The Art of being self-conscious

At a very early age I learned to be self-conscious, or should I say that I was, perhaps, genetically predisposed to it.  As an educator I have been able to help many a student in a similar predicament.  I have always felt something special for the individual who is a victim of himself/herself and doesn’t know how to proceed.  At the current time, I am tutoring several individuals, both of whom are having a tough time participating in class because of feelings of inadequacy and shyness.  These are things I have known most of my life.  Deep down, I knew that this was a false sense, but on the surface they were omnipresent and somewhat paralyzing at times.

As Cyrano de Bergerac said, my nose precedes me into a room.  That has been the main source of my self-consciousness from a very early age.  Add to that that I was always uncoordinated, a late bloomer, and I skipped a portion of second grade.  I was also relatively bright, if I may say so, and kind of stuck out just from that. 

The nose thing is something that has taken a lifetime to deal with.  In my youth, I was “Pinocchio” and I must say that my treatment from others was somewhat scarring, to say the least.  The daughter of the local funeral parlor was one of my many tormentors, she being probably the most notable.  I am guessing that the fact that she was rather homely in looks and had acne that actually begged for medical help (more than my proboscis!), might have been the reason why she lashed out at me.  In any case, people didn’t have to know how Gloria treated me to come up with the appellation of Pinocchio for me.

Not growing into my 5’10” body until much later didn’t help on the bullying scene.  When I moved to the suburbs at the age of seven or so I found the treatment I received reprehensible and it was in a Catholic School!  The awful treatment on the playground was a daily occurrence and so many of us were knocked down incessantly by others.

In elementary school I began to be almost physically ill the night before my physical education class.  The scene of being pushed around and last chosen made me aware of the little actual supervision and guidance being provided by the educators and truly was a big factor in my wanting to be a teacher.  I thought that perhaps I could make a difference.  This treatment in PE class gave me a real disdain for organized sports which, in our society is a real problem for a guy because so much “small talk” among men is base on this.  Somehow, I have managed to get around this.  More often than not in the past, I would just automatically agree and/or just try to “fake” the conversation. 

College was a great equalizer and the “nose” thing was less of an issue.  I have to say that I always toyed around with the idea of rhinoplasty but as I aged it became less and less of an issue.  This is not to say that I forgot about it, I just put it more into perspective.  I did say to my wife when we married that I would offer it to my children as I think that despite the idea that the concept is wrong, it is reasonable to try and spare human beings the experiences I had had.

My shyness was always an issue and was certainly related to my nasal issues.  I never liked being shy.  As I grew older it was more of reserved than shy.  At parties, my wife always noticed that it was not the easiest thing for me and sometimes I came off as being snobby or above it all. As time went on, this also got easier.

I have often told my shy students that I forced myself to deal with the issue of shyness by becoming an educator.  Not only an educator, but a language teacher!  A language teacher is tested each time the mouth is opened.  Speaking another language is massive risk taking.  I took that one step further and despite my reputation for being shy and retiring, I decided to go to France and live with a family for a whole year.  My mom actually told me she didn’t think I could do it.  I have to say, when your parent doesn’t believe in you, you are up the creek without a paddle.  I decided and did prove her wrong.

Teaching saved me in all areas.  I have to admit that as the years have gone by I have seen the looks when my students have looked at my face.  I have heard the comments.  One thing I also know is that students will notice anything that is out of place and/or different.  The teacher has to have a strong sense of self and not take anything too personally.  I learned to deal with my issues.  My shyness was something that I had to work on since I was at a school where we were expected, on a daily basis, to perform.  We would perform in the classroom, perform in front of colleagues, and perform in front of community members.  I taught at a school notorious for correcting memos, you would get them back with corrections in red!  Luckily I never received one of those since I was so paranoid about getting one that I made sure to proof everything before sending it off.

Getting in better shape and helped immensely as well and then it has the benefits of being physically good for you!

Aging puts everything into perspective.  Maybe aging is the wrong term, maybe it is just growing up!  I only wish I had grown up sooner.


7 responses to “The Art of being self-conscious

  1. Inspirational is the word we could use here, but it goes much beyond that. Funny that the guy who was teased in PE is now probably in the best physical shape of all the men his age that I know. And, yes, he is an inspiration to his chubby wife(me) to get in better shape. Rich is a very modest person, so it must be said that he has impacted his family, students, colleagues and friends so much by his care, his work ethic and his attitude towards life. When I fret( and, boy, do I) he is the rock that steadies me and tells me not to sweat it. You want Rich Koerner in your life as a spouse, dad, friend, colleague or teacher…..He is a very successful, self-made man and is genius at helping others on the road to success. Just ask his sons!

  2. So, Rich, did you and I ever have a discussion about our noses back at OU? I felt like I could have written your blog. I, too, grew into my nose as I aged and became more confident in who I am. I always saw you as the guy that Mary Kay describes. You were always so prepared and conscientious. Keep writing. You keep hitting nails on the head. Renee

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