The Shy Ones

One of my favourite parts of my trip to Vietnam in 2009 was visiting the hill tribes near the northern border to China. It was a beautiful area with beautiful people. My husband and I, armed with our Canon 5D’s, took hundreds of photos, and a lot of them were of the children from the villages. They were used to tourists coming through, and when they saw us with cameras, they ran over to us like this-

And posed for photos like this-

But not all of them did. There were kids who for whatever reason couldn’t join in the fun. Some of them were working. Some of them were looking after younger siblings. There were also the shy ones.

I saw it happen a couple of times. All the kids would run over for a photo, but one hesitates-

I watched the little girl in the blue top stop and think while all the other kids raced over right away. There was some internal struggle there, but then she came to join the others.

But she was too slow. Her hesitation meant she missed the group photo. I watched as my husband showed the kids the photo he took (their favourite part of the process!), and the little girl in the blue top, man, she broke my heart.

She hesitated, she made excuses, she was too shy to join the group, and she missed out. I know, because I do all the same things, all the time. I was doing the same thing right then. I could have gone to her, taken her photo, included her. But I’m a shy one as well. It’s stupid how crippling shyness can be, that hesitation to make contact with other people, the inability to include yourself in a group. The way we just stand at the side and watch, wanting to be part of the fun but too busy making excuses not to- The photo’s already taken, I’m too late, they probably don’t want me to talk to them, I wouldn’t know what to say…

While walking from this village to the next I thought about it more. I felt bad for not making an effort.

So when I saw it happening again, a little girl in purple, watching from the sidelines…

What did I do? I could say I stepped up and included her, but I’d be lying. I totally copped out. I told my husband to take her photo, while I stood at the side and watched.

Isn’t she a beauty? She wasn’t sure what was happening. She stayed suspicious of us, who had gone to her to include her when she had probably come to accept that she simply wouldn’t be included. She kept this little frown on her face until we showed her the photo on the camera screen and she finally cracked a smile. Then the other girls wanted to see her photo too, and laughed and talked to her about it. And when we left, she kept smiling, laughing and talking to the other girls.

You probably see it a lot yourself, in schools, parties, or workplaces. The person who stands back, hesitates, stays on the side. It doesn’t mean they don’t want to join in. It’s the first step, joining in, being included, which can be so paralysing. But if someone can just make the effort to include the shy ones, it really does mean worlds to us.


13 thoughts on “The Shy Ones

  1. Toria says:

    So incredibly true. People who are outgoing just don’t seem to grasp the utter fear that shy people have. I’ve had people in the past tell me to “just jump in the conversation.” The biggest problem for me in talking to people (heck, I’m even like this with close friends) is telling myself, “What if they don’t want to talk to me? They are outgoing, so if they wanted to talk to me, they would.” Just constant battles and wars in my mind. It is really hard, though, when people misinterpret shyness and become intimidated by it or feel as if the person is being snobby. It would be so lovely if more people understood or at least looked past it and tried to include the people. Even for shy people to reach out to other shy people. It really does mean a lot to us. 🙂

  2. Kyra says:

    Look how precious they all look! What a great experience! You are so right about giving the shy ones a chance, sadly I think many have a shyness “quality” about them that sometimes makes even the more outgoing ones not give the shyer ones a chance! (maybe its my wishful thinking)

  3. Kristina Ebert says:

    That is a cute story. I am one of the quiet ones that is for sure. I have made myself sometimes stand up when I would rather sit quietly in the corner. It is hard to step into the spotlight, I don’t understand why people do?!

  4. Steve Tryon says:

    Heartwarming, Selina. You’re a gem, even if a shy one. I’m something of a shy person, too, an incorrigible second-guesser.

    Shooting with an old TLR film camera helps me break the ice. It seems to set people at ease.

    Blessings, Steve

  5. Parveen says:

    Beautiful story. I and so many other poeple feel this way so often! It breaks my heart when I see it… but I always endup trying to talk to them and make friends. Selina, you are so amazing… even if you did make your husband take the shot because in the end, the shy ones are always the better.

  6. katerina says:

    very touching pictures and story/experience you had selina, i very much relate to the shyness part it’s one thing i wish i can get over, i think i may got better over the years with it ,the fear of offending sometimes or taking it the wrong way keeps me back,but your words and pictures really showed what is like, you made a lot of kids happy that day they will surely remember your visit :)thank you for sharing with us :)~Kat~

  7. BeckyB says:

    Thank you Selina, I can really relate to this story of yours.. I have found myself being shy in situations and later on regreting that I didn’t do or say something! I will keep this in mind and hopefully next time I’ll make the effort to push past it 🙂

    Also, I just happen to be going there myself in about 2 weeks time!! SO excited, I’ve never been before!

  8. Polly says:

    I remember being that shy too when I was younger- not having the courage to join in the fun and just watching from afar. I can imagine how that little girl feels since I’m Hmong myself. Those children you took a picture of are Hmong; I could tell because of the traditional clothing the little girls were wearing. But being privileged to be born and raised in America has taught me to overcome my shyness, and live the American dream. Thank you for sharing this story and your artwork is amazing!

  9. Isabelle says:

    Beautiful text ! I read it with tears in my eyes. I could see myself in the little girls but also at your place.
    Happy ending, leaves me with inner happiness 🙂 Thanks for that.

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