Even a stone, and more easily a flower or a bird, could show you the way back to God, to the Source, to yourself. When you look at it or hold it and let it be without imposing a word of mental label on it, a sense of awe, of wonder, arises within you. Its essence silently communicates itself to you and reflects your own essence back to you. -Eckhart Tolle
I’ve written a little about this subject before - the uncertainty that comes up for me when mothering a child who our society labels as “shy.” People used to say this about me. “Oh, you’re just being shy.” I think I got so used to the label that I ended up becoming that, even though my memories of elementary school were ones of being funny, outgoing and extroverted in class. That was until about 3rd grade when Mrs. Ralston would punish me for laughing by making me clap the erasers out on the fire escape! I learned how to keep quiet to please the teachers. And eventually by the time high school rolled around and my family had moved to two different states in two years, well I guess you could say I became pretty darn “shy.” Yes, I was quiet in class. I had self-doubt. But now as I mother a child who is innately reserved and cautious, I am seeing that as others label us as “shy,” I think that description limits the gifts we are here to share.
We live in a world that values accomplishment, extroverts, busy lives, and boisterous, easygoing personalities. We don’t know what to do with quiet. We fill up the silence. So when we meet someone who is an observer, a listener, and more reserved…we label them as “shy” because we don’t know how to handle them. Their quiet nature makes us feel uncomfortable. And yet, what I’m learning is that people who seem more quiet and reserved up front have an inner peace about them that is comforting. There is usually a lot going on inside their hearts and minds. And if you take the time to let them warm up, you are often introduced to a gentle person who is a joy to be around and amazingly observant. I really resonate with people who listen well. Who take time to notice the world around them. Who take everything in. Who process and are curious and study and who ask questions and who think and feel from an internal, quiet place. I think that’s what I did naturally as a kid, and people called me “shy.” I think that’s what my son does, too.
So I’m learning as I observe my little 4-year-old that he is extremely reserved in new situations. He studies the kids. He watches the teachers. He’s so sweet and kind. He smiles. He nods his head. He sometimes bounces up and down when he’s really excited to let the people know he’s interested and having fun, even though he may not feel comfortable using his words yet. He’s precious. He’s a joy. And this is just how he is. He’s communicating in his own way. And the teachers or other kids in art class or gymnastics may have no clue that this little dude has been talking since he was 9 months old, but isn’t that ok? We need a balance of boisterous and quiet right? And I do not need to label his behavior as anything else. Because when I do I take away the special gifts that make him…him. He needs to take it all in. And in his own time, he warms up and as he says, “gets more comfortable.” Why do we feel the need to label and judge his process?
I’m getting quite used to being the only mom that stays by her kid’s side in the class (at his request). And the teacher usually has the perfect solution. She tells me, “Next time, you just push him through the door and go run and hide. We know where to find you if we need you.” And sometimes I sit there agreeing with the teacher. Oh, well she must know right? I mean, she works with kids all the time. Surely she knows how to handle the “shy” ones, too. Maybe it is me? Maybe I’m enabling him. What is wrong with me! What is wrong with him! Why can’t he just go have fun and be like all the other kids in class? Why can’t I go hang out with the other moms and drink my coffee while we peer in through the window? WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?!
I think calling him “shy” in the way our society uses that word is placing judgment on his natural way of seeing and being in the world. It says that being extroverted, doing what the teacher says and fitting in is the “right” way to be, and being quiet, not feeling comfortable with the teacher and not wanting your mommy to leave your side, is the “wrong” way to be. Talk, comply, outgoing…good. Quiet, cautious, shy…bad.
So my practice these days as a mother is to TRUST that my sweet little boy is complete and whole and wonderful JUST AS HE IS. To stop labeling. To stop thinking something is wrong with us. And to treat each new situation and each new person we meet with kindness and compassion. Sure, I may still be the only mom in class, walking along the side of the balance beam until my son gets more comfortable. And it’s up to me to stay connected to my intuition – that place that guides me to mother from my heart. The teachers may have had years of experience working with all types of kids, and I know I have a lot to learn from their expertise. But in the end, we truly are enough – just as we are – and my heart knows the path that is best for me. I know that I can nurture and support my son, but like a flower, I can not force him to bloom before he’s ready.
Let’s stop labeling ourselves, our children and the people we meet as right or wrong, good or bad, outgoing or shy… Let’s let go of our judgments. Let’s stop being so darn hard on ourselves! Let’s embrace our differences! Let’s let our own personalities shine, and not try to be something we think we should be, but rather become who we are in each new moment.
YOU and me (and our children) are completely beautiful and wonderful – just as WE are.
Your Personal Reflection:
Become more aware of the labels you use to describe yourself, and your kids, and the world around you. What would happen if you could let go of those labels, and let your true gifts shine, so that you can become who you are?