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How do I stop being a regular truant out of extreme shyness?
August 22, 2010 8:14 PM   Subscribe

I have this terrible habit of skipping school out of social anxiety or shyness, even for the smallest reasons like not bringing an important book, arriving late or not knowing where the class is. How do I stop this and be a regular?

If the last couple years have gone down like hell for me, it's because I've been playing truant from my college just because I was too shy to actually attend it. I failed, my relationship with my parents soured and finally, I managed to get into a new college, with subjects I like and a fresh slate to start over with.

And again, on the second day itself, I couldn't bring myself to enter a class because I got there late. I turned around casually and walked out. I then spent the whole day wandering around the city, ate out and came back home as if nothing had happened.

The worst thing about it is that it's like lying - the more you do it, the more you *have* to do it. Not just because of the addiction, but because I keep thinking that someone's going to question me where I was, or ask how I'm so aloof about the class' activities and so on, and so I decided to just keep it all away and keep walking.

So whenever I don't know something, like where I'm supposed to be at the moment, I just ignore it and walk out entirely. It's blissful when you do it, but months later when the jig is up, and everyone realises this, it comes crashing down on you like a meteor shower.

How do I break out of this cycle and start being a regular at class? Or at least not shy enough to actually approach someone when I don't know something?
posted by Senza Volto to Human Relations (36 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
Show up on time and carry a map?

This sounds really extreme. I would consider talking to a professional about these problems.
posted by phunniemee at 8:18 PM on August 22, 2010


Or at least not shy enough to actually approach someone when I don't know something?

Regarding this, realize that no one knows everything all the time, so you should never feel shy or embarrassed about asking a question. For instance, I get really tickled whenever a stranger approaches me on the street or wherever to ask where something is. I'm really good with directions but suck at a lot of things, so it's nice when I can actually help someone with useful information. You should assume that everyone you stop to ask is happy to help you. No one's going to think less of you for being lost or confused.
posted by phunniemee at 8:23 PM on August 22, 2010


Showing up anywhere is a problem for me. Getting myself ready to go there is even more gut-wrenching. But the thing is, once I do get there, I'm just fine. None of the horrible things I could only imagine actually materialize. Not that I don't have to psych myself up every time I go - I do. But the anxiety seems to melt away once I'm actually in the middle of my task.
My vote is that you force yourself into uncomfortable positions. You'll start to see that they're not that bad after all. I can't say that you'll stop being anxious, but at least you'll pass the class.
posted by Gilbert at 8:28 PM on August 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh gosh, you sound very much like me. My solution, which hasn't completely worked (but if I try really hard during the semester, it usually works) is to get ready for class early, make sure I have everything I need, arrive very early and pick out a seat I feel comfortable in. This means back corner of the class, might be different for you.

Good luck. Try not to associate positive feelings with 'escaping' class or leaving before it starts and doing other less anxiety-inducing things. This might not be the healthiest approach, but I think about the shame I would feel if I racked up enough absences to fail.

On a more positive note, you could focus on how good it feels when you've stayed for the entire class and learned what you need to feel confident in attending future classes.

I wish you the best on an issue that I've struggled with for years.
posted by rachaelfaith at 8:30 PM on August 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Asking questions about campus is actually a great way to approach your fellow students in college, so it's kind of a win win. You get to make some conversation, and you get to find out where your class is! It's the first week of class, most people are still figuring out the basic logistics of how their semester will go. Don't feel weird or shy about it, it's just the way it is.

Considering how shy you seem to be, though, you should make more of an effort to be prepared. Get the book, look at the campus map, leave 10 minutes earlier. I'm not sure how it works at your school, but if I missed the first or second meeting, I get dropped automatically in favor of one of the many people petitioning to add the class. So go to class! It's not a capital offense to be late, though as I say, you should try not to do things that give you an excuse not to go to class.

Do you know what major you're working towards yet? If so, is it something that motivates you? I've found I've done better since finding a major that I am both interested in and plays to my strengths. The more sure you are that you're studying what you should be, the more motivated you will be to complete your studies.
posted by malapropist at 8:35 PM on August 22, 2010


Three words: cognitive-behavioral therapy. To my knowledge, it's the only treatment for social anxiety that has been consistently shown to be effective. Ask at the college heath center for a referral to a therapist who specializes in using CBT to treat people with social anxiety. Or, if you are really dedicated, you can develop a program for yourself using a book like "The Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook" as a guide.
posted by brain at 8:39 PM on August 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


If you're going to college, you probably have access to some low-cost therapy, and you may as well take advantage of it while you have the opportunity.

