I work with lots of people that blush in social circumstances and meet lots of people that are incredibly shy and wish to overcome it and behave differently in social circumstances… The BBC are reporting that shyness is on the verge of being an official illness and some schools of thought believe that certain anti-depressant drugs are the cure… What?! What?! What?!
Ok, this is unbelievable and typical of how we as a society are choosing to deal with things that are relatively simple to overcome. By classing it as an illness, labelling it, giving a prescription ‘cure’ is simply going to make things worse in my opinion. I am going to make a statement that is going to agitate some people, upset others and may make me appear insensitive… Ready for it?…
I think if you are shy you have some major audacity.
How audacious! Being shy? You have some front! (Takes tongue out of cheek…)
To worry about what others think in social circumstances… I mean, can’t you get on with thinking your own thoughts without having to think for everyone else you encounter too?!
Let me run you through a scenario here… Someone who blushes sees a work colleague that they are vaguely familiar with in the supermarket and attempts to avoid eye contact, worried about blushing (they are worried that the other person is going to see them blush) — but then the colleague spots that person, shouts a hello, gets the attention, and that someone goes and blushes… They notice they are getting hot and red in the face and notice the other person noticing and it makes them more red and hot and embarrassed, the other person is considerate and attempts to be kind and comfortable which is unusual behaviour and triggers more discomfort… All because the our blusher is worrying like crazy about the other persons thoughts about them!
This is extreme audacity.
What an accomplishment though. What a clever thing to do, eh? If you sat down with someone and said “Ok, make your heart race, push all the blood to the surface of your skin, increase your heart rate” It is unlikely that they will do so. Yet, a few triggers switching in their brain and they send themselves into an incredible state of worry, insular thoughts of insecurity, and you act in a way that inhibits you and is likely to influence the thoughts of others far more than if you were not being shy.
It is funny isn’t it? Often a shy person actually stands out more than people who are not… The quiet ones with little to say, or who are embarassed to say it are noted for being that way.
Ok, shy people, what do you think is going to happen? Is everyone going to gather around, laugh at you and pick holes in every aspect of who you are every time you speak? If so, then stop hanging around with such people. Lets be honest, they are not going to do that, are they? We cannot be immune to every eventuality because usual interaction and life is going to create some moments which may be uneasy, again though, learning how to overcome and move onwards is better than suppressing such learnings and experiences with drugs!
Now then, I am going to stop with the brashness. I empathise greatly with those that for whatever reason are shy or have social anxiety of any kind, it can be debilitating, but you know what, labelling it ‘an illness’ and prescribing drugs is making more of it and authenticating it… With the right help, with the right mode of understanding how to use your mind to help you feel safe in your own skin and being able to step out of that shell bravely and to be the fullest possible expression of yourself as you want to be is far, far easier than people realise.
It is tougher than taking a tablet, agreed. But wouldn’t you rather know your own mind properly? Wouldn’t you rather know how to use it for good rather than the seeming forces of evil that are embarassment, unnecessary social anxiety and shyness? Isn’t that better than numbing it with drugs? That is just like sweeping it under the carpet… Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, NLP, Modern Hypnotherapy, even conventional psychology all offer solutions than are going to do a shy person much more good in my opinion.
If I seemed a little unsympathetic today, that is because I am. I am not insensitive, heck, I am a therapist: Sympathy, drugs, authenticating shyness as an ‘official illness is not what is needed. The real help comes in the form of knowing how to feel self-assured in any environment and that comes in many other more constructive ways…
Have a read of this BBC article that sparked me off today, let me know your thoughts, I know I am going to be tuning in to the radio show mentioned too.
Money, money, money, money, money is what springs to mind when I read something like this. I’m not for a minute suggesting that people do not have problems, and I realise that, for some, social anxiety/phobia can be incredibly limiting and upsetting. What worries me is that for some reason, everything can be treated by taking an SSRI (antidepressant). Maybe I’m a cynic, but it seems awfully suspicious that so many trials suggest that drugs can be used to treat all manner of psychological and social problems. One of the problems facing hypnosis and other psychological interventions is the lack of well-performed trials with adequate numbers. Meta-analyses of trials performed find it difficult to prove an adequate effect because the trials are often performed badly on small numbers. This problem does not apply to the drug companies who manage to sponsor many of the trials. They can recruit enough people to make it look like their product is effective. And, when it comes to a medication that is having a psychological effect, then placebo effect also plays a huge part. An interesting review from the Cochrane collaboration [http://www.mrw.interscience.wiley.com/cochrane/clsysrev/articles/CD003012/frame.html] compared an active placebo (which gave side-effects expected with active drug) to antidepressants…and found that there was only a small benefit in taking the active drug! What is more worrying is that antidepressants are being used to treat low back pain also…and Cochrane could not find ANY benefit.
