Shyness, depression & God

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wyam

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I’m 36 years old, male, very quiet & very shy. This past year I tried my hand at leading our RCIA group a few times & I ended up having the first anxiety attack I’ve had in over 6 years.
I have read quite a bit on apologetics, being somewhat of a ‘revert’ to Catholocism, and felt I should share what I know.
I hear a lot about how we should all be ‘leaders’, such as Matthew Kelly’s writings, whom I love to read.
The question is, are we all really called to be leaders? I had my first try at ‘managing’ for about 2 years at my present workplace.
Even though there were only two people under me in a small office, I never got used to being called manager or being in charge of somebody else due to my shyness, introvertedness, etc.
My thoughts are always torn between the idea of ‘being all you can be’, to not be content with a job that is ‘going nowhere’, but on the other hand, I feel I need stability that ‘reaching for the stars’ doesn’t afford.
Anyway, how does God fit in to this? If we are called to spread the word & have Jesus on our lips, how does that apply to someone who’s not used to saying more than 100 words a day?
Any thoughts would be appreciated.
wyam
 
Hi wyam,

I was thinking about starting a similar thread here myself!

I don’t know that I would describe myself as “shy”, but I am extremely introverted. I enjoy being alone and generally prefer being alone. I hate parties and receptions and other gatherings where people are expected to mingle and chat.

I think I have always been like this. It is my nature. God made me this way and made other people other ways.

But, we are called to evangelize and share our faith aren’t we?

I’ve been thinking about some of the same things that you probably are. Should I try to “overcome” my nature and try to do some things I don’t enjoy and probably am not very good at? Or, should I accept my nature as it is and look for other ways to contribute to the Body of Christ?

In my work, I do a LOT of e-mail communication with others, both co-workers at different locations and customers. I am comfortable with this. I realized recently that there might be a Catholic forum online where I could interact with others and contribute in a way that fits my nature. I looked for such a forum and found this one at Catholic Answers. Perhaps participating in discussions here is something that would work for people like us.

Another way to contribute is through prayer. Our faith has a long history of people who were cloistered or lived alone in the desert and devoted their lives to prayer.

We all have different gifts. I don’t think it is necessary for us all to try and be leaders, even though there seems to be some pressure to do so. I’d suggest thinking about what your own gifts are and how to use them in a way that is compatible with your God-given nature.

I hope others contribute to this thread, also. I don’t feel like I have all the answers yet.

–emelbee
 
emelbee,
Thanks so much for your encouraging words. I would love to have a ‘catholic shy community’ online someday. Maybe others will see these posts & agree.
I know just what you mean about whether to ‘overcome’ my shy personality, or decide to just do the best with what I have been given. Then the question comes up ‘does God want us to improve ourselves?’. If so, does that include overcomeing shyness? (which i haven’t been able to do for 36 years now).
I have thought about making the internet my main focus of evangalization & am working on a website with a friend of mine:
WYAM.ORG.
Going slowly, but still trying.
thanks again
wyam
 
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wyam:
I’m 36 years old, male, very quiet & very shy. This past year I tried my hand at leading our RCIA group a few times & I ended up having the first anxiety attack I’ve had in over 6 years.
I have read quite a bit on apologetics, being somewhat of a ‘revert’ to Catholocism, and felt I should share what I know.
I hear a lot about how we should all be ‘leaders’, such as Matthew Kelly’s writings, whom I love to read.
The question is, are we all really called to be leaders? I had my first try at ‘managing’ for about 2 years at my present workplace.
Even though there were only two people under me in a small office, I never got used to being called manager or being in charge of somebody else due to my shyness, introvertedness, etc.
My thoughts are always torn between the idea of ‘being all you can be’, to not be content with a job that is ‘going nowhere’, but on the other hand, I feel I need stability that ‘reaching for the stars’ doesn’t afford.

Dear Wyam,

I have been teaching CCD for 30 years now and before I enter the classroom each week I have an anxiety attack (I have anxiety disorder) once I begin I pray to the Holy Spirit and I’m fine-- let go and let God.

I too enjoy sharing the Faith that’s why I joined this forum. I frequently meditate on St. Paul’s Affliction: 2 Cor: 12, vs. 8-9,”He said to me, ‘My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection.’ And so, I willingly boast on my weaknesses instead, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” And on the words of Blessed Mother Teresa, “God doesn’t require us to succeed; he only requires that you try”.🙂
 
wyam, I’m sure you are wonderful just the way you are. I don’t believe that by changing your nature, you would necessarily be “improving” yourself. We all have different gifts. I would urge you to keep praying about this.
 
