Do you have a shy side? We often view shyness as either sweet or debilitating. But feeling shy results in the sense that you cannot show up fully in your own life, brave and true.
During this Pandemic, many of us are even more aware of what is truly matters to us. A healthy community, climate concerns, racial justice, women's rights, child care and so much more call to us daily.
The need to be present and fully connecting with others in new ways has never been more important.
Many of my clients describe themselves as “shy”, especially those who also identify as anxious or worried. By definition, “shy” means “easily frightened, timid, disposed to avoid a person or thing and hesitant in committing oneself.” When you have fears and worries, shyness can feel protective. Unfortunately, you may really want others to acknowledge you and your important ideas, but to step up and speak your truth feels way too dangerous. You may clam up when controversy arises, give in even when you disagree, hide rather than shine.
How can you be brave and true to yourself if the shy parts of you refuse to allow you to speak or be seen?
Although I loved attention as a little girl and had a flare for the dramatic, I also had a shy side. As the baby of the family I learned to fear some of the attention I received, knowing that at any moment I could be embarrassed or shamed.
Junior High was especially difficult for my shy parts as some teachers and others noticed that it took very little to make me blush profusely. They thought it was hilarious. I was miserable. And although I made brave attempts to calm, my lobster face signaled to all that I had lost the battle. At that point it made no difference if my words were important, no one was listening to me.
Let’s face it: Living in fear and timidity is painful. Shyness that leads to avoiding others and skirting commitments is disempowering.
So how can you show up in your life, brave and true, even if you are shy? Those who are shy have so much to share that is often kept hidden away. Such a loss!
Before you give up…
Here are six ways to go from shy to “shy-ning” without freaking yourself out and winding up hiding in a corner!
Practice one or all six. Approach these ideas with humor and playfulness, noticing how you feel as you move through them. Do not cop out on yourself! It’s easy when you’re shy to avoid even yourself. Consider asking a friend who cares about you or even another shy buddy to work with you. This way you can challenge and encourage one another to be brave and true.
1. Spend 5-10 minutes each day (or at least often) acknowledging the qualities about yourself you most prize.
Are you well-read, crafty or artistic? Are you a good friend or do you appreciate humor? Do you work hard? The list is endless. Actually make this list in writing. Review and add to it often. Do not question or second-guess what you write down. If it is true for a part of you, it is true for you.
2. Practice being seen in the mirror or in front of people who love you while you calm your body, thoughts and words.
Remember the positive qualities you listed above as you do this and do not push beyond your level of comfort. If you catch yourself criticizing yourself, take a breath and imagine you are talking with a friend. What would you say to this friend right now?
3. Imagine something that you would like to share.
Now picture yourself sharing it and notice how your shy parts feel about that. If your shyness says, “Absolutely not!” see if you can modify your plan until you and your shyness agree on sharing. Do not give up!
4. State that you feel shy before you speak up in front of others.
While you may imagine that this shows “weakness” it in fact does exactly the opposite. You’ll be surprised by how many resonate with your feelings and are happy to encourage you. Remember Brene Brown’s words, “Vulnerability is not weakness; it's our greatest measure of courage.”
5. Get some perspective on the role of shyness and how it has impacted your brave and true life.
Answer these questions: If I wasn’t so shy, I would have _________________ in my past. If I was not shy, I would _________________________ in my future.
6. Use the tech tools we’ve learned to embrace during the pandemic to help you.
Social media like Instagram, email newsletters or Marco Polo chats allow you to experiment with expressing yourself through short messages, writing and even shared art. Dig deep and see what happens when you present what you love directly without shyness.
As you work through this process, do not be surprised to discoverthat you have specific memories of shame or embarrassment that need your loving attention before you can allow yourself to be seen or heard comfortably. That’s alright. This is a great opportunity for you to do some writing or talking with a loved one or therapist about your difficult experience. Remember, there is more to you than just the shy part.
Ultimately, you and your shy nature can create a relationship. You will notice when it is genuinely helpful and when you instead prefer to be seen and known. In this way, you gain confidence and a fuller sense of self. Soon you’ll be showing up in your life, brave and true.