mental health

My ‘Growing Up Shy’ Story..

Introverts are anti-social. They’re mean, shy, boring, scared, insecure, and difficult people. Extroverts are confident, happy, and likeable.

Those are just a few of the ignorant myths that all introverts have probably heard at least once. The most annoying ‘eye-rolling-worthy’ question that I remember being asked alot was: “Do you talk”?.

This post is not to educate people on the difference between introverts and extroverts. I’m not here to inform you on the difference between being introverted vs. being shy vs. having social anxiety. There’s far too many free resources out there. Go read up. In fact, here’s a great podcast episode you can start with. I personally identify as introverted, that’s it.

During a recent group interview, the practice manager had the nerve to say to us: “If you’re an introvert, this is not going to be the job for you, we only want enthusiastic people working here“. So I said:

Cause she clearly had me fucked up. She honestly said it as if being introverted was some sort of deadly contagious disease like being an introvert has anything to do with my work ethic.

I ended up staying for the entire interview to be professional but mentally, I completely checked out. I also didn’t like her energy. Needless to say, I didn’t bother following up after the interview.

That experience and all the other myths surrounding introverts prompted me to write this post and share my story of how I grew up “shy”.

My Childhood Years

Baby photos of me.

I grew up as an “only child” of my parents. They never got married but co-parenting always worked out fine. I lived with my mom in Baltimore. I do have two older brothers (we only share the same father) that I didn’t grow up with so cousins became like sibilings to me.

I only saw my favorite cousin(s) during most summers and family reunions. According to my mom, I rarely cried as a baby/child. I was not highly-sensitive like some introverts are said to be. I never gave my parents any trouble, I was spoiled, never bratty, but I was definitely sneaky.

Me and my favorite cousin MJ, in our hotel suite in Disneyworld.

I remember entertaining myself a lot as a kid, I mean I had to, what other choice was there? I soon developed a wild imagination and curiousity. I loved nature, going bike-riding with my dad, playing soccer, modeling, dancing, karaoke, caring for my Nintendo-Dogs and Tamagotchi, and the various other video games.

Most of all, I enjoyed film and acting. My childhood dream was to be an actress or a veterinarian. I would dress up in vintage dresses/costumes and crazy-looking wigs that my dad would get me from the thrift stores. Then, I would act out different movie scenes in front of my large enthusiastic audience of dolls. In my eyes, I deserved an oscar for my performances.

Me at a photoshoot.

I admired Shirley Temple and Mary-Kate & Ashley- I had all of their movies. I also remember the excitement I felt when I watched Brandy and Whitney Houston in the Cinderella remake. And how star-struck I was when I actually met Brandy at a meet and greet.

All of this to say: I was a happy active kid. I learned at a young age to entertain myself and to become comfortable in my own company. I even fought my own battles. I never had to physically fight (much) but I always had a smart mouth- courtesy of my mother and growing up in the hood.

My 3rd birthday party.

Where Childhood Meets Trauma

When I was in 2nd grade, a very traumatic experience happened to me. I was scared into silence like most children are. Children are the most easily manipulated which makes them very vulnerable to predators. In response to that trauma- I became extremely shy and quiet.

I remember feeling very uncomfortable around men that weren’t my father, I began stuttering when talking to adults, I developed self-esteem issues, body dysmorphia, and a loss of interest in most of the hobbies I used to enjoy. Sadly to this day, I don’t believe anyone in my family ever noticed a change in my behavior. Nor did I ever feel comfortable to tell them what happened.

Me on a middle school trip to sixflags.

Mental illness is simply not discussed within black families. We’re told to suck it up, be strong and get over it. Going to therapy was never an option either. Having a mental illness in my family automatically categorized you as “crazy”.

But I’m so happy that millennials and younger generations are finally choosing to break generational trauma. I personally cannot wait to love hard on my future children and let them know to always speak up when something feels wrong, no matter what!

Me in the early 00’s dressed as a zombie cheerleader for halloween.

Middle to High School Years

My 7th or 8th grade school picture.

Studies show that most children start to become self-aware at the young age of two by simply recognizing their reflection in a mirror. A girls confidence reaches it’s peak at the age of nine years old. I believe every child and young teen can believe they’re beautfiul or handsome till society and peers tell them they’re not.

It was constantly being brought to my attention of how hyper-pigmented my skin was, how skinny, boney, flat-chested, big-foreheaded, queit, and awkward I was by my peers in school. I never wore the latest fly-est fashion either. We were simply poor at the time. I was grateful just to have clothes.

I’ve had my fair share of teasing but no severe bullying thankfully. I was also really insecure about my teeth. I rarely showed my teeth when I smiled or when I laughed. So you could imagine how ridiculous I looked laughing with my mouth closed. Braces could have easily fixed it but my parents always believed I didn’t need them.

Ha, bless their lying hearts.

Me posing for a picture at grandmas house.

I guess we all had our ugly duckling phases. Despite the shyness, I always made friends in school. In high school, you have various social cliques- the jocks, the class clowns, etc. If I had to give myself a label for which “clique” I was apart of I would say: ‘’the smart kids”.

My superpower has always been being able to get along with anyone. If you talked to me, I would most likely talk back unless I didn’t like you.

I feel I definitely got overlooked a lot and missed out on tons of experiences and opportunities because of my shyness. I wasn’t involved in any sports or clubs in school. I wanted to cheerlead so bad but I felt I wasn’t pretty or popular enough. I tried out for Track & Field but quit after the first practice because I hated running.

