Ask Jono: Trying To Fit In Despite Being Shy
Hey there, Jono!
You are a huge reason why I spend hours on end on SparkNotes. I ADORE you & your articles—keep working hard!! So I'm writing to you for the first time (yay!) about something that I have no idea how to tackle. I've been part of my swim team for two years now, yet I'm still not "integrated." I'm a shy girl, but I make it a point to smile, say hello, & be friendly with my other teammates. But I noticed that if I don't talk to them first, they won't acknowledge my existence. Am I doing something wrong? To make matters more difficult, I happen to like someone on my team who is one of the few people who will come talk to me first. We're actually decent friends, and sometimes he acts as if he's interested in me (either that or he's just being friendly). Problem is, he's outgoing, which makes me think he'll want someone just as sociable—not a shy girl like me (even though I'm not too shy around him). Is there anything I can do to, I dunno, catch his eye? Or maybe make him & the rest of my team see me as not the shy girl, but as an awesome potential SO and an awesome friend? I want to show them—especially Nich—I'm not unapproachable. I want them to see the fun-loving/crazy side of me, so I can finally feel like I'm part of my team. I'd greatly appreciate your help! : )
Lots of love,
Lucia the Lunatic
To avoid starting this post with a really sad-sounding observation, I'm going to do that thing where you hide a negative statement in between two positive ones.
- You have a cool name and are doing everything right!
- Sometimes a group of people will never fully accept you and there's nothing you can do about it.
- Here is a bunny who is eating some parsley!
Now, I'm not saying that there's nothing you can do here. I'm just saying that I've been in similar situations where the friendship just sort of never happened. I once tried really hard to fit in with this one group of people, over the course of years, and yet there's a photo of us all at a party that looks basically like this:
I'm going to advise you to the best of my ability anyway; I just wanted to establish that if you're being friendly and trying your best, then no, of course you're not doing anything wrong. Unless these people hate smiles and friendship, in which case they are obviously morlocks.
1.) Get involved whenever possible.
I've made fun of my high school self so often in these posts that I have practically given myself retroactive depression, so I won't belabor the point here, but I was a singularity of terrible for most of high school. There were teachers who were more popular than me. But after a couple years of slinking around and being miserable, I decided that was enough of that and started hanging out with people by force. I went to everything I could get invited to, and lurked ominously outside of things I couldn't. Eventually I got more comfortable around people and started acting like less of a goon, and people actually began to enjoy my company. At one point near the end of senior year, one popular guy literally asked a friend of mine, "What is up with this Jon Skindzier fad lately?" I guess the moral of this anecdote is that, if you're persistent enough, you too hear yourself name-dropped as though you are a minor celebrity or a stock price.
2.) Be genuine instead of reserved.
This is the kind of advice that only makes any possible sense to shy people. Outgoing people are always genuine; they don't understand advice like "be yourself" because they're always themselves. If everyone's at the park, and they see a cloud that looks like a butt, they will chortle and go, "THAT CLOUD LOOKS LIKE A BUTT," immediately, with no hesitation and no analysis of the situation. A shy person will think: "Well, that cloud looks like a butt, but is it weird that I have noticed this? What if they think I'm fixated on butts! I should clarify that this is not the case. But when can I butt into the conversation to point this out? Oh no, am I fixated on butts??" If the shy person does ever manage to blurt something out, it will be five minutes later, and of course no such cloud will exist anymore.
There's nothing wrong with being shy, but nobody is ever like, "Who should we invite to this party? Oh, how about that dude who never says anything or does anything." If you have to choose, err on the side of being genuine and memorable, not quiet and polite.
3.) Oh just go after this dude already.
I've brought this up before, but dudes are shy too, even if they really don't seem like it. Women think guys are intimidating and guys think women are intimidating. They're not and they're not. Ask this guy for advice on some kind of... swimming... thing. (I do not know anything about swimming.) Or come up with any other kind of pretext. He'll understand that what you're doing is cautiously expressing interest, because guys always think that. The pretext doesn't even matter; all you're doing is giving him an excuse to talk to you. Keep giving him more and more pretexts to talk to you until he either tells you to stop or you realize that you two are married.
Most potential friends love to find out they have things in common with you and to talk about those things; most dudes absolutely do not care whether or not a girl is outgoing, assuming they like other stuff about her. Just show people you're interesting and I guarantee they'll be interested.