I blush a lot. When someone compliments me or a stranger approaches me, I know exactly what they are looking at. They’re watching my face grow the shade of a sunburn from the Sahara Desert. They’re watching as every single erythrocyte in my body floods to my cheeks, rushes around my nose, and fills my forehead. I imagine it’s like watching a glass fill with tomato juice. The only difference being, I am the glass. I am a very, very transparent glass.
For as long as I can remember, the slightest hint of flirting, a compliment, or meeting someone new has always painted my face a very obvious shade of red. And it was crippling.
Especially when I got to high school, I would hold back from introducing myself to new people or starting a conversation with a cute boy or looking someone in the eye as they said something kind and flattering. I didn’t want them to get the wrong vibe from the process of my face turning the cute shade of an Exit sign.
I’m not even a shy person. I’m not socially awkward; I just blush a lot. I love volunteering in class, reading out loud, and conversing with new people when we’re given group assignments, but I don’t love that I look like I am running a marathon while doing so.
My senior year presented me with amazing opportunities. I started an internship where I bring patients into exam rooms and ask them questions about their health, take their vital signs, and prepare them to be seen by their physician. I took a class called Honors Advanced Writing, where sharing essays out loud was required. I also started to get a modest amount of attention from local sports websites, where I was interviewed about my team and our success.
These opportunities forced me to confront my blushing head on. There was no way I was going to let this internship slip through my fingers because I was worried about giving a patient a weird vibe. So what if I was blushing while taking their pulse?
I wouldn’t allow myself to do poorly in Honors Advanced Writing due to fear that the class would judge me if I blushed while reading my essay. That’s my GPA we’re talking about!
And it would be so petty of me to decline interviews for my team because I was embarrassed of blushing on camera or in front of the interviewers. I wasn’t going to let a few million red blood cells – however embarrassing they may be – hinder my growth and learning.
I dove into all those high school sports interviews with a vermilion face because I was proud to show off my team and our athletic success.
I took all those patients’ blood pressure while my own skyrocketed and asked them all about their rash ointment because I want to be a nurse.
And I read all of my Honors Writing essays out loud in front of my classmates because I care about my grade.
As a freshman I would avoid any hallway that might contain an attractive male, to spare myself the transformation from girl to pomegranate-with-limbs. Now when guys introduce themselves to me, I just say, “I’m Shannon, and I blush a lot.” Some laugh. Others tell me it’s cute, so I blush some more and start a conversation so they don’t assume I’m blushing because I’m shy.
Yes, I still blush all the time, but because of the opportunities I’ve had during my senior year, I’ve learned to never hold back because of fear or worry that I will be judged for it.
Besides, everyone loves a natural glow.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.