Dear Dr. Archer,
I'm a 20 year old college student, and my life is so miserable, conflicting between shyness and perfectionism. I know I'm extremely intelligent, and I learn things much faster than the average person.
I always have top grades, a great talent for music, compassionate, loving and righteous. I'm not afraid to try new things, and often challenge myself.
When I'm at home, I picture myself being a person who has plenty of appreciation and passion for life. I have many goals, and I know I have the potential to reach them. I'm ambitious and want good things for my life.
I'd never be able to take it if I ended up being average because I pursue excellence and the feeling of being better than everyone else. But my secret, my shyness, is keeping me from being the best I can, and it extremely annoys me.
When I step out of my door, it's a whole different story. I feel awkward, uncomfortable talking to people I don't know, act like a friendly robot and say things I might not even agree with.
I'm constantly aware of how I look, behave and how I speak in front of others. I'm concerned about every detail of myself when I am being presented in front of others.
I see them more as my audience because I want them to like me. I want to win their affection. When I talk to them, I do not pay as much attention to their words, but I'm always over concerned with how I'm going to react.
I feel the urge to either make up a witty comment, tell a funny joke or say something that would have their agreement. I review the conversation later to evaluate myself, thinking, "Oh, now he must think I'm a _______."
I want to walk and act like movie stars or successful people. I set so many standards for myself that the daily routines become a huge stress, and I start to build a fear just to step out of my door.
I can't make comments in class, can't give public speeches, can't make as many friends and build close relationships because of this self judgment.
I feel dysfunctional but keep that to myself, and I pretend to be normal and happy. I have low self esteem carried from early childhood. I experienced verbal abuse and sexual harassment from family and relatives.
I'm in a constant battle of genetic shyness, low self esteem and perfectionism. I want to stop feeling so conflicted and miserable. Is this normal? What should I do?
The best thing you can do for yourself is to build your life around your naturally strong traits; until you do this you will not be happy and will continue to feel conflicted and miserable. Stop trying to change who you are and become someone you're not! That will never work.
Take the eight trait survey in the book and learn how to put those traits to work for you. Instead of stressing about who you are not, embrace who you are.
Nicole, I urge you to embrace your shyness. Being shy means you're naturally sensitive to your surroundings and to others; you're good hearted and for the few that you consider close friends, you cherish them and are devoted.
You are a good listener and work well alone, the shy advantages are so many. If you really want to allow more people into your life, find ways to do that in small settings, by meeting friends of friends.
Also, embrace that perfectionism and make it work for you as well! Accountants, convention or wedding planners, writers, editors, architects, engineers are all examples of careers that would suit the shy -- OCD individual.
There are many more. Stop fighting this and learn to enjoy and be proud of being who YOU are. All the best,