The Shyness Project

The Shyness Project Title

So as you know, I titled my blog, “The Shyness Project: The Year I Confront My Crippling Shyness.”

Notice two things:

One, I used the word confront.  This was a carefully chosen word.  It may sound passive compared to “overcome” or “conquer”, but really, shyness isn’t something so terrible that it needs to be entirely eliminated.  Although it may feel like it at times, it’s not a weakness.  Even though there seems to be a message out there in Western Culture that it’s not ok to be shy, I don’t believe that is entirely true.  Shyness isn’t necessarily cowardice, and although you can say that a shy person fears negative judgement, you can also say that a shy person wants to do well.

Two, I added the adjective crippling to shyness.  There were some parts of my shyness that were positive and healthy, while the excess, or crippling shyness was holding me back.  That was the part of my shyness I wanted to focus on.  Beyond that, I’ve realized that what I really had to face was the mistaken belief that I couldn’t do certain things I wanted to do in life.  I felt limited by the shy label that I had allowed to define me.  I thought that others saw me as shy, so I felt like they expected me to act a certain way.  When I discovered that several people were surprised when I told them that I thought I came off as shy, I learned that I had felt confined because of what I thought others thought of me.  When you stop labeling yourself and stop trying to mind-read, it is a big relief.  You’re then free to just be yourself without feelings of burden.

I used to wish I was anything but shy, and I hated my shyness so much.  But now that I’ve become more aware of all the good my shyness has brought me, I wouldn’t have been born any other way.  I’m glad that I have gone through all these feelings of shyness because if I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t understand them as well.  I wouldn’t be able to truly empathize with those who are facing similar obstacles.

I hope to help change some of the negative messages that are sent out in our culture.  Maybe the image of shyness as a timid shy girl or guy quavering in the corner will change into to the image of a brave girl or guy having the courage to look fear in the face daily and confront it.   Maybe shyness will have less of a negative image then, and it won’t be seen as something to pity.

Shyness is often associated with many respectable and admirable qualities, such as thoughtfulness, sensitivity, kindness, and modesty.   Often those of us who struggle to keep a conversation alive are the ones who listen the best.

The steps I am taking aren’t about overcoming every ounce of shyness in my body.  They are about expanding my comfort zone, and challenging myself to do things that I believe I have the ability to do.  This blog isn’t meant to support the idea that if you are shy, you have to “break out of your shell”.  It’s a learning experience of what shyness is, what it feels like, and how you can push past those feelings when you feel as if they are holding you back.  I’m not trying to become a person who never feels shy, I’m simply trying to change the choices I make so I can be open to more opportunities.

I have also come to learn that I am an introvert.  I prefer one-on-one or small group conversations than larger group ones, and I prefer to talk about more meaningful subjects.  I like to listen and I am a deep, insightful thinker. The thing I want most in life is to have strong, intimate relationships with people.  Love is everything to me.

I see the value in introversion, and I hope more people can see it too.  Shyness and introversion may be very different, but they both seem to not get much respect.  I think it’s about time that they do.

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46 thoughts on “The Shyness Project Title

  1. You make some very good points about some shyness being a good thing…I never really stopped and thought about it in this way. I think you’re absolutely right.
    I know I have personally been told I didn’t talk as much at times and I would always respond that it was because I didn’t have anything really to say….I tend to think over things in my head before I speak and I don’t see the point in just talking to break the silence when you don’t actually have anything to say. I never really considered that an aspect of shyness in a way but maybe it is…..and if so, it’s a good thing because there’s less of a chance of me saying things I will regret or putting my foot in my mouth since I try so hard to think things out before I say them.
    I’m glad I came across your blog when I did, I’ve learned a lot from reading about your experiences and I can totally see you making a difference in the world and using your experience to help change views on shyness. 🙂

    • Thanks Sharon! 🙂 I think shyness has several positives as long as it’s not excessive and holding you back. One book I read stated: “In Mandarin, the word for shy or quiet means good or well-behaved; sensitive can be translated as “having understanding,” a term of praise.” There was also a famous study done comparing the popularity of shy or sensitive children in China vs Canada. The shy or sensitive ones were the most popular in China, while they were the least popular in Canada.