Also, asking people for help is never as bad as you are afraid it will be. Promise yourself you'll try it once; it probably won't be so bad. In fact, keep trying it (even if not strictly necessary) until you aren't afraid of how bad it is.
posted by emumimic at 8:41 PM on August 22, 2010 [1 favorite]



posted by pants tent at 8:48 PM on August 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


i never licked this problem completely while it was happening for me. what helped me at times was making a good friend who challenged me. then it was fun to go to class, because it was part of our friendship. link up with someone who always goes to class and then you can kind of step into their world. that's not a long-term solution, but it might be a step into a different set of habits.

i used to have a terrible time going into my high school cafeteria. i would get lunch to go for weeks until i found a good friend to go with. i felt protected.

i am over this now, at age 36. i can pretty much go anywhere and do anything and get over my shyness. i just do it. it is sometimes a struggle. i realized after a while that a very big part of me wasn't getting anything done. that there was a big part of me that had gone unexercised and it was starting to show. all of that stuff that i had been avoiding was essential to my growth as a person, and it hurt when i finally saw that i had missed a lot of experiences that could have been stimulating, fun, useful, instructive, deep, fascinating, scary, boring, whatever.

that said, are you paying for college? if your parents are paying for college, then you might want to stop going until you are really able to do your work. college is way too expensive. there are a lot of alternatives to college that will not cost so much and may teach you more about life. then again, i have no idea what you are studying or why you are going to college in the first place.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:48 PM on August 22, 2010


This is probably going to be horrible advice, met with a fair amount of backlash, so take it with a grain of salt. But, I would suggest doing the absolute bare minimum. Do whatever it is you have to do to figure out what the bare minimum is, to the extent that you are confident about it, and then do just that. You've got some other problems that you need tending to. Maybe it's time, maybe it's therapy, maybe it's a whole direction change...but you need to clear some space to figure it out.

I went through this in high school. I was dealing with a lot of heavy things, including getting over 2 years of self-medicating and the awful anxiety-ridden side effects that go along with it. I almost failed out. But I did what I had to do to get by, which included three classes of "P.E."* in my senior year to make up for the flunking out and units I was missing. I survived! Sure, I wish I had done it differently (I would have gotten some outside help, found some activities, addressed issues head-on, blah, blah, blah), but because I didn't let the basics slip, I was ok once I worked it out.

So, take inventory, do what you got to do, cut yourself some slack and get to work. It's ok and it'll be ok. You're in that part of your movie where you're slowly picking up the pieces after screwing it all up. You'll learn a lot of great stuff about yourself and about life in general.

*P.E. consisted of reading a book from 7am-8am, then playing hackey sack by the track from 1-3pm.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:06 PM on August 22, 2010


I think I should clarify that I'm not American and have a different education system - 'college' here is I think what they called a polytechnic before, so it isn't as expensive as college or anything, but my parents are paying for it, of course.

I'm studying IT there and while it's motivating, the stuff I'm really excited about comes in the second and third years, so the first year is going to be pretty boring with regards to study.

And thank you for the advice everyone. Keep it coming! :)
posted by Senza Volto at 9:07 PM on August 22, 2010


From my own personal experience: the thing that motivates me not to do this is the constant knowledge that it's just going to put me farther behind in the work, and in the long run that's going to come back to haunt me and be way more stressful than actually attending class would be.

It may help to realize that a bunch of your classmates are probably in a similar position - that is, late, probably missing homework or didn't do the reading, stressed about being there, etc. People show it in different ways, but as much as it might seem to you like everyone is on top of their game except you, it's highly unlikely that is actually the case. You say you worry about seeming aloof in class - everyone else is probably too worried about themselves to even notice!

Seconding the having a friend in your class idea! Try to take at least one class with, if not a close friend, someone you at least enjoy interacting with. It can make the whole thing seem so much more doable.
posted by Pochemuchka at 9:20 PM on August 22, 2010


If you don't solve your problem, you might try online classes instead?
posted by Jacqueline at 9:24 PM on August 22, 2010


2nd what Brain said. Cognitive behavioral therapy will have you fixed up in a jiffy. If you want to go the self-help route for a while, pick up a copy of When Panic Attacks, by D. Burns. Some of his stories of treating his own patients get a tad bit silly, but the book might just help enough that you don't need to see a professional. CBT is really really helpful, though.
posted by Lukenlogs at 9:27 PM on August 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Here is a CBT-type approach (in addition to planning ahead to reduce the stress of being in class).
First, pick one scenario like asking someone where to find a classroom. Figure out the worse that can happen. Really think through the consequences in detail. Since you do want to get your education, is it worth taking the chance on the worst case to get the education that you want? I assume that on a rational level, the answer is "yes". When you start to want to avoid class, tell yourself over and over that this is worth suffering through to get to your goal.

