What is shyness? Shyness is a paralyzing handicap of the mind. It is responsible for many, many difficulties we face in daily life, particularly for those involving relationships with other people. Shyness makes it difficult to meet new people. Shyness makes it difficult to make friends with people you do meet. Shyness makes it difficult to enjoy all manner of activities.
Shyness acts on your subconscious causing you to continually consider how you feel, how you look to others, what other will think if you do this. What if they don’t like me? What if they say no? What will I say to them? Shyness prevents you from expressing yourself. Your mind is not free to analyze what you should say. It leaves you no time to consider others. You miss out on what is happening in any gathering and then you can’t remember because you couldn’t concentrate enough to follow. Shyness makes it difficult for you to communicate with anyone and this prevents others from getting to know you. You can’t make friends or have an intimate relationship and this causes loneliness and anxiety.
All these things contribute to giving you a fear of intimate contact with other people, but it can be overcome.
WHO IS SHY?
In studies into shyness it has been found that there is apparently more shyness among children than adults. This could, however, be because adults learn to overcome, compensate for or cater to shyness by adopting a particular lifestyle, which will hide their loneliness and anxiety.
Men and women appear to suffer from shyness in about equal numbers. Not all shy people are shy from early ages. Surroundings, teenage situation, type of school, relocation from a secure, friendly neighborhood can all lead to the development of shyness. Some remarkable people have confessed to being shy and overcoming it or living with it. They include such well-known names as: Phyllis Diller, Johnny Mathis, Carol Burnett, Elizabeth Taylor and Tennessee Williams.
THE EFFECTS OF SHYNESS
Shyness affects the part of the brain that enables most of us to look at and analyze any situation rationally. This causes shy people to be nervous and anxious people or in certain places or when performing certain everyday actions. Many shy people suffer anxiety in any situation, with anyone at all, others suffer only selective shyness. Many people are affected by shyness with friends and peers but can be quite normal, even aggressive with strangers.
Shyness has physical effects such as blushing and may cause compensating actions such as loud boisterous behavior. The most noticeable effect of shyness is the difficulty it creates in the attempts of shy people to make contact with others. It makes even more difficult the conversion of contact into friendship and loving. Shyness prevents a person from giving any of himself to anyone and this is crippling in regard to social contact.
WHY ARE PEOPLE SHY
Today there is a move towards smaller families, less stable families. The result is that we are given less opportunity to practice relating to each other. We do not learn intimacy, touching, listening and talking from within ourselves.
There are people who suffer shyness only mildly in particular situations and there are people whose shyness becomes a serious mental problem badly needing treatment. The average shy person, however, is the person suffering from lack of confidence. This invariably leads to, or is accompanied by, a lack of social graces or skills. The majority of shy people have difficulty starting a conversation, thanking a person for a small service rendered, asking or answering a question in class of lectures, asking for a ticket at ticket counters. They cannot dance or join in other such activities.
There are different theories on the basic cause of shyness. Some schools of thought say that it is caused by a lack of social graces or an inability to carry out everyday roles expected by society. Others say that shyness is inherited like other traits of personality. There are naturally aggressive and naturally sensitive, retiring personalities. Some say that these are totally due to inheritance and cannot be changed. People from the fields of psychiatry and psychology say that inner conflicts of the mind are responsible. Yet others say that social conditioning and environment are shaping forces in our shyness.
Elements of all these theories probably play a part in shyness. Without doubt, however, society definitely plays a strong role in the formation of the elements of shyness. We are taught from birth the value of aggressiveness and a competitive outlook. We are taught that material possessions and monetary successes will be used to measure our worth. Anxiety results from our inevitable failure to live up to expected standards. We are often expected to live up to standards set by those who fail in those very same aims but wish to vindicate their failure by overseeing our success.
Values essential to our mental well-being are being over-shadowed by the material values of our credit card society. Love and tolerance, understanding and sensitivity are rarely considered. These are the personality traits needed to overcome shyness.
THE FAILURE EFFECT
Many people who are not shy will quickly become so if disparaged too often. This disparagement becomes the only criteria for self-evaluation and can be difficult to overcome on their own.
