Are you suffering from The Shyness Habit?
A lot of people may be surprised to hear this: shyness is a habit and it is no different than other bad habits like over-eating or fingernail biting.
What is a habit? Simply put it is a repeated practice that becomes so engrained in your mind that you begin to do it automatically and feel bad if you stop doing it.
Habits can be bad or they can be good. I’ve already mentioned bad habits like over-eating but there are also good habits like brushing your teeth before bed.
When habits are used correctly they are a great help in accomplishing things that you have to do over and over again. A properly formed habit will require no thought to perform, you’ll just do it automatically.
Habits are formed by a person doing the same thing over and over again the exact same way.
If you’ve spent years being quiet then that is now a habit in your brain. If you do speak out one day and find attention focused on you then you’ll probably feel uncomfortable. This is because you’ve violated the habit and this has caused a bit of a panic in your brain.
The brain quickly learns the motions required to carry out whatever it is that you’re doing and it will record those motions so that in the future you don’t have to spend time and energy consciously making yourself do that thing.
You know those old vinyl records? A formed habit is like a groove in a record. The longer you’ve had the habit the deeper the groove is. And your brain is that needle travelling along the groove.
Habits are very difficult to break. The brain doesn’t like change. With willpower you can force yourself to stop doing a habit maybe for a few days but then the pressure of the habit groove just overwhelms you and you return to your previous behaviour.
This is why fat people who lose weight commonly get fat again. They can force themselves to stop their over-eating habit but this sort of conscious will power is only effective for a short-while.
You need to get rid of the habit itself instead of just trying to suppress what the habit is making you do.
If you don’t get rid of the habit then it will just hide in the back of your brain waiting for a moment of weakness.
If you’ve been shy and withdrawn and anxious for a long time then you have The Shyness Habit. You can’t use conscious willpower to make yourself less shy (not for long anyways), you have to address and get rid of the core habit itself.
The first step to accomplishing this is:
#1: You MUST Be Aware And Mindful
The point of habits is to save you the energy and effort required to constantly be conscious of every action you take.
The kryptonite of all habits is awareness. If you turn your attention on a habit it will shrivel up and die and your brain will return control back to your conscious mind.
Habits only have power over you if you are not aware of them.
So how can we apply this to The Shyness Habit?
A person over-eats because it gives them pleasure and it stops them from feeling sad or empty emotionally. Over time this constant eat-then-pleasure practice is repeated over and over again and soon anytime that person feels bad the brain will automatically kick in the “eat!” habit to make them feel good.
If you’re shy then you experience discomfort in social interactions. Over time your brain has learned that by being quiet and avoiding attention (being “shy”) you could avoid the feeling of social discomfort. You practiced social avoidance over and over again until The Shyness Habit formed and now social avoidance happens automatically.
You are shy because there is a “groove” or pattern in your brain that says the following: Avoid social attention or else you’re going to feel bad.
The Shyness Habit causes behaviour like: being quiet, avoiding eye contact, being “grumpy” and more. All just to discourage social interaction and attention.
The only way to begin to conquer this habit is to place attention on it. You have to realize that your shyness habit is triggered by two beliefs:
- That having attention placed on you will be bad.
- That social avoidance behaviour (being “shy”) will make the bad feelings go away.
By staying in the moment and focusing on what is happening as it is happening you can approach each interaction and ask yourself if either of these assumptions apply in this case. You’ll find that usually they don’t.
If someone says hello to you then ask yourself if this is a bad thing. Probably not. They’re saying hello because they’re being friendly. This realization will prevent The Shyness Habit from being triggered because the second belief (that shyness will make everything good) isn’t necessary. Everything is already good.
So stay present in the moment and in every social interaction ask yourself if it is a bad thing that this person is talking to you. Don’t just assume that it is.
#2: You MUST Get Fed Up With The Shyness Habit Controlling You
Are you going to let a habit control how you feel? Are you going to let it push around your mental state and make you feel shy whenever it wants?
Get fed up. Get angry.
Then get amused.
Let me explain.
Once you’re aware of it (Step #1) you will begin to notice how The Shyness Habit makes you feel frustrated, shy, and just plain rotten for seemingly random reasons. By being aware of how the habit pushes your mental state around you’ll start getting impatient with it.
For example how can a stranger coming up to and talking to you make you feel miserable and embarrassed of yourself? They haven’t done anything to you.
Picture it this way: the audience in a late night television show studio doesn’t get to decide when to laugh or when to cry out. A man stands in the corner, just off camera, and holds up a sign that says “Laugh” when they should laugh and another sign that says “Applaud” when they should clap their hands.