      I tend to think things over in my head before I speak too, and I’d rather not ramble on about something meaningless just for the sake of talking as well. There are some conversations where I really don’t have much to add and I think that’s ok. Other times I have lots to add, silly or serious. I like talking and I like listening. I think putting more thought into what you’re saying makes others more interested in listening too.

      Thank you Sharon for reading and staying with me for as long as you have! I hope I can spread my message too. 🙂 Thanks for writing!

  2. friendslikeyou on said:

    You know I dislike the expression “break out of your shell” too 🙂 But I like the idea of taking it off when I want to. I also relate. As an introvert I find myself making the decision to socialize even when I don’t think I want to. I’ve come to see these times as investments in those people I’m hanging out with or talking to. I don’t lose track of people or feel excluded now as much. When I went through my own shyness project, it was hard at first and I fell on my face a lot, but I got through it with the truth that the more you just let yourself talk and enjoy being in groups the easier and more enjoyable it is. I think your project is great. Best of luck.

    • Yeah it isn’t the most endearing of expressions. It’s like we’re seen as baby chicks trying to break out of the shell we were supposedly born in! 🙂 I try to spend time with friends a couple times a week though when I try to do too much sometimes I get a little overwhelmed. Scheduling things for every day of the weekend can be exciting, but it can also get tiring and I like having some “me” time too. I’ve made similar decisions to you in going out and socializing even when I don’t really feel like it, and usually I’ve always been happy that I’ve done that. Thanks, I really like your site too and I hope you keep in touch! Thanks for commenting!

  3. as a fellow shy person, I agree, that our culture does not value or esteem this trait. I think it is a precious, valuable and nurturing quality. My wife is also on the quiet and reserved side. love watching you identify, and address personal growth issues head on 🙂 thanks for sharing your journey w/ the rest of us. DM

    • Yeah it’s too bad, if only we were born in Asia we’d be popular! 🙂 Haha. I think it is a valuable quality too, and should be respected in the same way we respect extroversion. Differences should be just that, differences. Thanks for reading since the very beginning Doug! 🙂 And thanks for your comment!

  4. brian on said:

    Brittany, really appreciated what you wrote here, you are a good writer. What i really like about what you say here is how you recognize that shyness, if not allowed to hinder , does have many admirable and very respectable qualityies. I loved how you differentiated between the shyness that you described as holding you back and the parts of shyness that were positive and healthy. That is a very important realization and im so glad that you recognize that some parts of shyness can be positive and health. This is so true, because in some sircumstances, its best to be reserved and contemplative, while in other circumstances expanding your comfort zone and pushing past feelings that may be holding you back may be the best course of action. The circumstance will usually dictate the right action. So both are good depending on the circumstance, I’m so happy that you understand and regognize that. I love how you said “I’m not trying to become a person who never feels shy, I’m simply trying to change the choices I make so I can be open to more opportunities.”

    This is so true, i love how you wrote; “When you stop labeling yourself and stop trying to mind-read, it is a big relief. You’re then free to just be yourself without feelings of burden.” Thank you for saying this.

    • Briaaannnn yay I’m so glad you have gotten to read some of my site now and thank you for leaving comments!! 🙂 I’m so excited to share this with you. We really wished you could have come with us camping and adventuring in Santa Barbara last week. I’ll have to talk to you about the trip sometime, there were quite a few stories. 🙂
      Thank you Brian! That is a good summary of the point I was trying to make! A lot of my site has focused on the hindering parts of shyness I experienced and I wanted to make sure I dedicated some space to discussing some of the many positives of shyness. You’re very right, in some situations it is better to hang back, while in others it’s better to go forth despite fears. Thank you for reading and writing Brian! I was really happy to realize that it was you writing! I appreciate you taking the time to do that!