Second,get a 3x5 card or something else you can use to track 3 columns of data. Each day before class, estimate on a scale of 0-10 how easy it will be for you to attend class. 0=skipped, 10=no problem. WRITE the date and your estimate. (Don't do this in your head, write it down) Once you get to your seat, figure out how easy/difficult it actually was to get to class and then write it down. For most people, for most days, it will be easier to actually do than you thought it would be. This would also let you see that things will get easier as you practice.

Finally, a third technique is to visualize yourself being successful. Make up a realistic scenario of going to class, running into a problem and successfully overcoming the problem. Practice this in your head over and over. When you start to feel more confident about that scenario then add a second scenario. Research shows that your brain remembers the visualization as a successful accomplishment in a similar way to the way it remembers actual successes.

ps - these only work if you have a commitment to making the change. It involves putting with short-term unpleasantness, so you have to believe that there is something to be gained that is worth it. If you can't seem to actually do any of the steps that you know would help you overcome this problem then you should try to get professional help.
posted by metahawk at 10:12 PM on August 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Ok, here is the cheat sheet.

1. Caricature selection- Identify an individual who behaves exactly opposite to what you do right now.

2. Next time a situation arises, think about caricature. What would s/he do right now?

3. You are the caricature now. Do what you answered above. You aren't really backing out (or can back out) and do what you normally would because you are the caricature now.

4. Repeat at every possible opportunity. If you don't have one, find one.
posted by xm at 10:26 PM on August 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


Totally get you. In high school, my teacher would ask a question of the class, and the mere *thought* of raising my hand caused me to flush and break into a sweat.

In college I had the exact same experience of heading to a class, it "just not feeling right," and turning right around and getting the fuck out of there.

Psycho-therapy, CBT, MBSR, ... did zero for me. I don't think people who don't have chronic anxiety really understand what it's like. E.g., "How am I supposed to sit here and do this relaxing exercise when I feel like I'm crawling out of my skin?"

My successful coping strategy was thus:

Learn to be a self-sufficient student. Get the syllabus and the homework assignments. Determine how you learn best, and study the material on your own; it's much easier. Most of the time the textbook is going to suck, so by all means, get your own secondary materials. Especially with so much amazing information available on the web, you'll find that the teacher's pace in the classroom is too slow. Sit in the back and review your notes or work on homework. Basically, subjugate the need to go to class to lessen the pressure and guilt you feel when you just don't want to be there.

For example, the other day I was brushing up on polynomials / NP-complete problems - something I learned in college. The wealth of insight I found on the web was so much clearer than I ever remember my textbooks being.

Sorry that this doesn't help you just be "a regular." I take anti-anxiety medication (Effexor XR), and it still only helps to a point. But realizing I was my own best teacher revolutionized my approach to schoolwork. I wish I had figured it out earlier.
posted by blahtsk at 10:56 PM on August 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I had something similar when I was in college. Between working and having a 90 minute commute to campus there were just some days when no matter how hard I tried I was late. Unfortunately I had a couple of professors who were just HUGE JERKS about it. They would single people out when they came into the classroom 5 minutes late and berate them in front of everyone. For me this eventually sort of generalized into a low-grade phobia about entering any classroom if it was already in session. As a result, often if I was running a little late I would just skip classes, or drop the class entirely if the professor was particularly draconian; the whole 'humiliation as motivation to be on time' thing wasn't very effective for me.

My advice is:

Do your best to schedule classes so you have plenty of time to get there. Sometimes it's worth it to take a class later in the year if it means not having to kill yourself by cramming everything in all at once.

Think about what you can do the night before to make your mornings easier. Get any errands squared away; getting gas, picking out your clothes for the next day, whatever you need to do that you can do. The goal is to be able to wake up, get dressed, and just go to class without distractions or impediments.

I found it extremely difficult to skip class if someone else was depending on me. If you can entangle yourself with someone in your classes (carpool with them, borrow their text, etc.), the responsibility helps force you to get in there.