I’m not anti-medication by any means. If a member of my family was severely depressed, suicidal, not eating etc; I would most certainly recommend that they take the medications. I don’t think they’re the full solution though and I think we are doing people a disservice if that is ALL that is offered. The counselling/hypnotherapy/psychotherapy side is often neglected and should really be playing a vital role.
I won’t even get into the “medicalisation” of social problems or personality traits. Interesting to note though that homosexuality was included in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) until the current edition. What next? Peanut butter addiction disorder? Ranting disorder? I’m sure I’d fit into a few categories…
That is fascinating Gráinne, thank you! I think I would also fit into a couple of those categories… Maybe if they made peanut butter flavour tablets to overcome ranting disorder, I could kill two birds with one stone!
Me too! Except I’d end up needing another tablet to overcome my addiction to the peanut butter anti-ranting tablets…and it could all get rather messy! Hmmmm….
Reading this reminded me of something I read many years ago that made a huge impression on me. It was an article saying how shy people were selfish -not my words! and maybe a little harsh I felt then..and even now. But I can understand what they were meaning. The reasoning behind the comment was similar to yours Adam. They felt that people who were shy in social situations, did not bother to think abut how they made other people feel, how uncomfortable people were when they were left to do all the talking or, there were long silences left to be filled. They went on to say, if a shy person stopped thinking of themselves and thought about how others were feeling and trying to make THEM more comfortable, they wouldn’t have time to think about themselves. I think there are times when we are all left a bit tongue tied and wonder afterwards ‘why?’ But, ever since reading that article ( in my teens- and I am now JUST the right side of 50), it is something that crosses my mind alot and I have put into practice many times. Anyone reading this who tends to feel shy; use it, it really DOES work. Jules
Thank you very much for that Jules 🙂
Being shy incorporates a large number of assumptions that are often untrue, incorrect, or non-existant. Worrying what people think, for example, assumes that they are thinking about you and not truly engaged in what you are discussing… It is that sort of assumption that leads to uncomfortable exchanges and reinforces the belief in the need to be shy…
Shy people – pah! The trouble you cause! 😉
Therapist? I think not. A therapist would know that you cannot shame people out of shyness and there is a mountain of empirical evidence now pointing to a genetic basis for shyness. To tell a person ridden with anxiety that they just need to get a stiff upper lip and start talking is preposterous. I suffered from extremely debilitating shyness as a young woman. I couldn’t hold a conversation because I simply did not have the skills to do so in addition to my anxiety. I tried to shame myself out of it too, all that did was trash my self-esteem. I had three strikes against me: an introverted temperament, social anxiety, lack of social skills. It’s entirely possible medication could have assisted me with the anxiety part, but I was lucky.
I didn’t need drugs. But some shy people do! Shyness at the extreme is an illness. It should be authenticated. That was part of my problem too as a child. I believe I would have gotten help sooner if people hadn’t of thought, oh, you’re just shy. All you need to do is go to more parties. I go to plenty of parties, now. I am not as shy as I once was, but now my introversion gets in the way. I am not as motivated to socialize as most people. This has mainly been a problem in a job situation. My friends and family get that I am only staying at the social event for a specific amount of time or that I crave time alone even when being with them.
What eventually helped me was desensitization. I had to work. To work I had to pretend I wasn’t shy or introverted to get an interview. The next step, therapy. I had intermittent therapy but it helped, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy. Next step, actual social skills training and lots of self-help books on how to start a conversation, how to approach people, etc. Things I never learned in the first place. (My mother was also shy with few friends, so I had no social role models). Lastly, for introversion, acceptance and extreme self-care. I know I can only take people in small doses. I know I will never be a social butterfly, and that’s OK. I am not bad or broken.
Shy people need help. It is an illness. It should definitely be authenticated. Some shy people do need medication, depending upon the severity of their symptoms. You cannot shame anyone out of their shyness. We know that the world won’t end if we speak up or that throngs of people will laugh us out of existence if we do. That’s part of the definition of shyness. Unreasonable fear and anxiety one is unable to overcome. Don’t insult us with platitudes about getting over it and other band-aid cures. If it was truly that simple, do you think anybody would be shy? Most shy people cannot overcome their anxiety alone. Some people you think are shy are really introverts. Introverts don’t care to socialize much, they tend to be naturally quiet, that’s OK. Some introverts can be shy. But shyness and introversion are not the same.
