I am a senior in high school and have a problem opening up to people.
Once people get to know me, my charm becomes contagious (I've heard), but I have trouble breaking the ice. I have many great features of the "perfect" girlfriend. I'm smart, get good grades, and am athletic, funny and attractive. I don't have that many friends at school because most of my best friends went to other high schools.
Worst of all, being single for a while, I can't go up to a guy and introduce myself and keep up a good conversation. I have been told by my remaining friends that I am a very beautiful girl who can get any guy she wants, but it has been hard for me to do that when I can't open up to them in the beginning. I am afraid that the guy I want to introduce myself to will shoot me down, or be too shy, and I won't be able to tell which is which.
It's hard for me to see all of these couples and wonder why I am single. I'm afraid that I will become isolated from everyone because I can't start friendships as easily as some people do.
I worry that if I can't change my shy ways, then it will ruin my life.
Guys your age are just like you -- sometimes they are confident, and sometimes they are shy and scared. So it shouldn't be up to guys -- or even your friends -- to dictate how you feel about yourself. We're all just making it up as we go along, so the only thing that you can control with any success is how you feel about yourself. The more centered you are, the more you know and like yourself, then the more confident you will feel, whether or not you have a boyfriend.
Making new friends doesn't necessarily have to start with an introduction. Relationships of all kinds often start in a much more sideways fashion -- by asking a question about homework, the latest issue of "The Onion" or what happened on last night's episode of "Lost."
You should try participating in group activities, because groups offer a little bit of social safety for people who might feel a little shy one-on-one. The chess club, drama club, or a volunteering club for tutoring younger kids will give you opportunities to share a common experience, which will make conversations easier.
If you don't see any improvement with your own efforts to conquer your shyness, please see your school psychologist.
As I read the letter from the dad of a 15-year-old with disabilities who had trouble socializing with kids her age, it struck close to my heart. I am the father of a sweet, 17-year-old, special-education student, part little girl and part typical teenager. My first thought is that he and I are blessed with our wonderful daughters.
Kids were always nice to my daughter but she, too, had trouble making real friends. Through eighth grade she was never invited for a sleepover or birthday party. We gently tried to guide her toward more mature behaviors without trying to change who she is. She enjoyed Special Olympics, but no one there was quite a match. Her teachers were great in helping her to cope with the challenges in school, whether finding a lunch buddy or getting the most from her classes.
What really made the difference was joining the school choir and the Best Buddies Club, an organization that pairs special-needs students with more typical peers.
Today, my daughter has a nice little group of friends -- sleepovers, birthday parties, dances, the movies and the mall. Her school provides job training that includes a paid job.
I hope this dad is patient and doesn't give up hope. There is a place for everyone in this world and his daughter will find hers.
We're all lucky that you wrote in to share your story. I am heartened to hear from so many parents who, like you, share a loving commitment to their special kids.
Best Buddies International is a wonderful program, with more than 1,000 chapters in middle schools, high schools and on college campuses. For more information, visit www.bestbuddies.org.
(c)2005 by the Chicago Tribune
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