“Speak your truth, even if your voice shakes,” Audre Lorde.
We are the quiet ones in a group. The ones the teachers tend to skim over to meet the needs of more persistent students. We are socially awkward at times and may not have the best eye contact or have the firmest handshake. Or we may overcompensate, leading to an intense, bounty hunter glare and a crushing grip. We may mumble and clear our throats a lot (in my case) while public speaking.
Now, I love extroverts (I’m married to one—a fun, forthright guy) BUT think about it. If we were all intrepid and outgoing in our endeavors—the world would be utterly exhausting. So, enter shy people. We compliment the trail blazers. We give you encouragement, perspective, and remind you to breathe. We sometimes just need to make sure we are still breathing ourselves.
Five Ways Shy People Add Flavor to the World:
1. We Rarely Break Things in Public.
We are not into drama. We will almost never have an outburst in a public place. But that doesn’t mean we are wimps either. So watch out, when we are back home the excrement will hit the fan.
2. We Are Great Party Guests
We have a rep for being wallflowers at parties. And it is true we can often be found standing off to the side, with that deer-caught-in-the-headlights look. And we rarely “work” the room. But on a good note: we rarely “work” the room. So when you find your way over to us, drained from having the same conversation over and over, about the weather or the food quality, we have something interesting to say. And once we warm up, you might find us on the dance floor not making a fool of ourselves.
3. We Give Stellar Advice
This is because we are good listeners. No, not the kind of listening where you cut people off in mid sentence to tell them what they should say. Not that. We give you great feedback and insights because we have heard what you are saying.
4. We Are Calm in a Storm
We are self-contained, so we keep it together in a stressful situation when other people are pulling their hair out. As a result, we tend to diffuse things in a crisis. So you are more relaxed and less likely freak out. And if you do climb on your high horse to prove someone right or wrong, we are content on the ground coming up with practical solutions.
5. When We Get Momentum, Watch Out!
We are spontaneous with the right ingredients. We often have interesting talents. And have been practicing up. Just in case. Caught up in the moment, we can be daring. Throwing caution to the wind. Because we all need to unleash ourselves, after all. And introverts are no different. I’m not giving any personal examples here, but can you say Napoleon Dynamite?
There is overlap between any two groups and shyness is no exception. For example, a lot of people who seem “outgoing” confess to inner shyness.
A mom that I wrote off as “frosty” in the school ground, when she ignored my attempts to say hello, recently confessed she is socially shy. Go figure. She was chatty enough with other moms and I assumed it was personal. Maybe she had decided I had body odor or facial fungi. But this wasn’t the case on both counts. Speaking of high horses, I had to climb down and admit that I had missed the signs. Our kids play together now and she is down right friendly.
So the next time someone doesn’t make eye contact with you in a room or is uber quiet in a group. Consider. They may not be unfriendly, just shy. Remember those moments where your shy grew roots and took over or where you discovered you were wrong about someone. When we find the bridge that connects us, we discover empathy. And, one better, appreciation for our differences. A few shy people may even cross over to the bold side in the process.
There are different shades of shyness. Extreme shyness can be debilitating and professional help is recommended. There is so much out there, from traditional psychotherapy to alternative healing. So don’t be shy. But if you are game, the universe is ready with opportunities for you to break out of your shell.
Five Suggestions for Breaking Out of Your Shy:
1. Love Your Shy
Instead of focusing on overcoming your shyness, as a fault, accept it. Say: “I am thoughtful and resourceful. Now, I may never go streaking at a frat party. But who really needs to see my junk? And I may prefer surgery to public speaking. But so what?” Actually, that is extreme. But it’s all about those words in your head. Self-flagellation is just boring. I know it’s a contradiction, but once you let go of trying to change, you often make room, and discover you have changed. Loving your shy makes leaving it that much easier.
2. A Little Risk Taking Goes A Long Way
Goal setting can be good. The extroverts are right on this point. Meeting a goal is a great way to trick you out of shyness in a specific area.
Here are five recommendations for goal setting:
- Do something you love.
- Break it down to reasonable steps.
- Know you are not alone.
- Give yourself a reward.
I enrolled in a yoga teacher training program because I love yoga. I wanted to learn more. That was all. I wasn’t the youngest, cutest in my yoga pants, or the best at yoga. But I was really interested the subject.
I set the goal of learning how to teach yoga. This meant getting up in front of a group and teaching them a sequence of yoga poses. This terrified me. Almost made me nauseous. But I didn’t make excuses. I broke it down and did a little bit of the sequence I needed to learn everyday.
Then, I practiced and practiced, on my husband, my son, and my friends, who got a lot more yoga in their lives as a result.
When I taught my sequence, I rushed a bit, but I stayed focused and kept going. I discovered that other teacher trainees were nervous too. The instructors were constructive and it was a positive experience. I didn’t throw up either. As a result, I still teach yoga. And that is an ongoing reward.
3. Surround Yourself with Supportive People.
In the case of yoga teacher training, everyone in the program was supportive, which is the norm for a yoga program. Yay Yoga! I also have nice friends and I like it that way. If you feel bad with your people, it may be time to put some feelers out and find new people.
4. Never Use Shy As An Excuse NOT to.
This always falls flat. It just doesn’t work. This keeps you stuck. Stuck = Miserable. You deserve to share yourself and other people deserve to know you. Admit the truth. You can do it, you just don’t want to. Life is a learning experience. There’s always someone shier than you out there.
5. Have a Laugh Track Playing in Your Head.
No, not a track where people are laughing at you. But just laugh. Whenever you can. Don’t take yourself too seriously. At the very least, you look like you are having fun. And fun can be contagious. If something goes wrong, don’t sweat it, even if you are literally perspiring. Unless you are in a yoga class, then perspiring is perfectly normal, desirable even.
Next time you write someone off, think it over. Ask, how is my energy, my expectation limiting him or her? And if you are shy, know that you are in very good company!
Love your shy and let it go…if you want to!