Breaking Brave: How I Turned From Shy Introvert To Social Butterfly

by Susy Alexandre

I’ve never been a particularly brave person.

It might be a surprise to those who know me that once upon a time, I was cripplingly shy. Seriously, I wouldn’t even look people in the eye when they addressed me. I was meek, sensitive (that hasn’t changed) and generally, always feared the worst.

This was in stark contrast to my older sister who was, and remains to be, anything but a wallflower: confident, beautiful and definitely brave.

I guess I’ve always been mature beyond my years, which made for a bizarre balancing act between scholarly successes and social failures.

Don’t get me wrong; I had friends – or at least peers who would let me tag along, despite my lack of contribution to the conversation — but I was always the kid in the back who was standing in the shadows, hoping for anything but an accidental spotlight.

Fast forward to the present day, where “socially awkward” would likely be the last way anyone close to me would describe my personality.

Sure, I still harbor a sometimes-quiet resolve and a serious demeanor, but somewhere along the line, I learned to let go. I developed that thing most other kids seemed to have from birth -- a “backbone” -- and fought past my urge to crawl under a rock when the attention was on me.

I’m really not sure what changed, I just know that once upon a time, I was different than I am now.

The shy people of the world get an undue bad rap. While I’m no longer afraid to take center stage, I still find that my personality leans more heavily toward “spectator” than “participator” in most situations.

I’m usually grateful for the experience when pushed into things, but I find equal enjoyment in hanging back and taking stock from the sidelines. Too many times I forget that without people in the stands, no one would make it to the field.

I often struggle with the old me, who wants to stay quiet and observe, and the person I feel I’ve become, who wants to jump in and feel like a part of something.

That conflict is a tricky thing to juggle, but I credit it for some of my smarter life choices. That pause — that second of hesitation — is sometimes crippling and sometimes life-saving. The timid, bug-eyed girl of past seems to have my back… even if she is a bit lame sometimes.

The funny thing is I’ve always been drawn to people who are more toward the other extreme: people who are boisterous and confident.

People like this have always fascinated me with their ability to act before thinking, to shut it all out and jump in, to voice their opinions without waiting for a majority consensus. These people are brave people.

Maybe I’m drawn to them because opposites attract; like a moth to a flame, if you’re careless and crazy, I must know you. I may not hold your hand while you jump off that cliff, but I’ll cheer you on, take that photo and make a mental note that diving into shallow waters didn’t work out so well for you.

While I love the wild ones, I’m just not one of them. In small doses, at random points in my life, I’ve tasted bravery, but usually only to find a hangover that wasn’t worth the buzz.

And so, I remain a shy-girl-turned-social-butterfly: part extrovert and bigger part introvert. I’m a contradiction, standing at the crosswalk, debating to run or walk and usually settling to skip.

Photo via Tumblr