Monday, August 25, 2014

I Am Not Your Project

"I am so glad," I've heard more than one friend say, "that I got you to come out of your shell." 

That bothers me. It really does. Maybe you think it shouldn't because if I'm out of my "shell", that's obviously a good thing, right? Well, yes...sort of. 

If you draw energy from being around other people, then you may not realize that your quiet friends think of this "shell" you refer to differently than you think of it. When well-meaning people tell me to come out of my shell, they're thinking that I'm using it out of fear, that I need a place to hide from the scary world, that I'm shy, that this shell is oppressing me and I would abandon it forever if only one of my more talkative friends would just save me from it once and for all. 

But that's not it. In reality, the "shell" you think of is just a place for me to regain energy when I'm drained. It's just me speaking softly while we gain each other's trust. That's all. 

And for that matter, I was going to come out of my shell with or without your help. Now, don't take that the wrong way. Your friendship is still very important to me. If you are my friend, I treasure you, and just as you will likely need my help at some point, I will also need yours. But I don't need rescue from my own personality. I don't need you to make me more extroverted. But maybe that's what it looked like on the surface. At the beginning of our friendship, maybe I was quieter than most. Over the course of getting to know you, I probably didn't share too much. And then suddenly there was a breakthrough. I started talking more. I started sharing more personal things. I became louder. I felt like part of the group and joined in the silliness...

...and that was going to happen no matter who was there. I don't come out of my shell because you decided that you were going to make me do it. I came out of my shell because I got used to the situation. And that was bound to happen at one point or another. And it'll happen again. I'll be in a completely different group of people, and the whole cycle will repeat itself. And there's not a thing wrong with that. So perhaps it ins't the emphasis on coming out of my shell that really bothers me. It irks me a little bit when people bring it up, but maybe that has more to do with the face that it's a cliche. No, where it gets really problematic is when you bring the I into it. I brought you out of your shell. Of course, if you see me hovering awkwardly at the edges of a party and you do walk up to talk to me, I will appreciate that immensely. If you take the time to get to know me, you'll have a lifelong friend. But do not under any circumstances whatsoever pick the quiet kid out from the rest of the crowd and think, "I am going to get that person to come out of her shell." Once you've done that, you've stopped seeing me as a person. You're looking at me as a project, so that when I do, as I always will, come out of my shell, you will see that as your personal victory. I am not interested in being your project. I am interested in being your friend. My personality is not your prize. 

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