Why There Has Got to be a Shy Pride Parade

Maybe I went a little crazy. But last weekend I had an idea that took hold of my imagination and would not let go.

I thought that if I could pull it off it would validate my entire existence and vindicate me after years of past wrongs. The more I thought about it, the more appealing it was, and the more anxious I was to think that it would never happen. It was just too awesome not to.

Are you ready? (Drumroll) Here it is: A shy pride parade.

Before you laugh at me, hear me out. When I was growing up I was constantly being told that I should talk more and in the same breath that I should like myself more. This was insane. I had liked myself before people started essentially saying, “You are shy. Shy is bad, so you are bad. Why do you not like yourself?”

Before this, it had never occurred to me to not to like myself. I was congenitally shy, meaning that at four years old, I was hiding behind doors and in closets from other kids so I could have my alone time.

It was also true that I was not a big talker and I was told by teachers and other kids that this was unacceptable. Some of the adults, in the guise of helping, would say things like, “Speak up, missy. Your thoughts are worth hearing.” A patronizing pat on the head would sometimes follow. The idea that I did not talk because I thought my ideas were not worth hearing was inaccurate, at least at the beginning. I simply did not enjoy talking unless I had something I really wanted to say.

But many years of hearing people say “Be more confident” eventually made the under-confidence charge true. In grammar school and as an adolescent, I was terribly ashamed of being shy, especially since it seemed to mean to others that I did not like myself. There seemed nothing more shameful in the world than having a “low self-esteem.”

But when at four years old I was hiding from kids to get peace from all the gabbling chaos, I had no concept of a self-esteem, good or bad. At four I barely saw myself as being apart from my environment. I was obsessed with Cookie Monster, puppies, and becoming a cow girl.

What I finally realized many years later is that one reason introverts are so often accused of being under-confident is that so many have been so badgered, chastised, and bullied all of their lives for being different that over time, the accusation becomes true.

That may be why the words “shy” and “introverted” are sometimes conflated. They are not the same thing. Shyness implies anxiety around people, whereas un-shy introverts may simply prefer their own company to that of others.

But I have been both, and I am using the word “shy pride parade” here because I find the sound of it catchier than “introvert pride parade,” and there is nothing wrong with being shy anyway. However, if anyone has a more apt name for my parade that also satisfies the ear, let me know.

Like many minorities, shy people and introverts have been scolded for being different and ordered by society to become more like others, or else. Many minorities that have been subjected to unfair treatment have found a wonderful tool of correcting the ignorant: the pride parade.

Fellow introverts, I ask you, where is our parade? Well, there is not one yet, but there could be.

I have a dream of a silent procession of bookmobile floats with every introvert proudly gazing at his Android phone and ignoring the crowd as the float goes by. I have a dream of marching bands full of shushing librarians.

I envision magnificent banners that enumerate all the wonderful virtues of introverts: We think before we speak; say things worth saying; are not terrified to face ourselves alone. We know ourselves. And do not cause restaurants to quake with bellowing raucous laughter.

A thought came to me, a float that says, “We militantly refuse to demand our rights. For now.”

The words “for now” matter. Of course we will demand our rights. In writing, alone, when we get the time and a quiet moment to ourselves.

In our parade, we would not look at the crowd or wave, not because we are afraid of them, but because they are discussing trivial topics that bore us terribly. And we would certainly not throw them any candy. They are probably extroverts. They can buy their own candy.

Okay, I admit: there are some logistical problems here. How am I going to round up enough introverts willing to endure a parade full of noisy gawking spectators? By nature, introverts avoid that kind of thing. But I believe it can be done. I believe this dream will happen. Why? Because you cannot say no to awesome.

A shy pride parade would be about self-validation and vindication. It is about lifting our heads and saying, “Hell no. I do not want to go to a party or an interminable group dinner. I do not want to go be with a bunch of smelly people at a hot music festival. I am going to read a book. A real one. With pages. And words in it.

This parade can happen. Has to happen. In the entire history of the world, as far as I know, there has never been a shy pride parade. We cannot let another eon pass without one occurring. We cannot let the sun exhaust its hydrogen, and expand, and scorch the earth into a useless cinder billions of years from now without the exquisite moment of glory that a shy pride parade would bring to all introverts everywhere.

Besides, we have every right to demand our rights. And I myself am going to demand every last one of them. As soon as I get away to a people-free room in order to write them all down, quietly, in a thoughtful note.

And as soon as I figure out what they are.