  5. A very, very interesting project Brittany. I noted that you said ‘I wouldn’t have been born any other way’ in ref to the good that shyness has brought you. Does this mean that you have concluded that this wasn’t a learned behaviour? I have spent some time reading through your posts and did not find an answer to my question.

    Even if shyness is all that you remember when you were young, is it possible your parents or environment could have something to do with it? I remember being painfully shy, not to my peers but to adults. Anyone older than me and I would come over all Princess Diana on them. But that could have been the way I was brought up. In any case when I went to live in the US any residual shyness was pretty much knocked out of me. To survive there on my own I had to step up.

    Then, instead of fearing those awkward silences in any new situation I actually rather (evilly) started to enjoy them because I knew, having learned to command any given situation, that I could end the OTHER person’s torture at any moment I chose to with a million questions.

    The secret for me was my genuine interest in people’s lives. Pope, pauper, celebrity, secretary…whoever. In fact when I was doing a series of interviews I remember me nearly asking more questions than the journos to keep myself interested. I already knew about me! Tell me about YOU!

    I want to know what someone feels about say a world event. I am interested in their Grandma or their job or their pony or their cultural differences. Could this help you? Focusing not on your shyness, but focusing square on the person in front of you.

    • Thanks! No I don’t think shyness is just something you’re born with, I think like most things it’s a mixture of nature and nurture. I think having a family who is similar in nature kind of shows that we all have that more naturally introverted type of disposition though, and we like more quiet environments. As a kid I was considered shy in school but not at all with my family and had a lot of energy and could be my silly self.

      Asking questions is always a good idea, not only because the focus turns to the other person but also you get to learn more about that person. I personally like asking questions and I like answering questions. It makes me feel like I am interesting when people want to know more about me, so I imagine it has the same effect on other people.

      I think at the point I’m at now I’m only sort of shy in certain situations, like in big groups or with people I don’t know sometimes. If you see me in another environment though, like swing dancing, you’ll find me dancing the night away and chatting with several people. I’m friendly and don’t really have a hard time carrying on conversations with people, it’s just that I’m not loud or the life of the party type, so sometimes people would see that and stick the “shy” or “quiet” word on me. It’s been a while since I’ve gotten that though. There are worse things to be called, but in general I think labels like those don’t really cover the whole aspect of a person. Drawing attention to one thing, especially in front of a group of people, is like diminishing all the other qualities of a person. The problem with labels like those is that they can be something you hear over and over again, and it can make you believe that is the most defining aspect of you and is all that those people seem to see. Like one friend said to me, those who have labeled others like that have a lot to learn about the depth of the human spirit and its many complexities. From time to time everyone uses labels though, it’s just something we should all work on.

      Thanks for your very thoughtful comment, I hope to hear from you again sometime!

  6. I’m a total introvert myself, and have moments of shyness that may not be crippling, but are still bad enough to affect my social interactions. I think confronting your shyness head on is a perfect first step toward overcoming it – good for you, and good luck!

    • Thanks Mark! I really think I’ve gotten through the majority of the crippling aspects of it, and it won’t stand in my way anymore. Good to know you’re a fellow introvert! I really like your posts, you write with a good sense of humor! Thanks for writing!

  7. Very nice writing here and outstanding content. I very much enjoyed reading your perspective and definitions of shy and introversion. I have been acting the role of family extrovert for so many years, I have been reclaiming my shy over this past year.

    Like I do not like having my acupuncture treatments in a big room with strangers….and talking about my needs and pains in whispers in front of them – I got that changed today – we talk in the entry way before and after about my pain goals and needs. Because I get into such a deep meditative state – I feel very vulnerable especially coming out of that state with 5 new people in treatment in the room. Just sharing those feelings has been a good first step…the 2 practitioners now check on me more often and bring me back to the room gently….and a private session is just out of my price range right now – so a compromise is a good thing. My shy felt appreciated…:)

    Thank you for your kind words on my blogs – they are greatly appreciated

    • Thanks Patricia! 🙂 And that’s great about the change in the way your acupuncture treatments were handled! I would feel uncomfortable talking about my needs and pains in the midst of a big room with strangers too. I’m glad that the two practitioners are now coming to check in on you more often and are bringing you back to the room more gently. Sounds like a good compromise to me too! Thank you as well for your kind words on my blog, they are also greatly appreciated! Take care!