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Becky58:
wyam, I’m sure you are wonderful just the way you are. I don’t believe that by changing your nature, you would necessarily be “improving” yourself. We all have different gifts. I would urge you to keep praying about this.
Indeed. Some of us are capable of overcoming our own shyness and that is a good thing. But being unable to is not necessarily a bad thing. Each of us are built differently from the other. That’s how God made us. We are unique. And therefore we have different gifts. We should make the most out of what we have.
St. Francis asked one of this friends to go with him to town and evangelize. They made it to the town and walked around. After sometime walking around town, they returned. His friend asked, “I thought we were going to town to evangelize?” St. Francis replied, “We did.”
 
Some of us are loud vocal and full of hot air (like myself), and some have a shy side that shines through. You are doing God’s work if you are seeking his will, and many times it is people like you who stay close to Christ and live as you do that speak more of his Love than a loud mouth like myself ever could. I would suggest that you talk with others about a Bible, or better yet a Catechism study (cause you get the bible too then). Do this in a simple way where it is at peoples homes and not the same persons home each time, that way you will be sharing and if it is his will you may get more comfortable working around others.

If you all would say a prayer for me that I talk a little less and I will pray you talk a little more.

God Love you all.
Scott
 
I too am shy. I too don’t believe that we are all called to be social leaders. There are so many other kinds of leadership though. That of example, prayer, financial support to others who are the social leaders etc. That being said, I have become much less shy in recent years, and occasionally find myself giving presentations to groups of Catholic women for the sake of promoting an apostolate. When I’m done, I always feel like I sounded rediculous, and before I start, I’m always quite nervous. I try to remember to pray to the Holy Spirit, that the people I’m speaking to will hear what they need to hear. I’ve come to realize that if I sound like an idiot, but someone moves closer to God because of what they heard me say, that’s ok. I’m very consoled by the imperfections of the apostles, especially Peter. If God can lead us through people with such imperfections, surely he can touch people through me. For me, I become more humble when I feel embarrassed about how I presented to people. I am forced to remember that it is not important what people think of me, but that I bring God to them. God bless you in your own discernment of how God wants you to use your gifts to serve him!
 
So much great wisdom in this thread! I have little new to offer; others have already invoked Paul, so we know about 1Cor12 (different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit).

I just want to say to Scott (“pray that I talk less”) that the same goes in reverse. God needs you and me, even though we talk a lot!

Brent
 
Wyam,

I feel for you, buddy. I know what you’re going through. I wouldn’t worry too much about it, though, because I’m sure you’ve heard it said that God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle. Oh, that God is quite the Jokester, sure. He often gives us things we think we can’t possibly handle. 🙂

If you feel called to evangelism somehow, then there’s a way. It doesn’t even have to be anything formal–it can just be the way you live a quiet, simple life. In fact, that’s probably the BEST way. Lord knows I’ve turned more people off by trying to argue in the most cogent, “forceful” way I could.

About the shyness–don’t worry about that either. I was painfully shy all my life. I didn’t even realize that staying home on Friday or Saturday to read was odd until college. But, I have a masochistic streak in me and have always pushed myself into uncomfortable situations. One of those situations involved a job where I had to teach roomfulls of armed police officers about flaky, unreliable computer systems we were installing on their antiquated machines. These guys didn’t want to be there, and I’d never done anything like that in my life. It was terrifying. But, eventually I just took the plunge and did what I had to do. Something broke in me and now I’m much more comfortable in crowds. I still hate formal public speaking, but when it happens, I just dive in.

Part of shyness, I think, is just a tad bit of self-absorbtion. Not in the negative sense. Typically, it’s called “self-consciousness.” Shy people are too “conscious of themselves.” At least, that’s my mom’s theory. The remedy is to forget about yourself. Maybe you have to get a little crazy. I’m not talking about some big break-through act. I’m just talking about telling yourself, “You know something–I’m sick of being shy. Forget it. I’m done with it.”

