When I was little, I would eat my french fries without ketchup. This was because I was too scared to go up to the counter of McDonald's and ask for ketchup. It was easier just to eat the fries. Occasionally, one of my parents would realize this and make me go up to the counter and ask. I'd wait in line (for ketchup!) and then, in this meek little voice, "can i have some ketchup please?"
I was very easily embarrassed as a child, so I'd avoid all kinds of social situations in an effort to avoid assured humiliation. Every now and then, I'd find myself in a terrible spot, and I'd turn some freaky shade of purple. My friends never realized that it was possible for someone to blush that much.
Some of my friends were unbelievably cruel to me when they realized this. They'd shamelessly flirt with me, and watch me flush. it became a contest. Some people might view this as fantastically lucky, to have girls flirting with me, but it was utterly anxiety provoking.
I stopped watching the evening news after the riots in LA from the Rodney King verdict. I saw people hurting other people and sat in front of the TV weeping. It was traumatizing. Since then, I barely watch the news.
It was sometime in high school that I realized that I have a delicate soul. Since then, I've been trying to desensitize myself. I would ask questions, poke and prod, talk to people at the grocery store randomly, I would flirt. I would try to meet new people. I learned to open up and try to connect with the world.
And now I don't blush so easily anymore. I'm not afraid to ask for what I want. I can interact with the rest of the world normally. But I never learned how to defend myself. There are things that we do to defend ourselves from situations. But my solution is always the same: withdrawal. I pull back, pull away, never let anyone in. And it's worked out surprisingly well. But the problem is that it's not really any different from that five year old who was too afraid to ask for ketchup so he ate his fries without any.