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Hi, I'm Shy!
The fat pill. The bald pill. The sex pill. According to last week's New
York Times, the pharmaceutical industry's Next Big Thing is: the shy pill.
(The opposite, if you will, of the chill pill.)
Since shyness in its more, um, aggressive forms is indeed considered to be
not just a personality thing but a legit diagnosable social anxiety / phobia--
from which 19 million , or, according to other reports, up to 50% of Americans
are said to suffer -- some experts say it may also be treatable by certain
forms of the "selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor"
anti-depressants (Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac). Needless to say, many therapists are
boldly denouncing the quick chemical fix as an alternative to, you know, actual
therapy and healing.
In fact, you shy people, there are jillions of people out there to help you,
if you just (first step!) find the guts to ask. (Resources to follow below.)
Experts believe that shyness is -- primarily, or for most sufferers -- a set of
learned behaviors. Which means: drugs -- missing the mark. And that, of course,
with practice, shyness can indeed ... shrink back. In in-depth research
conducted by Dr. Philip Zimbardo at Stanford's Shyness Research Program, 40% of
respondents reported being chronically shy.
And an additional 40% of respondents said they used to be shy, but no
longer. (In another study group, one even became an exotic dancer. I'm just
How can you switch from the former 40% to the latter? Even without
necessarily making a career change?
> Practice makes confident. Shyness therapy (official or on your
own) often involves Just Doing It: practicing speaking with/in front of others
(including <gasp> "Would you like to have a Frappuccino
sometime?") and listening to them ... instead of one's own "negative
self-talk." ("I'll prolly say something stupid; best not to say
anything" -- "I don't know what to say" -- "S/he's not
interested" -- "I'm not interesting" - etc.)
> "Relax." Some experts also recommending treating
anxiety and tension themselves with relaxation/breathing exercises.
> The vicious cycle. Pay attention: this is where the BG-type
"Quit setting yourself up!" rant comes in. In the Encyclopedia of
Mental Health, Philip Zimbardo and Lynne Henderson write that shyness
"becomes a self-handicapping strategy -- a reason or excuse for
anticipated social failure that over time becomes a crutch. 'I can't do it
because I'm shy.'" And then guess what, you don't. Easier said than done,
but willing yourself to notice this pattern can help you talk yourself into not
talking yourself out of talking to people.
A few more fun facts about shyness:
* Shy extroverts. Did you know that shyness and introversion, while
related, are different? In fact, there's such a thing as a "shy extrovert:
they are "privately shy and publicly outgoing. They have the requisite
social skills and can carry them out flawlessly in highly structured, scripted
situations where everyone is playing prescribed roles and there is little room
for spontaneity. [Life? -- BG] However, their basic anxieties about being found
personally unacceptable, if anyone discovered their 'real self,' emerge in
intimate encounters or other situations where control must be shared or is
irrelevant, or wherever the situation is ambiguous in terms of social demands
* Flirting. In shyness studies, "[straight] shy men exerted
avoidant control over mutual gazes by denying female partners opportunities to
initiate and terminate them." Translation: they looked away when women
looked at them. And women said this was a bad move. Uh-oh. Considering that
"eye contact" is always cited as a primo form of flirting, we can see
why this is problem. (Shy women also looked away, but men didn't complain as
much, suggesting that "the cultural burden of shyness may rest more on
men, who are expected to take the initiative in heterosexual encounters. But
women did complain about women looking away in studies of same-sex
* Gender gap. The majority of people who attend shyness workshops and
the like are women. "Men think if they admit they're shy they're admitting
weakness," Charles diCagno -- who runs an NYC support group -- told the
* Long term consequences. Uh-oh, deux. "Shy men have been found
to marry and have children later than their peers [Well, let's don't consider
that a pathology -- a certain 30-year-old superheroine], to have less stable
marriages when they do marry, to delay establishing careers...[shy people may
also have] greater health problems from lack of a social support network, so
essential for health maintenance, and failure to disclose personal or sensitive
problems...and making less money in suitable jobs due to less frequent requests
for raises, lowered visibility, interview difficulties, and limits on job
advancement that require greater verbal fluency and leadership skills."
Sheesh. And you thought dating was a problem.
* Still, it's not as bad as you think! Shy individuals "are not
usually viewed as negatively as they fear."
See, I've said it before, I'll say it again: the boy on South Park who hurls
on girls, he's shy. You shy folks -- if you can will yourselves into
such encounters in the first place -- are likely a lot less lame and a lot more
appealing than you think. Shy as limiting behavior, you might have to work on.
Shy as character... can be pretty cute.
- The Shyness Home Page
- Shyness: A Bold New Approach
- How I Overcame Shyness: 101 Celebrities Share Their
- Beyond Shyness: How To Conquer Social Anxieties
- Talking with Confidence for the Painfully Shy
- Shyness: What It Is, What To Do About It
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