  8. What an interesting blog! Unusual enough to become popular, I think.

    Good luck with it.

    I was shy for many years, and still have traces. Writing is a good way to overcome it because it allows your true personality to be seen.

    • Thank you, that means a lot! 🙂

      Writing is definitely a good way to explore your feelings, and is a good way to express your true self. I’ve learned a lot about myself through this blog. Thank you for writing!

  9. What an interesting journey you are on, sweet young woman.
    I pray many blessings will be yours through this process…

    My daughter is your age, and actually suffers the opposite of shy…

    blessings
    jane

  10. I truly LOVE this Brittany!
    It is so inspiring! Whether we are shy or not, we all have things to overcome and you are most certainly lighting the way!
    I totally agree with you. Often it is other people’s ideas about certain qualities not the qualities themselves that are the problem.
    50% of the population fall into the introvert category, so it makes no sense whatsoever that it could be a flaw or a defect. I am so impressed that you see this. It took me until I was 40!
    I am not so much shy, but I am definitely an introvert! I am comfortable with myself and most others, but I get really overwhelmed with too much interaction and prefer quiet time alone to almost anything.
    We are all made the way we are for a reason I’m sure. We are supposed to grow, but we do not ever need to change who we are!
    Thank you for this!

    • Thank you Jenny!! 🙂 Comments like these encourage me to keep going with this project!

      Yeah, certain qualities are sometimes viewed differently in other countries than they are here in the U.S. They’re still the same qualities, but for whatever reason they are perceived differently.

      I’m not sure how introversion came to be looked down upon, because you’re right, about half of the population is supposedly introverted here! Talking about introversion and reading books/blogs on it has helped expedite my process to understanding that being an introvert is just as valuable as being an extrovert.

      I think I’m at the point where I don’t see myself as shy so much either, but as an introvert. I think before I was associating myself too much with that shy label, instead of just recognizing that it was more of a situational feeling than an identity. Still, I don’t think there’s anything so terrible about wanting to stay to myself sometimes rather than lining up to sing karaoke or be the center of attention. 🙂 After a day of being out with people and doing a lot of socializing, I too can feel tired and want to spend some time relaxing by just reading a book or
      something. Some alone time at the end of a long day is nice.

      I agree. It’s important to stay true to ourselves, and personal growth doesn’t have to mean changing who you are. Thank you for writing Jenny! 🙂 Great comment!

  11. Great post. There are many ways of interpreting shyness but we often choose to focus on the simplest explanation.

  12. It’s true that shyness is not necessarily a negative thing – often it’s just plain wisdom at work! I’m glad that you are exploring it and writing about it in an honest and positive way.

    • Haha, thanks Patti! 🙂 I’m glad I am exploring and writing about it too, I’ve certainly learned a lot from doing that! More than I ever would have expected. Thanks for writing!

  13. You’re one heck of a work-in-progress, Brittany! I LOVE your titled and blog in general!

  14. This is such a great idea, I love when people take the time to explore who they are and who they wish to become. I look forward to catching up on all that i’ve missed this years 🙂

    Love,
    Niki

    • Thanks Niki! 🙂 I’ve really learned a lot from taking this much time to explore a lot of my feelings and thoughts. I hope you like the other posts! I started in January and am still going strong! I will be checking out your site, looks neat! Thanks for writing!

  15. Thanks for sharing, Brittany.

    I’ve always thought of myself as a shy person. Growing up my extended family would tease me because I was so quiet, calling me a mute.

