How I cured myself of my shyness
I'm going to share with you how I overcame my shyness, and a bit of my childhood. I got harassed a lot in grade school, because I refused to defend myself. I'm pretty empathic, and I was even more sensitive as a child. Literally, it would have hurt me as much to hurt someone else, physically or emotionally. So I didn't fight back, and being pretty smart didn't make me any friends either.
The only conversations I remember having in the first year of high school went like this: "Is your book good?" "Yeah, it's pretty good." I had no friends in school, and couldn't bring myself to talk to anyone. I took refuge in science fiction and fantasy books. Then in the second year, I came up with a plan. I used it, and by the time I hit the third year, I had a few friends, and I was not shy anymore. I could go talk to anyone, including the cool kids. But you know what? The cool kids were pretty boring. So I hung out with the friends I already had. I worked in the student newspaper, and even the teacher who helped run it knew what to call my group of friends: The Rejects.
When you realize you're different, you have a few choices. You can pretend to be like everyone else so you can get accepted. You can moan about how hard life is for someone who's different, and feel sorry for yourself. Or you can decide there's something special about being different, that it's something to take pride in. That's what I chose. And being proud of who I am has made me who I am today. I live by my own rules, I have my own business, I have friends who understand me, and others who don't understand, but still appreciate that having someone like me around as their friend is REALLY useful sometimes! I have a good life, and I can be myself. I look in the mirror, and I'm proud to be me. I think about celebrities, about very rich people, about people who have things I don't have, knowledge I don't have, and skills I don't have... and I can't think of anyone I'd rather be or trade lives with! No one's life comes even close to being what I want to get out of life. I get to have fun, and help people. I'm not rich, but I have everything I need, and most of what I want. Okay, a bit more sex would be nice, but that's a choice I'm making too. I'm not willing to settle for someone just to be with someone. I get sad and depressed. I get moody, and lonely, and I feel pain in my soul. But you know what? EVERYONE does! These things come, and they pass. I'm happy with my life, and I'm happy with the fact that I don't have everything I want.
You see, I had a list of dreams I wanted to accomplish. And as the years passed, that list got shorter and shorter. Because I'd been busy finding ways to live out my dreams. Become a teacher, check! Mud wrestle, check! It was a long list, but as it became shorter, I realized I was losing my motivation. Things became routine, and I kept doing what I had been doing, because there was nothing else I really wanted to do. I already had pretty much everything I wanted. Then I saw a movie with Queen Latifah during a plane ride (The Last Holiday), and loved the idea of her dream scrapbook. I realized I needed more dreams. So I immediately started writing down my dreams. On the left, dreams I had realized. On the right, dreams I had not yet realized. And then I started working at the list on the right, imagining new dreams, new goals, new things that would be exciting, even if I had no idea how I'd realize them. Things that were probably not doable, but that I could strive for. I added to the right list that I wanted to become an athlete, a cheerleader, and a number of other things. I kept going until my list of dreams was as long as my list of victories. And I felt MOTIVATED! I was on the lookout for ways to fulfill these dreams. And after a few years, I'd accomplished quite a number of them ! In fact, I'm going to have to go add some more dreams very soon, because I'm running out of them again!
I've also gotten better at adding small goals, and laying out a timetable for my accomplishments. Like learning to do hockey stops to the left in three weeks, as a roller derby skill. And to the right two weeks later. Setting specific goals on a realistic time table really does help you achieve them. Writing them down is also super important. I once read that 3% of high school graduates had written goals. And 10 years later, those 3% made more money than the remaining 97% combined! That's pretty impressive! Now, I'm not a believer that money is any kind of yardstick of success. But it's good to make enough of it for what you need. Success does not bring happiness. It's happiness that brings success.
The dreams you haven't achieved are every bit as important as those you have. The victories on the left list are what gives you confidence. They're your resources. The dreams on the right list are what motivate you. There's no point to bemoaning what you don't have and torturing yourself about it. Enjoy all the little successes that pave you realizing your dreams. Being perfect would be perfectly boring, there would be nothing left to do! So enjoy your striving. Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted. We hardly ever learn from success. It's the failures that are educational. You learn what doesn't work, and then you try again. That's life.
So now, let's get to the actual method for overcoming shyness that I used. It's really quite simple, and it's even pretty easy.
Whenever you get a thought about doing something, and it embarrasses you, makes you feel shy or self conscious...
1) Rate it on a scale of 0 to 10. Zero means you're perfectly comfortable, and 10 means being mortified, frozen by embarrassment.
2) If what you were thinking about rates a 1,2 or 3 on your scale... DO IT.
3) Repeat. Every time. Non-stop.
That's it! That's all there is to it. Every silly random thought you have is a chance to improve yourself. It could be jumping up to touch something hanging from the ceiling. It could be telling a stranger you like her dress. It could be whistling a tune to yourself. Anything will do, as long as it's slightly uncomfortable, but doable for you. As you keep doing this, the scale will shift. 6's becomes 5's, 2's become 0's, and so on. It takes about a year to become able to do anything you want, but you'll start noticing improvements within a week. You will get less and less shy, and more and more confident. Every time you do one of these, you'll be accumulating another victory, which will make the next one easier. Let me give you the graduation test: Go up to a McDonald's counter, or some similar fast food chain, and ask for a bottle of champagne. I did it. Even for me, that was pretty embarrassing! It's easier if you have friends along, but I did it alone. If you can do that, you can do ANYTHING.
Now, it's important for this training to only do things in the low range. That's what changes slowly your scale so it takes more and more extreme things for you to feel embarrassed. If you tackle challenges in the 7 to 10 range you'll get a different result: You'll be working on your courage. Courage is the ability to do something that scares you shitless. If you weren't scare of it, it wouldn't be courage, now would it? It's a noble thing, but it's really hard, and not nearly as useful. Ideally, you want to simply do what you need to do, and not be scared at all. That's what working in the low range will do for you.
Well hey, I'm a therapist. That means that I like helping people, and it means this is how I make a living. So if you want to overcome shyness, I can give you the same results as doing the above for a year. It'll just cost more, and take 2 to 5 hours of NLP session time with me. I'm giving you the slower method above for two reasons. One, I want people to be happy, whether they can afford me or not. And two, some people just want to do it for themselves, without help, and I can respect that. At least now, you have a method to get it done. As well as a faster option.
So go kick some ass! I'm rooting for you!
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