Or, that could be the worst advice ever given. 😦 I don’t know. It seemed to work for me. Either way, there’s nothing wrong with being shy. Shy people are usually introspective, deep and thoughtful. Not a bad way to be. 👍
 
Please let me start by saying I am so filled with joy at the love, mercy, tenderness and wisdom that I see being shared throughout this forum – the Holy Spirit is SO present here!

I used to be shy, especially when it came to performing (singing and playing guitar). By practice and experience it became easier for me, although it’s still not something I like to do by myself. :eek:

I have a similar issue to shyness now, in that I have had some neurological damage, and it’s sometimes worse than others. When I become tired or my immune system is compromised, my thought processes become very slow, and also my physical strength and coordination lessens. Playing the guitar for me at these times can be especially difficult since it involves both mental and physical.

A few days before the Feast of the Divine Mercy, a friend asked me if I could play guitar and sing the newer chaplet for the 3:00 Hour of Divine Mercy. Without thinking too much, I said I thought so and that my husband could help out too (he also plays guitar, plus piano) so that if I wasn’t able, he would be there. Well, I totally spaced that he was having knee surgery the Friday before and wouldn’t be able to help. So, I ended up playing by myself :eek: . I just prayed and asked Our Lord to help me and Our Lady to be with me and pray for me, and totally through the grace of God, I made it through the 15-20 minutes of continual playing and singing to pray that chaplet. How, I’ll never know, but my point is that if God is asking you to do something, He’ll equip you with what you need to do it.

Sort of like Moses, who replied to God’s request to free His people by saying something like “Who, me? But, Lord I am slow of speech and tongue! You would be so much better off with someone else.” To which God replied – “I will give you the words to say.”

We can do nothing without God, and almost anything with Him!
 
If every member of the Church is called to be a leader, then who will they lead?

I’ve found that one of the best ways to lead is by example, since actions speak louder than words.

Peace
 
Thanks everybody for the good advice! I’d like to keep this thread going - a lot of good stuff here.
Annunciata mentioned axiety disorder - even though i’ve been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, I’ve wondered about axiety/social anxiety disorder also. I recently saw a psychologist after thinking about it for years. I only went to him 3 times however, as it was a bit of a pain to keep leaving work early. It was probably not the best situation either - I found out after scheduling the first appointment that his name was mentioned unfavorably in the book “Goodbye, Good Men” as one who evaluated seminarians & kept some good men out of the priesthood 😦 .
But, I really didn’t find anything wrong with his advice, just wasn’t sure it was the right way for me to go at this time.
As far as just being myself and accepting myself, the one thought that recurrs is that God made us social creatures, & I know I do feel better on the days that I have more conversation with my co-works.
That leads me into the topic of all-or-nothing thinking, obsessive thinking, etc, but I’ll save that for the next post!
Again, thanks for all the advice.
God Bless
wyam
 
Hi Wyam,

You’re like a reflection of myself! I am also very shy and very quiet (in social settings). I fear large group and public speaking. I don’t know why it occurs as talking with people one-on-one, I have no problem at all. Put me in a social setting and I can be as quiet as a rock… then shake and sweat when it is my turn to talk.

I agree with Montanaman, [Shy people are too “conscious of themselves.”] as I’m extremely self conscious in a social setting. No matter how hard I try not to be self conscious, subconsciously, it is brought out in social settings.

In a social setting, My mouth just automatically salivate… and the only thing to do when that happens is to swallow. This raises a yellow flag. When others look at me because of that, it raises a red flag. Then I swallow more and more. Trying not to swallow doesn’t work as my mouth will be full fast.

Now with that fear, I teach CCD for children for the past 10 years, belong to a youth leader group (I’m old by their standard!) and am readying myself to see if I can enter a religious order. I can’t see myself doing any of this at all, but God has been and will ever be merciful to me… He showered me with His grace.

The way I see it, everyone is busy doing something, in the end when we are gone, what is important? To me, it is the seed of faith that is planted in our future children. Will they remember the really shy teacher who taught them? Probably not. Will I look like a fool or be humilated sometimes? Probably yes. But the faith they are taught and seen will hopefully grow through their lives. We are but instruments of the Holy Spirit. Before I teach, I remind myself what Jesus went through for me… He was humiliated, jeered, beatened and suffered greatly. My little shyness and fear are nothing compared to His suffering and death.

