How to Sidestep Shyness and Express Your True Self
Shyness is a hard personality trait to put into words. It’s different from introversion — introversion is being comfortable being alone and, in fact, needing time alone to recharge. Shy people, on the other hand, want to be social. They want more out of social interactions than they’ve been getting but aren’t quite sure how to make that happen.
Let’s see what Healthline has to say about shyness:
Shyness is a feeling of fear or discomfort caused by other people, especially in new situations or among strangers. It’s an unpleasant feeling of self-consciousness — a fear of what some people believe others are thinking.
Exactly. Shyness is resistance. It’s something stopping you from giving your all in social interaction. There’s fear lurking in the background that produces the need for constant self-monitoring. As Healthline goes on to point out, that fear inhibits people from saying or doing what they really want.
If we want to live up to our full potential, we must figure out shyness. I started to write, “we must overcome shyness,” but I think that is a poor choice of words. We’ve already established that shyness is a form of resistance, and “overcoming” implies resisting the resistance. A much better game plan would be to recognize the resistance, accept it, and work forward from there.
Eckhart Tolle on shyness
I recently listened to a 10-part podcast/webinar in which Oprah interviewed bestselling author Eckhart Tolle on his book A New Earth: Awakening Your Life’s Purpose. Tolle had a take on shyness that I had never heard before.
Tolle’s main point in all his work is that we need to live as much as possible in the present moment of Now. The more we live in the Now, the more we will step out of the unconsciousness that has been characteristic of human life since we as a race discovered thought.
There’s nothing wrong with thought itself, Tolle explains. The problem occurs when we get lost in the ego, the part of us that engages in constant self-talk. The ego dredges up memories of the past, fantasizes about the future, compares us to others, and whisks us around everywhere but the present moment.
The ego is constantly wanting, and that is the cause for the never-ending comparisons. When it feels superior to someone else, it provides itself with constantly needed reinforcement. When it feels inferior, it is living in the future, wishing for superiority to come in some way.
Tolle says that shyness is inferiority expressing itself.
If you’re shy, then what you fear is to be found wanting. You’re afraid of the disapproval of the criticism, [which] would represent an injury of your… sense of self, which is the ego.
Another of my favorite spiritual teachers, Neale Donald Walsch, teaches that in this physical existence, we live in a land of polarities: high and low, hot and cold, good and bad. To truly understand who we are beyond this physical form, we must learn to see past these polarities and embrace the land of the absolute, where there is simply Being.
Superiority and inferiority are yet one more example of these polarities. They are one more sign that we are living in the land of the relative, the land of the ego.
And, Tolle explains, because both feelings are derived from the ego, superiority and inferiority are the same thing. You can’t feel superiority without fear of being inferior. Likewise, feeling inferior implies a fantasy of being superior.
How to sidestep shyness
The key to getting past shyness, without putting up counterresistance to the resistance that its very nature, is to sidestep the superiority-inferiority dichotomy. Since that is a product of the ego, we need to learn how to quiet the ego. The way to do that is to become present, to step into the moment of Now which is the only moment that matters.
In my previous article on superiority and inferiority, I covered a couple of methods to move into the present moment. Here I will offer a couple more from Tolle’s webinar.
One way is to take a walk in nature. Leave the headphones, the music, the satellite radio at home. Just go out in nature and walk, alone. Notice the trees, the plants, the animals. As you step into the present moment, you will feel their essence, their interconnectedness with all other aspects of life, unburdened by human thought. After a while, you will begin to feel your own essence, your own connectedness.
Another suggestion is to spend some quality time with your pets. Tolle calls pets — particularly dogs and cats — Guardians of Being. When we’re with our pets, they’re not thinking. They’re not judging what type of human we are. They are simply basking in their connectedness with us. Pets get us out of ego-connection and into Being, into presence, into the moment.
Stop thinking of pets as animals you feed and take care of, and start thinking of them as teachers who live with you, and you may find that your life will transform.
So, get some practice being present around life forms who make it easy to do so — and then realize there’s no reason you can’t remain in the present as you interact with other human beings. Or, to put it in a way that may resonate more, as you interact with other humans, Being.
Don’t try to overcome shyness. Simply move into the present and open up space for interconnectedness with the other person or people with which you are communicating. Come from that space. Come from the knowledge that you are all part of the same Life, expressed your separate ways as form.
Shyness is a form of resistance. I would bet that many of you have tried to overcome shyness for years, as I have myself. Trying to overcome shyness is resisting resistance. That doesn’t work. What you resist, persists.
Instead, recognize that shyness comes from the ego. Shyness comes from a place of inferiority, which is a hidden desire to feel superior — and really, they’re the same emotion, expressed two different ways.
The way to eliminating shyness is to dissolve the ego. You do that by stepping into consciousness, stepping into presence where you can feel the connectedness to all other life forms. There are a number of ways to train yourself to return to the present. Two good ones are spending time in nature and spending time with your pets.
Once you are grounded in presence, you can communicate from that place. With the ego dissolved, there is no inferiority anymore, and therefore shyness fades away.
Here’s a link to the entire 10-hour Oprah/Eckhart Tolle webinar. I cannot recommend it highly enough!
Let’s keep in touch! Feel free to sign up for my newsletter. Here’s another story I wrote on Tolle’s teachings on the ego, superiority, and inferiority.