I rarely cry.
So, when I found myself running out of the Apple Store sobbing, I figured I must be going insane. “It’s finally happened: I’ve lost my mind,” I thought to myself as I ran out into the bustling hallway of the mall. Surrounded by busy shoppers and with my nostrils brutally assaulted by the scent of Abercrombie perfume, I gave up and just cried harder. Yes, friends. Right there- beside a little bodega selling bad hair extensions- I had a meltdown.
My sister, Allie chased after me. Within moments, and in the way that only a sister could, she was able to make made me laugh hysterically. There I was: cackling in between sobs. Sobbing between cackles. And mortified the entire time.
A lot had been building up inside of me before I had walked in the mall that day; it just took a little $2,000 incident to unleash it all in front of a bunch of strangers. I was sure that my sudden fit of giggles in the midst of weeping only added to the appearance that I was having a full-out mental breakdown. Teenagers pointed and laughed. Parents shielded their children. Concerned shopkeepers dialed mall security, just in case…
And therein lies the problem: I was convinced that I had a whole crowd of people surrounding me, watching the drama unfold. But these gawkers didn’t exist. Aside from my sister and her poor boyfriend, who were left to pick up the pieces of my breakdown, it is likely that no one even noticed that I was crying… or cared if they did. Although it was a bit embarrassing (and ungodly expensive), my dramatic little moment only impacted me.
I remember learning about a concept called the “Imaginary Audience” when I was an undergrad. This refers to a state in which someone thinks that they are constantly being watched and evaluated on everything that they do. Egocentric? Yes. Narcissistic? No. Narcissism implies an unhealthy thirst for adoration. One can be egocentric and wish that no one would pay them any attention at all.
Looking back on my life, I realize that I often kept quiet when I should have stood up for myself or my beliefs. I feared speaking up, feared the judgment that was sure to come if I said the wrong thing. I spent a lot of time trying to be invisible… or at least trying to blend in with the crowd. All because I imagined that people were as painfully aware of my actions as I was.
My shyness hasn’t gone away. I’m still a work in progress and some days are far worse than others, but I’m starting to find my voice. I recently had an experience that made me realize just how far I have come over the past three years since graduating from college and moving to this town. I have grown tremendously thanks to some great friends, mentors, and colleagues.
I will never be a girl who loves the spotlight… but I will be a girl who loves herself and isn’t ashamed to admit it.
PS- I would like to apologize to the kind gentleman who was helping me that day at the Genius Bar: Sorry, dude.