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September 30, 2014 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Mental Health

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Shy and depressed

Question:

I've been 'shy' for many years now and have tried countless ways to try and address it. I think it's mainly due to low self-esteem though both aspects affect each other. Having begun full time work after university it's really becoming a problem for me and for the first time in my life I feel really depressed and hopeless.

Around friends I am often outgoing and the most confident person there. I do feel confident when I'm not around people, but when I'm with others I get extremely self-conscious and shy. In the past those symptoms would only have been in the 'getting to know' stage but now it's always, and it has even started creeping into my long-standing friendships and family.

I really am at a loss as to what I can do - I have tried everything I can think of - affirmations, visualization, emotional freedom technique, meditation/relaxation, and have started trying some CBT in writing form. Also I haven't been avoiding people but have been more involved with them and social situations generally but I haven't become 'desensitized' and it hasn't gotten any easier.

I want to be able to be myself around everyone I meet and not feel like I'm inferior or under threat. How can I overcome my self-consciousness and shyness to the point where I can relax around other people and 'forget' to get nervous? Please help.

Che (23 year-old man)

Answer:

Dear Che,

I know where you are, because I've been in the same place myself. People tell me that I come across as confident and strong, but you have given an excellent description of how I feel inside. Only, when I was your age, I acted it too. You are already well ahead of where I was.

From the few words you have written, it's clear that you are quite sophisticated about the kinds of treatment commonly used to help with social anxieties. My guess is that they haven't worked for you because of a perhaps unacknowledged attitude of yours. You believe yourself to be faulty, and are looking for something that will fix you. And these activities haven't.

They haven't because there is NOTHING wrong with you. You are fine the way you are. What is holding you back, if I am right in my guess, is the expectation that you ought to be different.

When I was a young fellow, I just knew that I needed to put on a false front. No one could possibly like me if they knew me. And many people were put off by my act. When I forgot to try hard, I made friends.

Long ago, I decided that I am the way I am, and that's OK. I have good features, and others I don't like about myself, but hey, no one else is perfect either. And since I learned to value the good things about me and accept the other aspects, I have also relaxed around other people.

Che, shyness is a sort of stage fright. You continually feel as if you were the center of attention -- potentially hostile, judging attention. Well, let me share a couple of secrets with you:

  • You are rarely the center of attention. Almost all the time, most people are at center stage of THEIR OWN dramas, and you are only a bit player in that, just like they are in yours. They are not there judging you. They are there judging themselves.
  • I am willing to bet any amount of money that many people find you likeable, and feel friendly towards you. They are not motivated to trip you up, make a fool out of you, take you down. They want to be there for you. If you are troubled, they want to help. Oh sure, there are cruel people and idiots around, but you can choose your company. If someone makes fun of you, it's not because you deserved it, but because they are nasty pieces of work. It's their problem, not yours.

Why don't you pay me a visit? Go to my web site and look around. You may find material there to help you in your struggle.

It's a shame you didn't leave an email address so that I could send this answer to you directly. Do email me if you read it.

Have a good life,

Bob

This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 31 years experience as a psychologist and is registered with the Australian Psychological Society. He practices in Australia. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith".

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