You look up from your book at the coffee shop and become paralysed with nervous anticipation as you see the hot guy you’ve been smitten with from afar sit down at the table across the room. He’s alone today and what a great opportunity it would be to finally approach him and introduce yourself. But the anxiety is mounting as you visualise yourself doing this and you bury yourself back in your book. You feel your face burning as you berate yourself for not having the guts to make yourself known. “He’d never be interested in me!” “I’d just die if he rejected me!” “And what if he did show some interest? What would I say? He’d think I’m a complete idiot and loser the second I’d open my mouth!”
These thoughts swirl through your mind as you look up to find another guy has swooped in for the kill and has been invited to sit at the table with the object of your desire. Another missed opportunity!
If you’re a shy guy, and don’t want to be, dating can be a frustrating and daunting experience. When you’re out and about, it looks so easy for other guys to approach and cozy up to other men. Or if you do have advances made toward you, you just want to kick yourself when you freeze up and don’t know what to say and feel like you’ve made a bad impression and scare him off.
This article will shed some light on the symptoms and psychology behind shyness and offer some suggestions for breaking free of its chains that hold you back from experiencing a satisfying social and dating life.
What It’s Like For The Shy Guy
Shyness ranges on a continuum from situational to dispositional. Some people tend to be socially inhibited in just certain types of settings or circumstances, whereas for other people this anxiety tends to be more of a personality trait that is a predominant way of life, manifesting itself in many different types of scenarios across the board.
Shy guys tend to be more introverted, preferring more solitary activities to their extroverted counterparts, who tend to like to recharge their batteries through social contact. Neither is better or worse than the other, though society does tend to favour the more outgoing personality-type and stigmatises the quieter, internal individuals. The more important aspect here is whether or not any negative consequences are experienced as a result of one’s particular leanings.
Although there are exceptions, generally speaking many shy guys tend to feel uncomfortable in social situations and dislike having attention called to themselves. This anxiety can be translated into stumbling on their words/stuttering, becoming easily embarrassed, and showing many physical signs of being nervous. They tend to feel judged by others and are highly sensitive to the opinions of others, wanting to avoid any type of criticism or rejection. They can feel inhibited, self-conscious, have a difficult time relaxing, and are very internal and self-focused in the sense that they are very preoccupied with their own thoughts, feelings, and physical reactions. They have a difficult time meeting people, struggle with initiating and maintaining conversations, dread group interactions, and can have a hard time standing up for themselves and voicing their opinions and needs.
Unfortunately, many people can misinterpret a shy guy’s behaviour as his being snooty, stuck-up, arrogant, or aloof and cold when that’s really not the case at all.
Shy guys often times shine when they are in settings where they feel safe or are around people they know well. They also often perform well in structured situations where the players interact in scripted-like roles where there’s little need for spontaneity or mingling without a purpose. Positively speaking, shy individuals tend to be very creative and have great imaginations that can lend themselves remarkably well to relationships and situations of leadership and change. Their biggest culprit is the negative self-talk in their heads that minimise their competence and value; if this obstacle could be removed, their quality of life would boost to a much higher level.
Why So Shy?
Most psychological experts believe that shyness is a learned behaviour or a reaction to a negative event that inhibits the person. For example, if you were raised in a family where you were made to feel “less than”, your shyness could have developed out of a belief that you were only worthwhile if you lived up to certain expectations, so you became more inhibited and stifled as a result. If you lived with others who were shy or emotionally identified with an attachment figure who was shy, you may have observed and modelled that behaviour yourself and it became a part of you. Negative experiences or being the victim of a trauma could also contribute to the development of shyness.
Growing up gay doesn’t help the shy guy much either. Living “in the closet” and trying to cope with being different in a homophobic society could have inhibited you even more, amplifying the effects of shyness. Having been a shy guy myself, feeling more comfortable with my sexual identity and “coming-out” helped me tremendously in breaking out of my shell and becoming more socially confident as I was finally able to be the “real me” and let loose without the fear of scrutiny. Where does your shyness stem from? Try to understand the origins of your shyness by examining your attitudes and past experiences more closely.
Battle Strategies For Overcoming Shyness
Conquering the shyness beast is not a quick-fix, so it’s important to go slow, pace yourself, and take small steps toward your goals. From my own personal experience and from my work as a therapist and coach with clients, the following are some practical coping tools for taking some steps toward overcoming shyness for those guys who don’t want to be held back any further from realising and living their visions for fulfilling social and dating experiences.
- Become educated in anxiety management strategies. Learn relaxation techniques that will help you cope more effectively with nervousness so you don’t keep succumbing to the power of your physical reactions.
- Develop a contract with yourself or a close friend/family member detailing an action plan for how you intend to conquer your shyness problem. Schedule times every week that will stretch you out of your comfort zone and put yourself in social situations where you can practice becoming more confident and savvy. Learn about systematic desensitisation to help gradually expose yourself to anxiety-provoking situations.
- If throwing yourself into a social scene is too overwhelming to start with, start slower by taking an acting class or joining a public speaking meeting like Toastmasters. These venues are excellent places to teach you valuable social skills in a structured, safe, setting that will give you the practice you need to feel more self-assured. They’re great for building your confidence and self-esteem too and you can make some great new friends! When you’re ready, try the structured Speed Dating craze as a segue to experimenting in the dating world. For now, don’t attach any investment in outcome. Use the more non-threatening parts of your world as your practice laboratory. In time, you’ll develop more of a sense of mastery and comfort in your own skin.
- Learn communication and active listening skills that will assist you in having conversations with others. Be mindful of your body language and how you carry yourself too. If you need to, plan ahead and make a list of topics you can talk about at a social gathering or event, but don’t be rehears