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Overcoming Shyness When You’re an Introvert

In the video above, I’m cross-dressing in my girlfriend’s robe.

In case you’re wondering, the reason is because technically I’m an introvert.

I want to show you that I’m happy to do something slightly silly in a public forum whilst also being introverted. It doesn’t stop me from doing that.

But I want to talk about how some people are ashamed of being an introvert and they actually cling to that shame, like “Poor me, I’m an introvert” when being introverted is not actually the same as being shy or being afraid in social situations.

And that’s the biggest confusion I think people have. They think that the reason they struggle socially – like not speaking up for yourself, not able to start conversations, not able to do confrontations, hiding in the background and kind of being a wallflower – they think that’s being an introvert. And that’s not being an introvert; that’s being a shy introvert, and those are two different things.

Shyness

See shyness, as we call it, is social withdrawal for fear-based reasons. You’re hiding socially because you’re afraid of the consequences of being noticed and judged and rejected and abandoned and all those things that we’re commonly afraid of.

Extroverts actually have the same fears but they manifest differently. An extroverted personality with social anxiety will show off – they’ll perform, they’ll become the stand-up comedian or the clown, or they’ll be the really interesting guy who just doesn’t shut up. They manifest their fear as showing off and performing, or controlling and manipulating.

I’ve actually done a whole piece on the four different types of people pleasers, including the extroverted types.

Extrovert vs Introvert

Now, a lot of people call themselves introverts and yet they’ve never really studied what that term means as a psychological definition. A lot of people use the word introvert as if it’s not a technical term, which it is.

The problem is, if you actually study psychology, you’ll come to realize that introvert and extrovert are such broad terms that they’re almost unusable. You can pretty much jam anybody into either of those definitions if you observe them at the right time. They seem like really clear and specific definitions, but depending on your mood you can be introverted or extroverted – it‘s really broad.

But, in general, there are some things.

All it really means to be an introvert is that your down-time is time alone, you like to relax on your own as opposed to an extrovert who relaxes in the company of others. You think carefully before you act.

An extrovert speaks as they think, their thoughts come out through their mouths, and an introvert is more likely to consider it and put it together before it comes out. You express yourself gently, you’re aware of how people are receiving you as you speak – an extrovert can blast away without that awareness.

And you generally keep your own counsel – you’re the first person you go to, for advice and for guidance and for validation (or invalidation), whereas an extrovert will bounce off other people’s reactions.

None of this explains shyness.

Shyness is a choice

None of this explains social anxiety, which is different. Not all introverts are socially anxious, so being ashamed of shyness is about being ashamed of a behavior. There’s a behavior socially that you’re engaging in that you don’t like, that you would like to change.

But to say you’re ashamed of being an introvert is to actually be ashamed of your whole personality – something that cannot be changed.

First and foremost you need to separate those two things. It’s not being an introvert that bothers you or that you’re being judged on, it’s shyness, which is a choice – it is a behavioral choice – a decision, not a predisposition like introversion.

Famous introverts

Albert Einstein, the famous activist Rosa Parks, Steven Spielberg  – you know those names?

They’re all well-documented introverts, yet they’re happy to be in the spotlight. They’re happy to be expressly creative. They’re all highly noticeable and all introverted (according to what I looked up online for two seconds).

The idea that you must be shy and introverted doesn’t line up with these people. Rosa Parks was happy to sit in the front of the bus. She stood out in a major way, massive confrontation, creating a huge confrontation. She risked her life, really… introvert.

Steven Spielberg rocked and changed the film industry… introvert.

Einstein changed reality for us… introvert.

You don’t need to be extroverted

It’s not about becoming more extroverted. You don’t need to change your introversion.

You can be introverted for the rest of your life. In fact, you’re going to be, if you are an introvert. Unless we come up with some technology that literally rewrites the core of the brain, you’re going to be introverted for life, but that doesn’t mean you have to be shy for life and it certainly doesn’t mean that you have to be ashamed of being an introvert for life.

You can use it, harness it, embrace it.

But embracing shyness and withdrawing socially is not the same as embracing introversion. Introverts still socialize and they still form connections. They’re more likely to have a few deeper, meaningful connections than a broad range of shallow connections (like an extrovert might), but connections are there nonetheless.

An introvert can still get up on stage and speak publicly. There’s nothing about being an introvert that prevents you from doing it.

What I see is the reality is people use the introvert label, like “Poor me, I’m an introvert!” (knowing that it can’t be changed) as an excuse not to address their shyness.

Shyness is not permanent

Because shyness can be addressed. Shyness is simply a behavioral pattern that can be changed, and the emotional reaction changes after the behavioral pattern changes. So if you start changing the way you socialize, you become less afraid of those things you’re afraid of.

You can’t change introversion though.

But if you say shyness is because of introversion, it lets you off the hook – “Ohh, now I don’t have to do anything that scares me socially because I’m an introvert, it can’t be helped!” It’s not true, it can be.

There’s nothing wrong with being an introvert

There’s nothing less about being an introvert and there’s nothing stopping you being socially confident as an introvert. You just have to work with what you’ve got, the cards you’ve been dealt.

Dealing with shyness is actually simple (but not easy).

Most of my work with coaching is helping people deal with various versions of shyness (or helping the extroverts deal with showing off and performing).

  • Toastmasters and public speaking.
  • Deliberately exposing yourself to a little bit of public embarrassment.
  • Confrontations.
  • Showing off your creative side, like publishing your creative works.
  • Talking to people about how they feel about you instead of trying to guess.

These are examples of the kind of behaviors you can do differently in order to work on your shyness, in order to desensitize yourself to fear through exposure.

This can be done in small manageable bites and built up over time, combined with various anxiety reducing techniques that I’ve talked about in other materials, in order to build up social courage.

You can be highly introverted and highly socially courageous. You can be an introverted leader like Bill Gates. You don’t have to be shy.

Your introversion might be a life sentence but your shyness certainly isn’t, and if you want further help with this please get in touch with me dan@brojo.co.nz

Please leave your comments and feedback below. I love to hear what you guys think. I’m always looking to improve my ideas, of course.

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