There are people who can laugh at their mistakes and those who cannot. I’m the latter. But if you laugh at my mistake, I’ll probably froze and break. But God will put me back together so I can go on. Hopefully, one day, I can laugh at my own mistakes and not be self conscious of them.

You can help yourself by going to a professional therapist (although they are expensive) and joining speech clubs such as Toastmaster International. I’m a member of a local Toastmaster group and they’ve been very helpful in giving me feedback on my speeches. Tomorrow will be my first visit to a professional therapist… for my shyness among other things. Good luck to you and all who shared.

Warmest regards,

Ben

PS: I also started my evangelization on the web although I haven’t update the page in over a year… check out clouds.org
 
Wyam,
I am introverted/shy, and lately I’ve been trying to talk to a few people a day here at work. Not marathon conversations by any means, just brief small talk that will help me warm up so that I am less “frightened” to talk to others for the rest of the day.

I wonder what a support group would be like for us introverted, self-conscious types? Would we just sit together in a room and stare at each other, or would the commonality of our problem help us climb out of our shells?
 
Hey, this sounds familiar. I’m a classic introvert- not necessarily shy around people who know me well, but shy around new people and terrified at the thought of having to lead or speak to a group. Large groups of people also freak me out sometimes, even if it’s just extended family.

I don’t think we’re all called to be “leaders”, like chemcatholic said, if we were, who would follow our lead? The Holy Spirit gives gifts to us all, but not all receive the same gifts. Some are natural leaders and extroverts, and the Spirit enhances these traits. Others have quieter gifts. Not everyone has the special gift to work directly with the sick or the poor, or to teach, or to live a cloistered life as a religious.

Oddly enough, I am a regular cantor at my parish. I’ve been doing this since my Confirmation day (I thank the Holy Spirit for the gift of music, as well as my patroness, St. Cecilia, for her constant intercession on my behalf), and have been a “regular” for five years. I have terrible stage fright, to the point of almost vomiting before Mass last Sunday. It’s amazing how much a fervent prayer for help and grace- and the realization that it is NOT a performance but worship of God and service to His Church- can ease the fear. I’m always totally calm by the time I’m through the responsorial psalm, and am even sometimes in an elated state, which I realize is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (almost like an out-of-body state). It is near impossible for me to sing as a soloist in any other forum- I get no enjoyment from it and cannot get past the nerves. So I have come to the conclusion that God wants me to use my voice for Church service and not for anything that might inflate my ego. It’s rather liberating. 🙂
 
I used be terribly shy as an adolescent…but never felt consonant with this. I used to think of myself as a “shy extrovert”. Eventually, I purposely went about my way to overcome my shyness. I identifed a personal growth goal to be more fluid in social and group performance situations, and looked for opportunities to practice. It took the longest time to get my head above the flood of emotional anxiety, suffocating self consciousness, but eventually I began to win a few victories where I did not become beet face red and strangling for breath.

I still get an automatic reaction of hesistancy in new social and group performance situations, but I can usually quickly recognize and dismiss this encumbrance, because I have “been there, done that”, and knowing that my confidence is in the Lord. But it has taken many years of concerted effort with more defeats and set backs than successes and victores, to overcome and learn to manage my social fears and anxieties.

For me, at the core of my desire to overcome shyness, was a recognition that my social anxiety was a frustrating, obnoxious encumberance that kept me self focused, not Christ focused, and limited how that God was able to use me for His purposes. It has really been a process of dying to my comfort level and purposely extending myself social skill level until my feelings more or less acclimated to being more outgoing in social situations. I also kept in mind the idea that if I someday married I would not want to model and pass onto my children a social discomfort fear.

I realize that not everyone feels as discordant over having social anxiety as a pervasive aspect of their personahood, and so be it. I also realize that for many folks there are indicators by family history that there is a genetic predisposition to having social anxiety. This is where professional counseling and/or medication can be of assistance if one so desires to more aggressively tackle the anxiety issue.

As always, take along Jesus as your first line of offense for support, acceptance, challenge…whatever he desires you to do directly with your shyness or otherwise in being his ambassador in the world in which you walk. Prayer, regular participation in the sacramental and community aspect of Church life are also essential, and recognizing that the devil also has an agenda to keep us limited in how much we are available for Christ in this world. This does not necessarily mean taking on more responsibility and position than you feel called to or are currently competent (not necessarily comfortable) to handle.

God bless. 🙂
 
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