Hmmm… I seem to have provoked you out of shyness and into the public eye by writing here… Though not enough to give your actual name it would seem… I am sure your parents did not name you ‘AngryShyWoman’….
(Ref: ‘Provocative Therapy’ By Frank Farrelly)
Ok then… We seem to have gotten off on the wrong foot here… and there are far more diplomatic ways of getting your point across. Each of our points of view, perspectives and methodologies are valid in some way to each of us.
My work is underpinned by a want to do good and enhance the wellness and quality of life for as many people as possible… That notion exists throughout this post of mine, which I think anyone can read and observe. My work is also underpinned by a sense of humour that is inherent in all my books, articles, audio programmes, speaking events around the world and so on…
In a nutshell, I was not suggesting that someone classed as ‘shy’ needs to develop a ‘stiff upper lip’, for goodness sake… I was implying that we need to consider the implications of the mind when we label things an ‘illness’ – a label gives gravity to the relationship we have with such a disorder and can even give someone the unconscious thought process to think it is ok to have that illness – which may well debilitate their life.
As you have pointed out there are many modailities of therapy that can provide solutions; they can provide those solutions even more effectively if the individual is not concreting the issue in a foundation of having labelled it an ‘illness’ – it insinuates there is nothing that can be done!
By the way – I’d love you to quote some of the genetic research you refer to – I’d be fascinated to read it. It has always been my experience – in my work with thousands of people – that individuals who are shy have learnt to be that way through a variety of sources, experiences and circumstances. I’d love to read an alternate viewpoint.
Thank you for your contribution – I’d really appreciate it (if you choose to write here again) that you consider being a bit more kind in the way you communicate your feelings on my blog – especially the way you refer to me! 🙂
I know there is a good intention sat underneath the defamatory remarks made (I am licking my wounds as I type…) and that is why I chose to allow your post to be published here. Maybe let the anger subside prior to writing next time… As the Dalai Lama recommends in his book ‘Destructive Emotions.’
now you are making me feel guilty for being shy…
i know how it looks, making others feel uncomfortable, but i usually find that smiling lots kindof makes others feel better. i do think of others i just think of myself more, im not being selfish, i think its more of a coping – mechanism. i have been told i was quiest and shy since i was about 8 or 9 years old. i was always completely mad and outgoing before hand, but i got more self concious.
i try not to think of myself when im around others, even asking them random questions, i go completely out of my way not to think about myself so i dont blush or anything, but i usually find that the person brings the attention back on to me again with, “are you ok?” or “haha look at your face.” making me self concious again and afraid to speak.
i know i stand out cause im shy. but really i was dubbed as the quiet one from an early age and i was too scared to change that.. when i spoke from then on people usually stared and noted everything i said really carefully, cause it was a rare occasion i spoke.
plus, shy people mostly dont feel worthy or good enough and dont think people want to speak to them. and i do feel i have every right to be scared of what will happen. when i was younger i had the whole class jeering at me when i blushed, and the most cruellest comments and i remember seeing every face laughing at me. so when you said nobodies going to laugh at you, its not always true. this causes more shyness. i think im doing others a favour by staying out of the way and not boring them with the stupid worthless things i have to say. most are bored by me anyway so i stay aloof. but if they come up to me i always smile and try to help. but im constantly on the defense and would choose staying quiteness over talking just to save the embarrassment and humiliation i have been through. ofcourse, i try to contribute to a conversation if its too quiet and there is no one speaking, im gradually learning social skills, and think anyone can learn social skills and should just keep trying. ive had this all my life and cant just switch it off. if you give it a name like an illness it is an excuse, its not an illness. people will think its ok to be shy and not try to come resolve it. people dont think im rude though, but they often look down on me and or patronise me.
Great article and interesting discussion. I totally empathise with AngryShyWoman, having been very shy myself in the past. It’s really hard for people who don’t suffer debilitating shyness to understand what is involved. However, I do think there are ways to combat it and it helps if we don’t let it become part of our identity – or in some cases our whole identity. It’s an issue that can, with effort, be overcome. Making it an illness almost feels like an excuse to do nothing about it.
As for introversion, it’s a completely valid way to be, as much as extroversion. Neither is better or worse than the other.
Hi Beth, blimey – this is a blog post from the past! I remember this, 5 years ago and getting lots of stick for being tongue-in-cheek about shyness.
You’d never catch me being like that today….