Overcoming shyness

Some of the advice given out by various relationship experts does not work. Some of us have found ourselves apparently 'failing' to follow their advice and then wondering, 'What am I doing wrong'. But, it is the advice which is flawed not us.

Often the advice makes a basic assumption about human nature that I believe misses the point. If the basic assumption is wrong then the advice won't work; no matter how clever, insightful or helpful it may seem.

A lot of advice I've come across makes the assumption that what blocks people creating good relationships is lack confidence of some kind. While there is some truth in this, the advice goes astray after that. They assume this is down to some kind of 'fear', or ‘nervousness’. They assume 'shyness' is just a form of fear. That is simply not true.

What is behind shyness is not 'fear'; what is behind shyness is actually 'shame'. Shyness is not a fearful state; it is a 'shame' state. Shyness is a feeling of low self-worth. Low self-worth will often masquerade as fear, anger, resentment, bitterness and so on. When that is the case than trying to tackle those issues head on (i.e. a fearful or angry attitude) does not work.

Trying to handle the 'apparent' issues head on can actually do damage, because we can end up 'failing' and our sense of self-worth sinks even lower.

Let me give you an example from the male world. This is the advice given by one notable expert (who usually gives good advice) in order to overcome 'fear around women'. He suggests that men go to their local shopping mall and walk up to every attractive woman that they see and (after talking to her for a few minutes) ask for her phone number.

This advice will either sound appallingly simple, or simply appalling, depending on whether you are a shy guy, or not. This is supposed to help men 'get over fear'. However, many shy guys will read this advice and know that they just cannot do it. Their low sense of self-worth will kick in, fill them with anxiety, and block them. Or, they may try it and crash and burn.

They have just been told that 'fear' is the root of their problem. It sure looks like fear is the problem because they feel intensely anxious even thinking about acting on the advice, never mind making any moves to try it. They then quietly assume that they are a 'coward', or something, for not being able to get over their supposed fear. They end up feeling really bad about themselves.

The presence of anxiety does not mean fear is the problem! The feeling of anxiety is just a 'warning light' that there is something deeper. It is a sign that part of us is feeling threatened and needs protection. And, maybe it is right! Maybe we ought to listen to it and find out…

Anxiety is actually a form of wisdom. Rather than trying to bludgeon our way through it, or try and ignore it, we need to work with it a bit.

One way to manage a situation we find fearful is by using our imagination to work on it before trying it for real.


  • Imagine yourself in the situation
  • Accept any fearful / anxious feelings which come up - without trying to make them go away.
  • Notice if there are any feelings of shame, or feelings of being undeserving of what you want, or that you don’t have a right to succeed.
  • Ask yourself if there are things you need to do to feel both less fearful and more deserving. (Don’t worry if you draw a blank at first).
  • Imagine the possibility that you could find a good way of handling the situation. Does that help? If not, ask yourself if there is another way to achieve the results you want.
  • How will you feel when you can handle the situation the way you would like to? How will your life be different?

Take a couple of deep breaths and go back to the 'Start'. Go around the loop a few times to see what that does to help you overcome your fear and your sense of shame / shyness.

In doing this, you may find that the process seems to go nowhere; or you may find that your fear goes away, you feel great about yourself and you know just what to do next. Most of us will experience something in between these two extremes.

In doing this you are creating a healthier relationship with yourself - no matter what the outcome. You are giving a subtle message to your inner self that you want to work with it rather than fighting with yourself. If you use it a number of times, this process will allow you to tap into your own wisdom and build your sense of self-esteem. This in turn will help you feel better about yourself and lead you to feel more confidence and far less fear or anxiety in social situations.

In this way you can overcome shame and its symptoms of fear, anxiety and lack of confidence. In this way you can overcome the real problem. 

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