The audience is totally controlled by the man with the sign.
When you start feeling uncomfortable in a social situation realize that the exact same thing that happens to that show audience is happening to you. Other people and other situations are telling you how you should feel instead of you consciously deciding what you should feel.
Your very mental wellbeing is being jerked around by The Shyness Habit. You are being made to feel shy and miserable just because that is what a pre-programmed pattern is making you feel.
In most cases there is really nothing to be anxious about. Nothing bad is going to happen.
The next time you start to feel shy around someone just concentrate on the feelings of being shy and imagine that a man is standing in front of you holding a “Get Anxious” sign while dancing and laughing at you. Make yourself feel angry at him for his arrogance at trying to control you.
Then recognize the absurdity of being miserable just because of the man with the sign (your habit) and shrug off the feeling with a smile.
#3: Use Visualization And Deliberate Action To Over-Write And Replace The Shyness Habit With The Social Habit
By using awareness and by learning how to ignore the metaphorical man with the sign you can prevent The Shyness Habit from triggering.
But let’s admit it: sometimes you’re going to be distracted or you’re going to have a bad day and The Shyness Habit will trigger and run it’s process to make you shy and miserable.
To totally get rid of The Shyness Habit you must replace it with a new habit of social enthusiasm that we can call The Social Habit.
Right now when you run into a social situation and your shyness habit is triggered your brain runs the old patterns of making you anxious, quiet, and everything else to do with shyness.
In order to get rid of The Shyness Habit you have to create new patterns (new “grooves”) in your brain that tell it that being outgoing is the proper behaviour.
You can only do this by forcing yourself to be social and outgoing for a short period of time. Your brain learns from experiences and you need to feed it experiences.
(If you are too shy to do this don’t worry. There is another method that will prepare you for this that I describe right below.)
By forcing yourself to smile and be upbeat and be extroverted in your social interaction over and over again you will create a habit that, when triggered, will make you outgoing and confident whenever you’re in a social situation.
Obviously this will take time because The Shyness Habit is written deep into your psyche. And you can’t start by just forcing yourself to be the life of the party. “Fake it till you make it” is horrible advice, if you could do that you wouldn’t be shy in the first place!
Therefore you need to start with something basic.
I recommend you use a practice called Visualization. It’s what I used myself when I first started my journey to get rid of the shyness habit and it’s what works best.
Basically with visualization you sit down somewhere quiet and you imagine yourself having great social interactions. Basically you play pretend.
You imagine yourself talking to the people you regularly are shy around except in your visualization you’re no longer shy. You’re smiling and confident and speaking with authority and excitement. And the people who you are talking to are smiling back and extremely interested in what you have to say.
By doing this sort of visualization for just 15 minutes every day (I do it right after my morning coffee sitting crosslegged on the floor) you can train your brain to believe that this is the proper way to act around people.
Do this over and over again and a habit will begin to form.
This works because (and studies have proven this) your brain cannot differentiate between an extremely detailed imagined visualization and a real memory. It thinks that what you’re imagining actually happened and you’re just remembering it!
There are two things to keep in mind however:
1. Your visualization has to be extremely detailed. You have to imagine the people’s reactions and what they’re wearing and what you’re saying in all the detail of life. Only by imagining with detail will you fool your brain into thinking that this is a real memory.
2. After 21 days of visualization work you have to transition to real experiences where you force yourself to be more outgoing and social in real life.
Number 2 is important. 21 days is enough to set down the basic framework of a new social habit for most people.
But visualization is not enough by itself. After 21 days you have to start increasing your interactions with people in real life.
Start with small things. If you’re someone who doesn’t smile because you’re self-conscious or embarrassed then you start by smiling at everyone for the next 21 days. Pick just one attribute of your shyness that really bothers you and make the conscious and forceful effort to act differently for just 21 days.
Why 21 days? This is the amount of time that it takes for the beginnings of a new habit to be formed.
And after 21 days you move onto the next thing preventing you from being social. You’ll find that after forcing yourself to do something for just 21 days you’ll be doing that thing automatically. If your thing was smiling you’ll actually feel your brain automatically pulling your mouth into a big smile when you run into people without you having to do anything.
You don’t have to suffer from The Shyness Habit anymore. By doing the three things that I’ve described in this article you can make make real progress and change the way you interact with other people.
Please try the things that I’ve mentioned above, especially number 3, and let me know what your experience is. I am confident that you’ll feel yourself acting and feeling differently.
Your feedback helps me make this article (and future articles) better and that will help all of us. After all, we’re all in this together.