Sara Barnard

Sara Barnard

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"But my name is Steffi Brons and I don’t speak, let alone yell. I move slowly so people won’t notice I’m there, because running in public is as loud as a shout. I like to wear jumpers with long sleeves that go right down over my wrists and hands and fingers. Meekness is my camouflage; silence is my force field.

So I don’t."
Here are three separate but similar things: shyness, introversion and social anxiety. You can have one, two or all three of these things simultaneously. A lot of the time people think they’re all the same thing, but that’s just not true. Extroverts can be shy, introverts can be bold, and a condition like anxiety can strike whatever kind of social animal you are.
Lots of people are shy. Shy is normal. A bit of anxiety is normal. Throw the two together, add some kind of brain-signal error – a NO ENTRY sign on the neural highway from my brain to my mouth, perhaps, though no one really knows – and you have me. Silent Steffi.
‘I don’t really . . .’ I stop, embarrassed, but then the silence is so expectant and awkward I have to finish. ‘I don’t really know what I’m doing.’ There’s a pause as Connie slows for traffic. She glances at her rear-view mirror again and smiles at me. ‘What did you say your name was? Steffi?’ I nod. ‘No one does, Steffi. No one knows what they’re doing.’
I go immediately to his profile page, ignoring the two notifications I have waiting for me.
It’s not stalking – it’s exhibiting interest in a new friend. That’s what Facebook is for.
Who am I if I can talk? Will that mean I say all the things I usually keep in my head? But so many of them are snide, or bitter, or just plain dull.
What are you thinking, Steffi? What are you thinking? Everything, all the time. You’re so quiet, Steffi. Why are you so quiet? But in my head it’s so loud.
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