I was quite a shy boy throughout my school years, so I didn’t know that classmates believed I was stuck up and aloof until I reached twelfth grade. The realization triggered a life-long exploration of self-improvement and personal development. To shake the perception that I was aloof was difficult because shyness was such a frustrating part of my outward personality. If the dictionary needed an illustration of the term “painfully shy”, it would have been me.
After considerable introspection about shyness and aloofness, it seemed that the social misinterpretation of me being aloof began to influence my behavior. Since most classmates chose to snub me, I didn’t bother to reach out to them. How could I? Shyness was a roadblock. If I would have had guidance resources to help overcome shyness, I would have greedily consumed them. At the time, I was too shy to talk with a teacher or the guidance counselor.
The path of personal improvement has been a matter of trial and error–mostly error. At first, I dove head first into religion, for awhile I was one of the “Jesus Freaks” clique at college. However, fanaticism was not the satisfactory solution. In fact, it tended to supercharge aloofness. This resulted in a further disconnect with my peers.
As I disengaged from the Jesus Freak clique, I passively drifted into the feel-good, New Age movement. This was a period of a few years that included exploration of astrology, numerology, tarot, magical thinking, and arcane literature. This period ended after having read the entire Carlos Castaneda canon of don Juan books. I had learned a lot of stuff, but most of it only fed my fantasies–very little was practical.
Finding my way off of that garden path was gradual. It was through immersing the mind in journalism and broadcasting that I was finally able to wean myself off of the shyness/aloofness conundrum. Shoe-horning myself into the public sphere was the best solution for me.
The negative version of aloofness faded away, and a more positive iteration of it became useful. Being professional meant that much of my life was public and only a small portion was kept private. This reality helped me learn how and when aloofness was appropriate and when it was inappropriate. Instead of being a liability, this type of aloofness became an asset.
One helpful result of the personal struggle with shyness and aloofness was that I discovered that I’m an ambivert. Sometimes I fit the profile of introversion and other times I fit the exact profile of extraversion. Apparently, I’m not alone because the introversion to extraversion scale measures function and not type of personality. It turns out that most humans function in the grey area of ambiversion.
The introversive and extroversive drives are variable and situational in nature. Sometimes we appear aloof and at other times we are more outgoing. Knowing this has been helpful. It turned out that overthinking was at the root of my shyness problem. This tidbit of information has made using aloofness nuanced and practical.
I try my best to avoid categorizing myself as an introvert. Along with everyone else, we are more dynamically complex than we realize. There is a time for self-analysis and there is a time to let go and simply live one’s life. Too much of one or the other is unhelpful. Finding balance is key. Of course, that’s just life in general. A small amount of aloofness at the right times can enhance personal joy.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 20th century composer, musicologist, sociologist, philosopher, and psychologist, Theodor W. Adorno. “He who stands aloof runs the risk of believing himself better than others and misusing his critique of society as an ideology for his private interest.”