bookwormjeff (bookwormjeff) wrote in brantwongfellow,

musings about shyness

The other day at the Half Price Books in Concord, I stumbled upon the book The Shy Single and bought it on a whim. While I do not consider myself a shy person, many of my friends are, as well as my girlfriend. Unlike several of the books on the shelf, this one was recently published, so the content is relevent and somewhat original.

I just finished the book (it only took me 3 days) and wanted to comment on it. Basically, the author, a psychologist who specializes in "shyness," argues that a shy person who normally shields himself from social activities can use positive affirmations to tone down and disempower the negative internal dialogue that reinforces the shyness. The strategy of identifying, addressing, and confronting or circumventing the feelings is not new to any behavior modification program (like the one that my company uses with SED children), but I have never seen it applyed to the dating realm. This is more than the books that just talk about what to do on dates, but addresses all the feelings and reservations (in detail) that a person can have in a relationship.

Here are a few statements that really made me think:

1. "Be aware that payback can also harbor a sneaky opposite reaction that can foster the same isolating result as negative self-talk: that is, feeling superior. Instead of beating yourself up after a date or other event, you obsess over how much better you are than everyone else and wonder where in the world you'll ever fit in.... It's often a reaction to a buried feeling of inadequacy. You're in arrogant mode when you have thoughts like 'I'll never find someone who's as smart/articulate/sensitive as I am,' which can magnify a sense of hopelessness-not productive in these challenging times." (ch 5, pg 86)

This statement really caught me off guard. Most of the chapter discussed how the negative self-talk was too self-deprecating, but this section turned that around completely. I can see how this type of thinking can also be very deceptive & dangerous, but at the same time soothing.

2. "Cut yourself (and your date) some slack. A multitude of my shy clients are impossible to please, though they may preceive themselves as just the opposite. Their dates are never good enough.... Many of the shy singles I've worked with have the tendency to find fatal flaws in their suitors before they've had their first sip of Chardonnay or ordered their cappuccino.... Because Shys are highly critical of themselves, few people can meet their standards, espcially if they show interest in them.... Think about it. If you can't accept yourself, how can you give others the benefit of the doubt?" (ch 7, pg 127)

This is similar to the previous statement, but takes a different take on it. The Shy person in question kills the date before it even starts by setting an impossible standard. No one is good enough, so the feeling of hopelessness is reinforced. Again, another venomous line of thinking.

3. "The shy tend to regard failure as something they caused and success as just luck or chance. Avoid this mistake. It's unproductive and energy draining." (Ch 8, pg 152)

I'm very familiar with this thought process, as one friend in particular feels this constantly. She cannot give herself credit for her successes, though she blames herself unjustly for all her failures, even though they might not be her fault. The author talks about the difference between accessing a situation and obsessing over it. Accessing is objective and goal-oriented, learning from mistakes. Obsessing is very subjective and feelings-oriented, and usually feeds into the existing self-doubt. This statement is very obsessive.

4. "There's an expression that says that to have a real understanding, two people must first go through a period of misunderstanding." (Ch 11, pg 205)

This is a mantra I can live by daily, since my girfriend I often have "periods of misunderstanding." One of the myths I usually debunk to my single friends is that it's easy to be in a committed relationship. No, instead it takes a lot of work to maintain any healthy relationship, especially a romantic one. It's easy to be alone, because you (usually) agree with yourself. Not always true in in romance.

5. "Good luck may be just around the corner, and to reach that corner you have to do just one thing: keep moving, one step at a time. When it comes to fostering courage, there's no substitute for experience. And on your journey, keep in mind these words from John Wayne: 'Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.'" (Ch 11, pg 213)

This in the conclusion of the book (sorry for ruining the end for you!), but the words are very important to think about. Oftentimes, I counsel people to learn to act despite what your feelings and body tell you what to do. If you feel like running away, instead hold your ground. If you are nervous in front of a good looking person, talk to him anyway. This is the only way to challenge yourself and the only way to create success. It's very difficult to pull off, but potentially very rewarding.

Overall, I thought this book stands out from the multitude of dating books out there. I recommend it to anyone who struggles with shyness, whether they are single or not. Even if you are in a relationship, several of the techniques laid out are not just for single people.
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can I borrow it sometime?
Kim's reading it right now, but you can borrow it for your trip if you want.