious, but because I want to avoid talking and get to what I actually enjoy doing, quicker. This could be anything from reading, writing, or binge watching cool shows on Netflix. So if you see a shy person working furiously on their homework while everyone else is goofing off, don’t feel sorry for them. They’re just trying to get to their version of goofing off faster.

People often underestimate shy people, so we look totally awesome when we deliver

Some of the sweetest and most rewarding moments in my life have been when a group of people underestimate me because I’m quiet. For whatever reason, most people seem to think that if you’re not saying or doing much, you’re not thinking about much. This is not the case. Without exception, all the shy people I’ve had the privilege of getting to know have oceans of crazy thoughts and imagination cranking away 24/7. So when it comes time for an individual project or assignment, we often bring the house down. And when we deliver, it’s always a mic drop, since many people seem to have such low expectations of the shy population. No one seems to think that the silent person has anything good to contribute, even though we almost always do. Hopefully it stays that way so we can keep on secretly showing off.

Being shy is a lot cooler and beneficial to your life than most people think. We might live in a society that values the outgoing and the extroverted, but just because we don’t fit in doesn’t mean we’re not awesome.

Scarlet Meyer is a NYC-based writer and stand up comedian. You can check out news about her upcoming work and shows here.

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