Shell | Teen Ink


August 1, 2023
By Anonymous

   “You just need to come out of your shell,” was a phrase I heard throughout my childhood. It was like a broken record, playing over and over. “You just need to come out of your shell.” I never really understood it. I thought of my ‘shell’ as my protection. Coming out of my shell meant being vulnerable, letting people see the real you, and hoping you won’t get judged. I couldn't do that, even if I wanted to. The feeling of constantly being judged by others, of being self-conscious and anxious in social situations, made me want to crawl further into my shell and never come out. 

     Social anxiety can manifest itself in many different ways. Still, for me, it usually involves being hyper-aware of everything that is going on around me and a heightened sensitivity to how others perceive me. I’m constantly worried that I'm saying the wrong thing and that people are judging me. It’s torture. 

    In school, it was worse. Not wanting to bring any attention to myself, I didn’t talk to anyone unless necessary. I would do my work quickly, wanting to spend time reading. I loved books. Getting lost in the worlds of dystopian societies and magical worlds would let me escape from whatever was happening in my life. 

   When Covid struck, like most of my other classmates, I was excited. I assumed online school would be easy. I was wrong. The work was suddenly too much, and staying in the house all day had started to affect me. Going to school and being essentially forced to interact with people was slowly but surely helping my social anxiety. However, talking to no one but my little brother at home only made it worse. It was like my shell closed in on itself; my social anxiety was getting worse and worse by the day. 

By the time 8th grade started, my anxiety was at its peak. I had forgotten how to interact with people and was very behind in most of my classes because I did horribly in online school. 

Luckily, I met some people who cared to try and talk to me, even if I didn’t say anything back. We helped each other catch up in class and formed a close bond. They slowly pulled me out of my shell. Those two friends saved me because, without them, I wouldn’t have made as much progress as I have. 

I still have social anxiety to this day, but I feel like it’s gotten better. I’ve learned to push those negative thoughts out of my mind whenever I get them. I try to remind myself that even if someone is judging me, I can’t let it get the better of me. I’ve learned that “coming out of your shell” isn’t something you can do in one day. It’s a slow, intricate process, where you must trust yourself and your feelings. 

The author's comments:

This is a personal essay that I wrote for Teens Speak. I hope that people who can relate to my story feel better knowing that other people understand. 

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