If nothing else, tell someone. Force yourself to tell the same person each and every time you miss a class, and why. If not a therapist, your parents, or a friend... Just someone who can give you perspecitve and help out if you start down the same path again.
posted by Menthol at 11:07 PM on August 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


This isn't quite the same thing, but I've had to leave classes because I've had panic attacks in the midst of them for a variety of reasons, usually related to being picked out of all the others in the class and being made an example of (I'm in China, so it's undoubtedly quite different). What's helped me get through them is to just remember that no matter what happens, I'll survive being embarrassed for a few minutes and that my classmates are pretty sympathetic to my situation, just as I am when I'm in their shoes.

I've also been guilty of skipping classes if I'm going to be late, or if I don't have my book, or if I didn't do the homework, etc. In this case, I try not to break the chain.
posted by so much modern time at 11:28 PM on August 22, 2010


And again, on the second day itself, I couldn't bring myself to enter a class because I got there late. I turned around casually and walked out. I then spent the whole day wandering around the city...

What I'm reading here is you were late for one class, couldn't walk in (because you feared everyone turning and staring at you, the professor grilling you for your tardiness? perhaps?), and then you blew the rest of your day and the rest of your classes off by walking around the city.

You really need to keep in mind that even if you slip up doesn't mean that you should throw the whole thing out the window. This goes for someone being late to one class or someone on a diet eating a piece of pie. You haven't failed by being late to one class, even if you can't bring yourself to walk in. What it DOES mean is that you should be early for your next class. Don't let one mistake convince you that you're a failure and cannot go to class.
posted by rhapsodie at 11:35 PM on August 22, 2010


Speaking from experience things you ought to do which I didn't:

* Speak to your personal tutor about this - they are there for you in a role of pastoral care.
* Speak to the counselling services at the college - at my university it was free and I should have taken advantage of the service much sooner then I did.
* Understand that your course providers want you to pass, they will do whatever they can within their means to support you if you inform them of what is going on.

This will get better over time with the appropriate help and support if you work at it. If after discussions with the your tutor you realise together that you might need to repeat the year so as not to fall behind accept it. It will be better for you in the long run to not be catching up all the time, sometimes taking a step back and attempting to put into practice the tools you will have learnt with a counsellor or your tutor should enable you to become stronger and do what everyone else seems to achieve so effortlessly.

I lived through a situation just like yours but I came through it with help, and with help you will too.
posted by lilyflower at 2:39 AM on August 23, 2010


I had a big problem with attendance throughout university. I had to talk myself into going to class EVEN IF I was late, hadn't done homework, or hadn't got a book. It helped! Just turning up to class made me feel like I was more on track at uni, even if I wasn't managing to keep up at all with my coursework and was too ashamed to look my tutors in the eye.

Also: I printed my timetable for the week and put a bright red cross through every class I missed. It have me a visual for how much class time I was missing and I felt accomplished when finally (I think it only happened once or twice, actually) I had a page with no crosses.

Good luck. This stuff can be hard.
posted by the cat's pyjamas at 4:03 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


@rhapsodie: While that is sound advice, I did consider skipping one class only, but realised that I didn't know which classroom the next lecture was going to be in. So yeah.

@all: It's great to know that so many people have had this, because of all the people I've known (on the surface, anyway), I never met anyone who played truant out of shyness and fear (I knew quite a few who played truant because they found the lectures boring / unnecessary).

I attended class the whole day today and even made a friend (who appears kinda shy too). Since it went fairly well, I think I'll make it through. I've also got a good class apparently - no troublemakers or bullies to ruin anything. Nobody really minded me being absent the other day, and I was apparently supposed to fill up a form that day. When I contacted the teacher distributing the forms, she didn't freak out either, so things went fairly smooth.

As for the asking-people problem, I decided to take a to-hell-with-it approach, which is basically to stop thinking and just step in and ask whatever I want and get over with it. I still keep thinking a lot about the sort of image I'm projecting and what people are thinking about me at any given moment, but I'm hoping to to-hell-with-it through.

Again, thanks for the fantastic advice! I knew that paying to sign up at this place wasn't a bad idea. ;)
posted by Senza Volto at 4:32 AM on August 23, 2010


I never met anyone who played truant out of shyness and fear

I think it is much more common than any of us know, because shy people probably don't talk about it a lot.

While I rarely give in to the impulse, I certainly suffer from the impulse you describe so very well here. I HATE HATE HATE walking into new situations and not knowing exactly what's going on or where I need to be or what's going to happen. HATE. Missing one class makes it infinitely harder to go back to the next one! I know very few people bothered by it as much as I am, and they're not great at understanding why it bothers me so much.