23 thoughts on “Why There Has Got to be a Shy Pride Parade

  1. I, like you, am a shy person who also happens to be an introvert. I am still struggling to really accept myself because of, like as you stated in your post, others telling me to not be so shy and to speak up, which is hard for me to do. The idea of a “Shy Pride Parade” is interesting and I honestly am curious to see if this actually takes off in the future.

    • I hope that you do accept yourself as you are! For me, in order to become more confident, I had to realize that there is nothing wrong with being shy. For me, the epiphany came to me in a rebellious mood. I was fed up with being badgered. It seemed like the world was saying, “The way to be more confident is to stop being yourself and become more like us. So buck up and stop being you!” Real confidence comes from genuine self-acceptance, not conforming to a group norm that says confidence is all about talking more or acting extroverted.

    • So glad you enjoyed the post! Thank you! The book “Quiet” sounds intriguing. I have been meaning to read another book called “Party of One,” which is supposed to be introvert-validating. I may have to check out both of them. 🙂

  2. This is a very interesting post. I think teachers and other ‘important’ adults in a childs life often dont see the actual impact they can have on a child. My 9 year old has extreme shyness and was so misunderstood by teachers and peers alike that she now also has anxiety. Luckily we are now dealing with a great senco and with her and through our own research we are teaching her that there is nothing wrong wrong with her and we’re teaching her to be more positive and accepting of herself but also to stand up to those who try to change her. I must say the change in her this year is remarkable, after two very difficult years. So often teachers do more damage to a quiet shy child by trying to ‘help’ them by telling them they will get that shyness out of them or telling them theyre nasty because they dont want to play, etc. Teachers need more specialised training so they can realise that not all children fit into their box of what is an ideal child!

    • I sympathize with what your 9 year old is going through. And I love the advice you are giving her: to stand up to those who try to change her. I wish someone had given me that advice. As a child I was so confused. The consensus that shy is terrible seemed to be universally embraced, so that in addition to being shy, I also felt shy about being shy; that is to say, guilty. I was afraid of letting on to anyone that I was shy, and that made me even less confident. It was a vicious cycle. And as a child it was hard to make the fine distinctions between congenital shyness and under-confidence that might have freed me.

  3. You could make it a social media campaign, rather than a public Pride Parade.
    Photos of floats. Fully-reasoned arguments for refusing to conflate shy with un-confident, introvert with bad. Promoting one on one conversations instead of group postings.
    Just ya know. Options. Because I won’t go to a pride parade.

    • A social media campaign. That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought of that. But I still like my parade idea. Maybe we could do both. Personally, I understand not wanting to go to a parade. I have never liked the ones I have attended. I hate crowds. My tendency is to avoid becoming a spectacle. But I enjoy the irony of having a parade in protest of being forced into extroverted behavior. I’ve never organized a public event and as a congenitally shy person, I find the idea daunting. But I loved the idea. I had to share it with someone.

  4. Count me in your parade, Lisa! Any chance you could have one out in California, though? 😉 I got a big kick out of reading this today…I actually was in a parade when I worked for the libraries. (I was a clerk and I also worked for the Friends of the Libraries) At that parade we each had to push a bright, fire engine red “book truck” along the main drag. A bunch of library staff! I was really depressed during that parade since I hated my job, and I didn’t make eye contact with anyone! It sucked! I’m amazed I got through it without fleeing during the middle of the thing.

    Anyway, again, this post was a lot of fun to read, & it was vividly written. Very, very clever. I would consider submitting it to a “biggie” publication because a LOT of people can relate to the themes you discuss. Multitudes of readers would love it! I’m serious – if you’re in the mood, what about emailing it to the New York Times, or HuffPo? It’s that good. There is nothing else like this under the sun, of that I’m sure.

    • Dyane, thank you so much! My mood went into the stratosphere when I read your comment (in a good way, not manically!) I’m so glad you liked my post! Very interesting about representing a library in a parade. It syncs so neatly with my “dream” of bookmobile floats and shushing librarians! I’m sure I would have reacted the same way in your situation. Sorry it was painful.

      Glad you are going to be in my parade! Lol. If I can set one up in California, I will, to save you some traveling time. If this goes over, maybe my parade can hit all the states! Seriously, thank you again for the accolades! Would love to be published in the New York Times! What better way to get the word out about the shy pride parade? 😉

      • Thanks so much for your lovely reply, my dear! I’m going to now start to nag you about submitting to the N.Y. Times in addition to the other action (for want of a better word) that I nag you about – I’m a pain-in-the-butt fan, what can I say? I just want you to reach the big audience your writing deserves!

