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  • A lack of confidence is often put down to something we call shyness. But beneath shyness,

  • there may lie something more surprising, pernicious and poignant. We suffer from a suspicion of

  • ourselves that gives us a sense that other people will always have good reasons to dislike

  • us, to think ill of us, to question our motives and to mock us. We then become scared of the

  • world, speak in a small voice, don't dare to show our face at gatherings and are frightened

  • of social occasions because we fear that we are ideal targets for ridicule and disdain.

  • Our shy manner is the pre-emptive stance we adopt in the face of the blows we feel that

  • other people want to land on us. Our shyness is rooted in a sense of unworthiness.

  • As shy people, when we find ourselves in a foreign city in which we know no one, we can

  • be thrown into panic at the prospect of having to enter a busy restaurant and order a meal

  • on our own. Dogged by a feeling that no one especially wants to know us, that we are outside

  • the charmed circle of the popular and the desirable, we are sure that our leprous condition

  • will be noticed by others and that we will be the target of sneering and viciousness.

  • We unknowingly impute to strangers the nasty comments that we are experts at making to

  • ourselves; our self-image returns to haunt us in the assumed views of others. We imagine

  • that groups of friends will take mean delight in our solitary state and read into it appalling

  • conclusions about our nature. They will see right through our veneer of competence and

  • adulthood and detect the deformed and unfinished creature we have felt like since the start.

  • They will know how desperate we have been to win friends and how pitiful and isolated

  • we are. Even the waiter will fight to restrain their desire to giggle at our expense in the

  • kitchen.

  • A comparable fear haunts us at the idea of going into a clothes shop. The sales attendant

  • will surely immediately sense how unfit we are to lay claim to the stylishness on offer.

  • They may suspect we lack the money; they will be appalled by our physique. We lack the right

  • to pamper our own bodies.

  • It can be as much of a hurdle to attend a party. Here too our fundamental imagined awfulness

  • is perpetually at risk of being noticed and exploited by others. As we try to join a group

  • of people chatting animatedly, we dread that that they will swiftly realise how unfunny

  • we are, how craven our nature is and how peculiar and damned we are at our core.

  • The novelist Franz Kafka, who hated himself with rare energy, famously imagined himself

  • into the role of a cockroach. This move of the imagination will feel familiar to anyone

  • sick with self-disdain. We, the self-hating ones, spontaneously identify with all the

  • stranger, less photogenic animals: rhinoceroses, blobfish, spiders, warthogs, elephant seals

  • We skulk in corners, we run away from our shadow, we live in fear of being swatted away

  • and killed.

  • It is no surprise if, against such an internal background, we end up 'shy'. The solution

  • is not to urge us blithely to be more 'confident'. It is to help us to take stock of our feelings

  • about ourselves that we have ascribed to an audience, that is, in reality, far more innocent

  • and unconcerned than we ever imagine. We need to trace our self-hatred back to its origins,

  • repatriate and localise it, and drain it of its power to infect our views of those we

  • encounter. Everyone else isn't jeering, or bored or convinced of our revoltingness;

  • these are our certainties, not theirs. We don't have to whisper in a circumspect manner

  • and enter each new conversation, restaurant or shop with a sheepish air of apology. We

  • can cast aside our introverted circumspection once we realise the distortions of our self-perception,

  • and can come to believe in a world that has far better things to do than

  • to despise us.

A lack of confidence is often put down to something we call shyness. But beneath shyness,

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B2 shyness shy lack realise fear imagined

How to Overcome Shyness

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    Summer posted on 2021/10/06
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