I think your update shows you've already learned my coping mechanism, but here it is anyway: I think of the times I've been in class when someone's been late or come into the wrong room, and did I ever think that person was STUPID for being in the wrong room (or late)? Of course not (well, not since I was 12, anyway). I thought, "Oh, man, I hate it when I do that!", felt a little bad for them, and then promptly forgot about it. So the worst that could happen? Someone will feel a little sympathetic for you, and then forget about it. I remind myself, "I am not the star of anyone else's mental movie! I'm just an extra!"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:01 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh yeah, I could've written this post. I still am horrific about it but the way I've dealt is to try and take some time when there's no one around and go through the day-to-day things so I know what obstacles may appear. If possible, go around to all of your classrooms (with a map in hand) when everyone's elsewhere. Learn where they are, see how they're set up, make plans about how to go from point A to point B. It's the only thing that kept me semi-sane in college.
posted by sperose at 6:18 AM on August 23, 2010


@senza: Good for you, that is just awesome!!!
posted by serena15221 at 6:31 AM on August 23, 2010


Agree with all the positive, practical ideas above.

Go in very early, pack all the information you need the night before, get some counselling, and make plans. Talk over your feelings (if not this precise behaviour) with friends.

If you can't get free counselling or want to do some work on thoughts+feelings yourself, http://www.livinglifetothefull.org/ has free worksheets to go through.
posted by KMH at 6:42 AM on August 23, 2010


The reason I got my GED when I was 16.5, was because I had failed the 9th grade twice and then 11th grade. This was because of my social phobia.
It runs in my family - although I probably had (have?) it the worst.

Honestly, the only thing that helped me was cognative behavior therapy and medication.

Cognitive behavior Therapy teaches you how to correct the way you think.. and it's very insightful.

Oh, another thing that helped was my first job at Home Shopping Network.
I had a fear of phones - like calling up a store and asking for hours... or ordering pizza.
but after working at HSN and hearing the craziest people all night long - I realized that no one would think twice about me calling for things such as hours.
posted by KogeLiz at 6:55 AM on August 23, 2010


I agree with the above & would like to ask...is this a perfectionist thing? if it is...i'd suggest to go out there and fail a bit. then fail a bit more. and then do it again. get used to it & you might see that the world doesn't fall apart & some great things come out of "failing". you might see that life, situations or you don't have to be perfect for things to work well :) good luck!
posted by UltraD at 7:45 AM on August 23, 2010


In my struggles with anxiety this has been the single most useful question: "What's the worst that can happen?" It makes me slow down and think through the actual consequences of messing something up. Generally, those consequences are beyond trivial. If I arrive late, someone might look at me funny! Which, well, that's not really a good reason to miss out on something important. If I cut my hair and hate it I might have to wear a hat while it grows out! But I like hats, so it's probably OK. Every time I want to avoid doing something because of anxiety I ask myself "What's the worst that can happen?" I would say that nine times out of ten this gets me through the anxiety to the other side. Sometimes, it works because I have to admit to myself the crazy thing I was thinking. "If I arrive late, someone will think I am a bad person and they will tell all their friends and no one will like me and everyone I know will think I am a bad person, too. And then someone will come and steal all my things and I'll be homeless and hungry." And once I've articulated my actual fear and confronted that *none* of those things are going to happen (except maybe the first one), it's a lot easier to look the anxiety in the face and move on with my life.

So, for you - consider what would be the worst thing that would happen if someone did question where you had been? Well, you could tell them any number of things! You could brush it off with "You know how life can be sometimes." Or you can give an honest answer, "I was pretty anxious about this class! But I'm over it now and glad to be here." You could tell them "I was really hungry and had to go eat." or "I had trouble finding the classroom." Or anything! And then the conversation would be over or you could move on to something else.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:47 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just wanted to say that you are not alone -- I did the exact same thing through high school and college. Metafilter didn't exist then, but even so I don't know that I'd have asked for help. I think it's very cool that you are asking now. And even if the answers here don't do it for you, keep looking. Because it gets worse the longer you live with it.
posted by MeiraV at 8:27 AM on August 23, 2010


This question really hit home for me. I dropped out of high school and screwed up my first attempt at college for the reasons you described. Some of the things that have helped me deal with the social anxiety in an educational environment have been:

1) Obsessive Planning. Go to campus before classes begin and your schedule in hand, plan your route, and figure out where everything is, including nearby restrooms and where you'll need to park.

2) Arriving Early. Getting there with enough time to use the bathroom if needed, find your preferred seat (like others, mine is always in the back), and get comfortable in your surroundings.

