How to Overcome Shyness – Free Ebook

A lack of confidence is often put down to
something we call shyness. But beneath shyness,

there may lie something more surprising, pernicious
and poignant. We suffer from a suspicion of

ourselves that gives us a sense that other
people will always have good reasons to dislike

us, to think ill of us, to question our motives
and to mock us. We then become scared of the

world, speak in a small voice, don’t dare
to show our face at gatherings and are frightened

of social occasions because we fear that we
are ideal targets for ridicule and disdain.

Our shy manner is the pre-emptive stance we
adopt in the face of the blows we feel that

other people want to land on us. Our shyness
is rooted in a sense of unworthiness.

As shy people, when we find ourselves in a
foreign city in which we know no one, we can

be thrown into panic at the prospect of having
to enter a busy restaurant and order a meal

on our own. Dogged by a feeling that no one
especially wants to know us, that we are outside

the charmed circle of the popular and the
desirable, we are sure that our leprous condition

will be noticed by others and that we will
be the target of sneering and viciousness.

We unknowingly impute to strangers the nasty
comments that we are experts at making to

ourselves; our self-image returns to haunt
us in the assumed views of others. We imagine

that groups of friends will take mean delight
in our solitary state and read into it appalling

conclusions about our nature. They will see
right through our veneer of competence and

adulthood and detect the deformed and unfinished
creature we have felt like since the start.

They will know how desperate we have been
to win friends and how pitiful and isolated

we are. Even the waiter will fight to restrain
their desire to giggle at our expense in the


A comparable fear haunts us at the idea of
going into a clothes shop. The sales attendant

will surely immediately sense how unfit we
are to lay claim to the stylishness on offer.

They may suspect we lack the money; they will
be appalled by our physique. We lack the right

to pamper our own bodies.

It can be as much of a hurdle to attend a
party. Here too our fundamental imagined awfulness

is perpetually at risk of being noticed and
exploited by others. As we try to join a group

of people chatting animatedly, we dread that
that they will swiftly realise how unfunny

we are, how craven our nature is and how peculiar
and damned we are at our core.

The novelist Franz Kafka, who hated himself
with rare energy, famously imagined himself

into the role of a cockroach. This move of
the imagination will feel familiar to anyone

sick with self-disdain. We, the self-hating
ones, spontaneously identify with all the

stranger, less photogenic animals: rhinoceroses,
blobfish, spiders, warthogs, elephant seals…

We skulk in corners, we run away from our
shadow, we live in fear of being swatted away

and killed.

It is no surprise if, against such an internal
background, we end up ‘shy’. The solution

is not to urge us blithely to be more ‘confident’.
It is to help us to take stock of our feelings

about ourselves that we have ascribed to an
audience, that is, in reality, far more innocent

and unconcerned than we ever imagine. We need
to trace our self-hatred back to its origins,

repatriate and localise it, and drain it of
its power to infect our views of those we

encounter. Everyone else isn’t jeering,
or bored or convinced of our revoltingness;

these are our certainties, not theirs. We
don’t have to whisper in a circumspect manner

and enter each new conversation, restaurant
or shop with a sheepish air of apology. We

can cast aside our introverted circumspection
once we realise the distortions of our self-perception,

and can come to believe in a world that has
far better things to do than

to despise us.

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