“She holds herself with such reserve. She smiles, but the smile doesn’t reach her eyes, even in the company of the girls she’s chosen to eat with. Why?
I have no clue, and I really don’t want to spend my time worrying about it. But my brain pushes at the question anyway.
Why are people aloof?
Because they don’t want to let others in.
Why don’t they want to let others in?
Well, sometimes because they’re shy, and sometimes because they’re convinced of their own superiority.
But those aren’t the only reasons. Sometimes it’s because thay have something to hide.”
― Lauren Myracle, Bliss
It’s not unusual we come across as aloof, arrogant or rude but in many cases there’s nothing further from the truth, isn’t it? We tend to be seen as stuck up, standoffish, snotty, inescrutable… and it’s so frustrating when you know that’s just a shield, a pose, a mask…
It’s understandable to come across as aloof, though, since aloof is someone that wants to keep at a distance. Shyness keeps us from getting close to strangers and our fear to being judged badly or not fit in even though sometimes we try to compensate by being eager to please without words, which in general, never works, we are still seen as rude or uninterested in socialize with the people.
Shyness is not an isolated trait of our personality, it’s blended with others. And even if “shyness might feel like the dominant and most motivating personality trait to the shy person herself, it¡s not always so evident for others” (Caroline Knapp, The Merry Recluse: a Life in Essays). But this is the problem, it depends on the other personality traits that we end up coming across as sweet, caring, distrait, rude, or plain aloof. When we mix a composed personality with shyness we tend to create a calm façade to hide the shaky part of our shyness so we come across as stiff and detached, if we are sensitive and shy but brusque in affect we will be seen as aloof and scary…
And that misunderstanding is so frustrating. Our shyness is so clear to us that we can’t understand how the other’s interpretation is so deviated.
As the aforementioned Caroline Knapp brightly says “Hidden behind that cloak or reserve, the shy person becomes a blank screen upon whom others project whatever fears or biases or self-perceptions they themselves bring to connections”. So, it depends on the other person worries we come across as disdainful if the other is worried about being liked, but if the other is worried about being interesting or charming, our behavior might be seen as bored. Our shyness then is bound to lead to misunderstanding, our silence and quietness is like a Rorschach test.
It might seem obvious to us that our discomfort towards the others attention is due to our shyness, however a stiff and forced smile, an embarrassed frown or any other grimace we might make are read not as self-conscious or insecure but as snobbish, cold or even angry.
Our shyness already showed us the frustrating misunderstandings, isolation and disconnection, but it can show us as well how we affect in the people that surround us.
When we notice a behavior that could be seen as aloof and distant we can redirect our reactions by doing the right thing, it’s never too late. Smile, maintain eye contact, compliment, rub out that frown… Small things like those are going to ease the uncomfortableness of the situation and will make you feel brave and confident because you have taken a step in the right direction and have chosen risk and sociability over fear and solitude.
“Here’s a chance to do the right thing, to come out from my shy cave and make an effort with my neighbors. I weighed the prospect of small talk, which I dread, against the prospect of connection, which I covet. I thought about how governed I’ve always been by social anxiety, how limiting it is to live with fear, how hard is to change”
On the other hand it might happen that you look arrogant because you really think you’re smarter than most people you meet or that the reason why other people get along so well is because they’re on the same level, while you are in a superior one or in possession of the truth. Well, if you can relate to this words the trick is to discover where that feeling comes from. It comes from your bitterness that people don’t seem to like you despite all the “reasons” why they should, you being smart, or talented at something, caring, a good person…
When this disdain appears, when condescending and scornful words like “They don’t understand, they don’t know, they belong to a group I don’t want to be in, I’m better without them, I’m better than them…”, bear into mind that in some cases you might be better without them but it’s good to give them an opportunity before discarding them and if they still don’t like you, that’s not because you’re better but because there are many colors in the world and not all of them match together, so don’t hold a grudge against them, one can’t be liked by everybody, don’t even try it, forget about it and move on.
Let’s break that shield, let’s allow ourselves to be hurt, yes, but most important, let’s allow to ourselves to connect with others by shorten that distance with them!