  5. I very much enjoyed your post, as I identify with a number of points you make. I, too, am game for showing up and participating in this brain child of yours. You realize this will make you an introvert-leader for the event or maybe even a movement. 🙂 Nothing to fret about though, I’m sure we can find an extrovert figurehead to the center of attention.

    BTW – I also very much appreciate the description of your blog and the challenge of blending rational though and passion.

    • An introvert leader! I like it! Lol. But like you said, there would need to be an extrovert figurehead to take the stage so that I could recede into the background in order to read and introspect. Glad you liked my post and my blog description, and thank you so much for commenting! Will see you at the parade! 😉

  6. Hear hear. That’s one parade I might actually march in. Well, as long as I had plenty of personal space and didn’t have to make eye contact. 😉

    I was always very shy as a child. I’ve been able to mostly overcome that as an adult, but the introversion never goes away. But at least I understand it now. I always just thought I was weird.

    It’s frustrating that introverts are always expected to fit into an extroverted world. Wouldn’t it be nice if the opposite were true every now and then? It would be lovely to hear a teacher say of my oldest introverted son: “We respect his desire to work alone and not share in the discussion if he’s not comfortable with it” instead of “he really must come out of his shell.” I understand we need to learn how to function in this world, but sometimes it would be nice to take a day off from the energy it takes to join the crowd. 🙂

    • Well said, Carrie! I especially love your last sentence. It does take energy to join a crowd,especially for us. A break would indeed be nice.

      I sympathize with your son, and I hope he does not absorb the erroneous message that there is anything wrong with him.

      Glad you are coming to my parade! Lol. I assure you, no eye contact or waving will be required! Thank you for sharing your own experience! 🙂

  7. Excellent post, and awesome idea (although of course my attendance at said event is questionable)! You managed to honestly and humorously touch upon many of the challenges that face the introvert. Gabrielle’s idea about a social media campaign to accompany your parade is excellent as well, and would allow those of us unable to surmount our hatred of parades to participate 🙂

    The only thing I’ve ever written on this subject matter is in my review of “Party of One” on LibraryThing: https://www.librarything.com/work/5871/reviews/104655273

    Thanks once again for the honesty and insight you bring to the internet! It is always a pleasure to read your posts.

    • I love your well-written review of “Party of One.” It really makes me want to read the book! Glad you like the idea of a “shy pride parade.” At the same time I respect and understand your decision not to attend. Maybe a social media campaign would be a nice addition to the effort to assert “shy pride.” Thank you for reading! I always enjoy your comments!! 🙂

  8. I loved this post! I, like many others it seems, am an introvert. I liked how you drew a distinction being an introvert and being shy. Though I am an introvert I do not consider myself shy. I can get on stage, be in front of people, or be in a crowd without anxiety; but it wears me down and makes me want to retreat to a fortress of solitude to recharge. I definitely pull my energy from being alone versus from other people and when given the choice I will always opt for alone time. That said I would be on board for a parade, if not for the sheer irony!

    As an educator I have to admit I don’t give much thought to introvert/extrovert dynamics. I have parents who grow concerned if their child doesn’t seem to have interest in participating or socialization. As well if they appear to be withdrawn from the group that can lead to other children ostracising them, and that is the last thing we as teachers want. I try to be respectful of all my students though, and let them participate as much as possible within their comfort level- though sometimes those levels need to be challenged and expanded. I will certainly be more careful of my wording to ensure I am not making them feel as if their shyness is somehow bad.

    • Thanks so much for this comment Amanda! I am so glad you liked the post (and that I have a new participant for my parade!)

      Kudos to you for being a teacher who tries to be sensitive toward kids who are different in ways that are harmless. I wish my teachers had done that! Shaming kids can definitely create problems where there were really none before.

      You have made my day with your thoughtful and kind comments! Always glad to meet a fellow introvert on-line! (Although I seldom get to meet them any other way. I wonder why. ;))

  9. Hey, I know this is an old post, but still I wanted to thank you for writing it. I was reading about the social construction of shyness and now I’m trying to feel less ashamed of being shy. Like you, I started feeling that when others pointed out that being shy was a bad thing or a synonym of low self-esteem. From then onwards, I tried to “cure” myself doing many things that really scared me and did not help me to “overcome” my shyness. I think that if I accepted myself before, I would have focused on things I love instead of looking for a cure. I’m glad I know better now. I would certainly participate in your parade, perhaps with no eye-contact. Thanks again and bye!

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