3) Just Doing It. I have forced myself to go to class when I'm panicking about having to go in late/in front of people/at all by recognizing that it is not a huge disruption or attention-grabber when other people come in late, and my discomfort will last only a minute or two. Also, it feels much better to just go in and find a seat than to be disappointed in myself for the rest of the day because I couldn't handle it.
posted by alpha_betty at 8:44 AM on August 23, 2010


I did consider skipping one class only, but realised that I didn't know which classroom the next lecture was going to be in. So yeah.

Hm. Is your campus really so big that you can spend the hour (I assume) you should have been in class wandering around, and still not find the classroom you need? Because, really, missing one class puts you into the perfect position to be Crazy Prepared for your next one, especially if you need to find it.

Unless you literally did not know what the name of the building the class was to be held in and the room number or whatever, in which case, you're kind of setting yourself up for failure there.

(I do know how this feels: I have skipped classes before because I made it to campus 10 minutes after the class began and couldn't work up the nerve to sneak in the back, especially if the professor has a history of calling out people who sneak in late. Or if we had the "DON'T SHOW UP LATE IT'S RUDE AND DISRUPTIVE" talk in the beginning. But if I missed one class, I never skipped the next one too - I showed up really early for it.)
posted by Xany at 10:02 AM on August 23, 2010


Ug, I've had this problem most of my life. I'm not sure the psychology of it... but usually I find something better to do than what I'm supposed to be doing. And it is a problem where I feel that I'm drawing attention to myself if I come in late, or if I've missed a day.

In sixth grade, I was responsible for getting myself to school -- either walking or riding a bike. I skipped school for two weeks and stayed home - I left as if going to school, but then kinda hung around until I knew my parents had gone to work. Each day the school would call home and I'd confirm that I was sick. The jig was up when they called my mom at work.

Thinking back, before that, I was supposed to go to summer camp but instead I waited for the bus to come, hid behind some bushes and waited for it to leave, and then I hung around the neighborhood for the day while mom was at work. She never found out.

This behavior continued in high school -- skipping classes or faking illness to miss school. And into college, skipping classes. Once I skipped a class for about 2 weeks, and as time wore on, it was harder and harder for me to think about going back because I knew there would be questions.

And not surprisingly, this behavior has continued into my working life, where I'll call in sick and just stay home watching TV or playing computer games. It becomes all too easy to string a couple of these "sick days" together.

Looking at trends here, I was trading interpersonal anxiety and boredom for fun doing something else. And perhaps I've never been sufficiently punished for my bad behavior.

I have no idea for a cure, but I urge you to curb this truant behavior before it carries over into the rest of your life.
posted by indigo4963 at 11:16 AM on August 23, 2010


I had similar problems. I think you've gotten good advice already, but I wanted to add that it's worth addressing the shyness and reticence, not only for school but in general. I still hate work situations where I am dependent on someone else to help me with something, even if there's no expectation that I should be able to do it on my own. Any professional career is a life-long education, and you have to get used to rolling with punches, not knowing answers, and occasionally feeling unprepared or stupid -- it's normal, and it's how you keep learning. Similarly, I get uncomfortable in social situations where people are talking about something or someone I'm unfamiliar with but feel like I ought to know -- but if I don't ask, I'll never catch up and can't contribute to the conversation. It's a hard habit to get into, but it's always better to communicate than to retreat.
posted by Chris4d at 6:07 PM on August 23, 2010


I will chime in as another person whose excessive shyness had real scholastic repercussions.

Here's one way to look at it: rather than thinking of your shyness as something that's getting in the way of your education, think of "learning to cope with your shyness" as *being* your education. For me, learning to swallow that sick gut feeling and walk into the classroom, or otherwise follow through, was an ESSENTIAL life task.

Instead of thinking, "I have to go into the classroom because my parents want me to get an education but I think I will pass out if I try," consider reframing it as "I want to go into the classroom, because I am learning to deal with being scared of situations like this and that's the challenge I've set for myself this morning. I may just pass out, but I probably won't die."

I'm now a TA for university in the US, and, while I can't speak cross-culturally, in my experience the kind of active humiliation of late people that's been described above must be rare, because I've never seen it. I *once* had a professor in a graduate class speak to the class generally about persistent lateness, but that's it.

And frankly, if you come in five minutes late, you're not going to be the last student in. Especially on the first day! We normally "hold" class five minutes or more on the first day because we expect that students are still finding classrooms.
posted by endless_forms at 8:45 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


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