    I still consider myself shy (everyone in my life would beg to differ), but it’s a conscious choice to challenge myself and continually step outside of my comfort zone. As I’m sure you’re learning, it does get easier.

    I admire your courage 🙂

    -Sean

    • Wow, Sean!! Thank you for writing!! I had no idea that linking to your site would allow you to see this, thanks so much for coming by and leaving a comment! I was very excited to see a comment from you! 🙂

      I would have never thought that about you from reading your book, that is so interesting and cool to hear. I’m surprised you were called a mute. By reading your book you seemed so comfortable with calling lots of people for jobs and receiving calls from strangers, and working as a motivational speaker and the other jobs that involved public speaking. Plus you had all those TV interviews that you wrote about. I would have been very nervous for those.

      I didn’t know you have to make conscious choices to challenge yourself too and step outside your comfort zone like I do. That is so encouraging to hear.

      Thanks you Sean, I admire your courage too! Did you know that your book actually was a big inspiration for me to start this one-year project? After reading your book I decided that I wanted to be able to do all the kinds of things you were able to do. You were able to go to all these different places and meet all these different people and work all these different jobs. That took so much courage and self-belief. I was really inspired. And I found I related to so much of what you said you wanted in a career, to effect change and so forth. I’ll have to show you a copy of my speech or maybe sometime the video will work. Your book was a significant part of my speech. After becoming your facebook friend and learning that you taught English abroad and did a lot of backpacking I was again even more inspired because those are things I want to do too. Before I was worried I wouldn’t have the courage to do those things but now I believe I can do them. 🙂 Thanks again for writing, it really means a lot!

  16. So happy I found your blog today. I’m an introvert. I like being quiet and I used to be very shy. I still am awkward in big groups these days. But I’m learning to enjoying being myself more.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by and writing Claudine! 🙂 You know when I first started this project, I think I had trouble accepting my introverted nature. I thought I wanted to be bubbly and energetic, and probably more like an extrovert. But now I’ve learned that I don’t have to be that way, and I’ve come to enjoy being an introvert and seeing all the value in it. I’m with you on the big groups, I’d much rather be out with a small group. And I thought that was something I had to change before and work on, but now I’ve realized that that’s perfectly ok. 🙂 Thanks again!

  17. Ashley Ching on said:

    This makes me want to focus on one particular way I can improve myself. I am *not* shy, but I can always use improvement. I’ll have to think about this…

    • Cool Ashley!! There’s always room to grow, no matter who you are. Good luck if you decide to pursue working on something! 🙂

      • thanxx brittany for doing such an amazing task.
        in the above comments ur blog has been disscussed so much and i dont wanna disscuss it more and will just say a great task u have performed, it really compelled me to think about my own shyness.. by the way thanks alot and God Bless U and always be happy

  18. thanxx brittany for doing such an amazing task.
    in the above comments ur blog has been disscussed so much and i dont wanna disscuss it more and will just say a great task u have performed, it really compelled me to think about my own shyness.. by the way thanks alot and God Bless U always be happy

  19. So I read this, and I almost felt like I was reading an autobiography of myself. Except for the part that I’m a guy haha. But no, I feel that everything that you said was totally true, especially the part about hating being shy…It’s still something that I face every single day, but now that I look back there have been so many good things that has come from it. Anyways, it looks as if your project is coming along nicely and I wish you luck in your goals to further confront this crippling shyness.

    • That is pretty cool that we have really similar thoughts on this! You’re right, there is a lot of good that can come from experiences of shyness. For instance, it has connected me with a lot of people and helped me realize how common this experience is. Thanks you for reading and writing, I appreciate it! Nice to meet you!

  20. For me, shyness had alot to do with wanting to do well and more importantly,

    looking good in front of the people who were watching. Lowering my own

    expectations and even telling myself that I could do well helped. But I still

    got alot of shyness to deal with, maybe a plan like yours might work for me too

    😉

  21. What a great focus for a blog. I wish you the best of luck, ‘confronting’ your concerns. :0)

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