For whatever reason, I didn’t speak intelligibly until I was nearly three years old. And when I did begin to speak, getting a full sentence out of me was like pulling teeth. I was so painfully shy that one of my relatives nicknamed me “Shy” and it stuck – for twelve years!! My real name was ignored. I was referred to as Shy, introduced as “Shy” and on family Christmas cards, where my mother signed the family’s names, she’d sign my name as – “Shai” It was as if the fancy spelling might obliterate the meaning. It didn’t. But it did cause some people to wonder whether I was adopted from China. All I can remember about that period of my life is the feeling of wanting to disappear the moment anyone turned their attention towards me. Yes, I was shy but the nickname didn’t help. It served to suffocate me and trap me in that role. I wanted out but wasn’t sure how to do it and didn’t know if I’d be accepted by my family if I did change. In my second year of high school, I heard about auditions for a play at the boy’s school next door. Without telling anyone, I went to the audition and got a lead role!
I’ve been a professional actress for over 20 years and a speaker and public speaking coach for more than 10. I’ve learned to really appreciate my shyness. It gave me tons of information. I learned so much about communication while I watched people around me. There was no expectation for me to speak so I got to observe what worked and didn’t work in communication. People who meet me now can not believe I was ever shy. I don’t think I’m any less shy now. I just learned to compensate and now… I gain so much from helping other people learn the skills to “compensate” in a world where shyness is not effective.
March 15, 2010