Shy People Won’t Make It Anywhere?

So says a mother to her 6 or 7 year old son.

I was writing at a cafe in Queen West around lunch time when I heard the comment. They both sat beside me and said hello, the mom ordering a soup and the owner of the cafe offering to make the boy some spaghetti and meatballs, though it wasn’t a menu option.

While their orders were being prepared, the boy of course had to use the bathroom. His mom told him to ask the waiter where it was, with the boy replying with a timid look on his face. “Go ahead,” the mom urged. He protested again, this time saying that he’s too shy to ask, so he’ll find it on his own.

“You are not shy,” his mom said in a stern voice. “Shy people do not make it anywhere in life, so you better go ask.”

The entire interaction was interesting, and at first I thought it was cute. But her last statement about shy people not getting anywhere in life forced my eyes away from my laptop screen. I glanced over at the mother and wondered if she was actually serious. If she actually believed that shy people won’t make it in life.

I eventually caught the boy’s attention and pointed him to the bathroom. He was thankful and relieved, and the mom gave me a friendly smile. “I just want him to learn,” she said. “You won’t get anywhere if you don’t open your mouth.”

I offered my own friendly smile as a reply and went back to my writing on my laptop. But the scene has stuck with me, and has lead to me posing this question to all of you. I actually don’t have the answer. I’ve been called shy at times growing up, but I can’t say it’s been a debilitating flaw, if it is a flaw at all.

And what does shy even mean? Like shy to express ourselves in a crowd? Shy to walk into a room and declare “I am here!” Shy to ask for a raise at work, or to speak back to someone when they are wrong. I don’t think that any of these examples are affixed only to people who are labelled as shy. These are real life “fears” that many people experience, even the most outgoing.

If being shy means being introverted, I can list off many successful people who would fit that label (many of them are your favourite musicians). I just think this mother should be careful. Fear is something we all need to overcome if we hope to be successful at anything. And I’m not sure we can say that people who are shy are at any more of a disadvantage when it comes to overcoming this fear.

But maybe they are, and maybe I’m wrong, which is why we creatives do things in the first place, right. Not to offer much in the way of answers, but to get people to face questions. Would be curious to know how most people feel about this.


Click here to read my debut novella “Thoughts of a Fractured Soul,” a story every young father should experience.