Shy people are terrified of failure through lack of ability and will take drastic steps to prevent lack of ability being shown to be the cause of their failure. They calculate that it is better to fail through lack of effort or by trying to achieve impossible goals and determinedly set out to do just that. They sit at a bar all night and will not ask anyone to dance or they ask the most beautiful and unattainable girl for a date knowing that they will fail but will not have to blame it on their lack of ability.
SHYNESS AND PROSTITUTES
Why do men buy sex? Shy people are often afraid to face a challenge and cannot easily give of themselves. With a demanding and intricate action such as satisfactory sexual relations shy men can have all sorts of problems. A prostitute will not demand excellent performance or detailed knowledge and so will not present a challenge to the male ego or personality. The male needs to give nothing of himself and the prostitute will guide him if he has trouble with basic actions.
Another prevalent reason for the visit of a shy person to a prostitute is the wish to play out fantasies. A shy person cannot confide in his wife or girlfriend but can quickly establish what he wants with a prostitute skilled in the art of pleasing.
SHYNESS AND ALCOHOL
Shy people like, or rather need, to be unnoticed, just one of the group. To qualify for membership of many male peer groups requires the drinking of alcohol. The result is that the shy person does nothing but drink behind the cover of his peer group. He needs alcohol to make friends. The result is that he comes to rely more and more on the drug until he cannot function at all without it. He may become an alcoholic, face rejection and have no friends. Who wants to be friends with a shy alcoholic.
RELATING TO OTHERS
Meeting other people is a problem to some degree for everyone. We weigh up the advantages and disadvantages to be had from the liaison before we accept the challenge. We risk the possibility of embarrassment through rejection or failure to meet expected standards. It requires knowledge, wit and maturity to easily relate to the many people we meet from time to time. The shy person overrates all these requirements and thinks of nothing but the consequences of failure leaving no time to be a worthwhile person and companion. He is much more aware of the need for acceptance and the fear of rejection. All encounters involve some risk but generally the shy person is not willing to take any risk at all.
A classic example of the difference between having to relate to people or just be with them is that of Laura in Philip Zimbardo’s book ‘Shyness’. Laura was twenty-one and would blush furiously if spoken to in class. In the evening, however, Laura worked as a photographic model in her own home. For twenty dollars an hour she allowed men to watch her, with or without cameras, as she assumed provocative poses in the nude. There was no need to relate to the customers so Laura felt no embarrassment.
MAKING A FRIEND
It can be difficult to make contact with shy people. Their shyness can be overcome if the right approach is made. It requires sensitivity to overcome this barrier. The approach must be subtle and not too complimentary, but with no hint that the shy person is ‘different’ in any way.
A relationship infers knowledge and giving by each party. Friends share personality, attitude, values, ambitions and experiences. To be known and shared, these things must first be disclosed and this is a major problem for the shy person. It is impossible to do this if you are too concerned about criticism or rejection. For this reason, many shy people place an impenetrable barrier between themselves and acquaintances who know enough about them to pose a threat.
Strangers offer no such threat and so the shy person can allow them to approach but as soon as the intimacy begins the shy person will retreat out of reach again.
A big problem is caused by the fact that shy people like to hide in conformity, to be one of the crowd. Any of us prefers to be friends with special people, people who show an interesting or provocative side to their personality. The shy person is too afraid to be different or special and so goes unnoticed.
It is mot important to remember that there are many, many people who are just like you. Some you don’t see because they are hiding and others you don’t notice because they cover their shyness with good acting and bravado. Quite often while you are wondering what someone is thinking of you they are wondering what you are thinking of them. Neither of you gives a thought to the other, and so a chance meeting goes unfulfilled. If you has just been gentle, friendly and open you never know what have developed.
BE POSITIVE ABOUT YOUR SHYNESS. WHY DO YOU CALL IT SHYNESS?
Because you read about the symptoms; someone told you that you were shy; you think you must be shy; what if you called the way you feel and behave by a better name? You might find you have sensibility, tenderness, sensitivity; or you might be emotional, unassuming, modest and sophisticated. All these are beautiful things to be and if you use them well they will make you an admired and sought after person.