Junior Prom 2010 / Senior Prom 2011.

Now just because I was quiet didn’t mean I was always innocent. My real friends knew how I could get once I got comfortable with them. Thinking back it’s funny how much I got away with- skipping classes or skipping school altogether to hangout with friends or my boyfriend, leaving out for lunch to get a chicken box from ‘Sunnys Carryout’ even though we weren’t supposed to, going to parties, even had detention once or twice.

When you’re quiet, people tend to add their own narratives of who you are. Like “oh she’s quiet so she must be a bitch, mean, stuck up, scared, boring, crazy, etc.”. When really I was and still am the opposite of all that, I just didn’t know my potential.

High School Graduation – Class of 2011.

Post High School & Now

Unresolved childhood trauma always has a way of following us into adulthood. Unknowingly to me at the time, I began acting out alot after high school in ways many people still don’t even know about.

From 2011-2015 it was a fast downhill spiral. I grew apart from all of my friends, I was super underweight, I wasn’t sleeping or eating right, I was failing my classes at community college (eventually dropped out), and I found myself super anxious and constantly sad. I really didn’t have any positive guidance or mentoring in my life.

Me sometime between 2014-2015.

I had completely stopped caring about myself and was acting real reckless. I guess I was finally breaking from holding it all in. For years, I blocked out my childhood trauma. I blocked it out so well that I almost convinced myself that it didn’t even happen.

The trauma resurfaced after I had another traumatic experience that ended up being a huge “wake up” call for me. It took my life being put in jeopardy for me to finally get professional help. In 2015 at age 21, I was clinically diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

After that, I had made the decision that I didn’t want my trauma to control me anymore. I had to help myself. So, my self-healing journey began..

December 2016. One of my favorite selfies ever.

When I no longer had the opinions of peers constantly pointing out my insecurities I began to grow more into my confidence. I accepted the things I couldn’t change and changed the things I could over time.

I gained healthy weight, my depression and anxiety was being managed, I was sleeping better, I went to therapy, I took better care of my body & appearance, I had started a career as a medical assistant, made good money, got back into college, and bought my first car with no co-signer. But, my best self-investment of all was being able to finally afford Invisalign braces.

Christmas 2017. Happy & Smiling.

My confidence skyrocketed in 2017. I started socializing way more than I ever had before. I was always spotted laughing or smiling. People have been gravitating to me every since. The same people that didn’t pay me any mind in school, were now in my DMs.

The saying of “When you look good, you feel good” is honestly so true. How you carry yourself really does make a difference. I always had the personality under my shyness, the looks were just an added bonus.

Me in November 2017 showing off my gains.

The work I was doing on the inside started to reflect on the outside. I’m not saying everything is all sunshine and rainbows now, I still have my depressive episodes that can last for days, but I’m enjoying the woman I am becoming. I’m getting rid of my unhealthy coping mechanisms and identifying what my triggers are and how to avoid them.

Last year during an anonymous Q&A on my Instagram, someone asked me something like “Are you still shy and queit like you was in school?“.

I had to chuckle at that one cause I’m not even the same person I was a year ago. If you’re not changing or constantly working to become better in some way, I truly feel bad for you.

Me in November 2018 returning from a friends wedding.

Literally no one can tell me shit. I 100% OWN who I am now. I don’t lose sleep thinking about what other people think about me. I’m always gunna come off as reserved until I get comfortable. Not everyone deserves access to my energy.

I’m not shy, insecure or scared of people. I’ve never been mean or difficult, and I see myself as being very easygoing and fun to be around, and I just so happen to be an introvert.

Being an introvert doesn’t mean I can’t socialize or function around other people. It simply means I don’t need people around me all the time in order to thrive. I seek solitude to recharge.

I cherish leisure and relaxation. I love being alone, but trust I’m never lonely. I prefer to listen rather than talk. I prefer to meet in person or text instead of phone calls and video chats. I’ll literally watch the phone ring until it stops.

I’m observant and can read a room very well and adjust myself accordingly to match the vibe. You’ll be amazed what you can learn about people if you just shut up and pay attention.

I enjoy the intimacy of comfortable silences and I hate small talk. I’d rather mop the ocean than to keep answering “Wyd?” texts all day- I like depth and meaningful conversations. I hate large crowds and clubs, I’d rather travel the world.

People have to start understanding that everyone gives off auras / energies and some can be super exhausting to be around for a long period of time. I can literally feel other peoples emotions. Their sadness becomes mine, their anger becomes mine and so on. In order to protect myself, I MUST seek solitude even more often.

So in conclusion, I really wanted to quit and delete this post so many times. I was worried about sharing too much of myself. Although I refrained from going into detail about my traumas, this post got way deeper than I thought it would but I really wanted to be as transparent and open as possible.

I no longer want to keep quiet about things that could possibly create awareness. In a way, this was healing for me. Sharing stories not only gives others information, it can spark inspiration as well.

You never know what someone is going through or have been through. You don’t know the circumstances for why someone ended up the way they did. That’s why I always make it a point to be kind and respectful to everyone I meet. I’ve come so damn far despite the obstacles and I have no intentions on giving up.

The journey continues..

And to anyone who is currently struggling with mental illness, it may not feel like it right now but it will get better, and you’re never alone.

Till next time,

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