Shy people are not all bad, you know. Shy people can listen, observe and avoid argument. Shy people do not bully and are never unpleasant or overbearing. What really nice people shy people can be.
So you really are probably a lovely person but your shyness might still cause a few problems. The next step is to change the bits you don’t like or could do without. All animals are able to adapt to their ever-changing environment and humans are particularly good at this. You can do what you want if you REALLY want to. Many people cure their shyness in one way or another; it is basically just a matter of getting your problems into proper, rational perspective.
WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE?
Think about this and then establish some reasonable goals with regard to how you want to be, how you want others to see you. Make sure it is really you and not the image of someone you envy or admire. Use YOUR good points, remember, the ones you thought were only shyness.
Establish your personal goals and then set to work on them. Nothing worthwhile is going to be the least bit easy, but it is your future happiness you are talking about. Begin with understanding shyness in yourself and in others, especially in others. Think about shyness and our society.
A major problem in shy people is lack of confidence. Lack of confidence can be largely overcome by knowing how to act in all kinds of social circumstances. Develop your ability in the social graces and confidence will follow.
CONVERSATION:To carry on a conversation you must first know something to talk about. Read books, newspaper, reviews of books and movies. Develop your knowledge of your favorite topics. Develop little stories about events you have seen, heard or been involved in. Go to movies, plays, sporting events or functions that interest you. Remember interesting things about them.
The worst part of any conversation is the beginning. If you have done your homework with the above suggestions you will have no trouble if you can only begin. Watch others to see how they make first contact in various situations. Here are a few tips you might like to work on:
One — Be in need of assistance so that you can make a request ‘Quick, where’s the restroom?’ (with this one don’t forget to come back and make use of the contact you have made), ‘Gee they had terrific tiles on the walls in there. Wish you could come and take a look.’
Two — Look for an opportunity to offer assistance. ‘Excuse me, I notice you’re drinking my drink, could I offer you another one.’
Three — Own up that you are shy, haven’t been here before or come from the country/city.
Four — Compliment on dress, food, place etc.
Practice these beforehand and have them ready to zero in on your target. Don’t forget, your target may be shyer than you so be gentle, quiet and unassuming.
Many shy people are listeners but the problem is that they are not good listeners. A good listener listens well enough to make comments but doesn’t butt in or change the subject. Everyone is interesting in some way and many will be forever indebted to you if you will just listen.
Learn to dance (see chapter four). Confidence is directly proportional to your view of your ability to do something. It is easy to learn a few popular disco or other dance steps and it will open up a whole new world.
ALWAYS take the plunge and ask that attractive girl to dance. BUT evaluate whether she is really attractive to you or is it just that you would like to be seen dancing with her? The latter course is a sure path to failure.
Be ready for a ‘no’ answer. Prepare your response beforehand. You might say: “It really is a bit warm for dancing”, or “Actually I’m a bit shy about dancing myself”. Now you have started a conversation. And that is what contact is all about.
EVALUATE YOUR SHYNESS
Think about what scares you into shyness, and what seems to scare others. Think about how you handled past failures or bad scenes; what would you do this time? Plan and prepare. Increase your confidence.
For instance, you might find that you lack confidence to dance because you feel you are no good at it. You might be nervous with anyone you feel is better than you because you want to impress them.
Think about all the little pieces of your shyness. What are you unsure about? How can you change this feeling? What are your values? Are you confident about them? Will they stand up to the scrutiny of others? Be convinced about them and it really doesn’t matter what others think.
Relax and plan before an unnerving event like meeting someone. Compare yourself with them. You have many good points too. They are just frail human beings like you.
What clothes do you feel best in? Use them; look the way you want to; the way you feel happy.
You can overcome your shyness, but you will have to really work on it. Here are three things to keep in mind to perhaps make it a little easier.
One — Choose comfortable situations, people you have something in common with.
Two — Forget YOUR image — what do you think you like about THEM?
Three — If you are apprehensive about a coming event, plan first and then act.
BUT ABOVE ALL ELSE — ACT.