…and I’ve just experienced the “ah-hah”!

…and I’ve just experienced the “ah-hah”! The following quote from your site will take me a long way:

“Maybe if we had allowed ourselves to experience charging elephants 100 times, and had lived to tell about it, our fear would be greatly reduced.

We would still feel fear and we would know what to do because of our experience.

Many shy people do not allow themselves to experience the fear…”

Thank you, thank you! A. 12/01/01

The Gentle Art of Observation

What a terrific website. This is such a unique and genuine service for so many people. It’s really touching to see so much compassion and friendship here. I’ve found that shy people can be the most compassionate and caring people in the world. My guess is that it has something to do with the transformative effects of suffering. Your stories have touched me deeply. In this spirit of giving, I’d like to offer something of my approach that has helped me journey from pathological shyness to self acceptance and a great reduction in social anxiety. Without going too far into a long story, my childhood was difficult and my circumstances were strange, so I felt I was an outsider from an early age. Everyday tasks such as catching public transport, going to the shops or talking to teachers was very difficult indeed. Later in high school I found some self esteem academically and I had strong ambitions of becoming a scientist. I surprised many people, including myself, by becoming dux of my school and going onto university.

At university I felt that no one need know that I was shy and that I had the opportunity to spontaneously change just by willing it to be so. For a while my sheer optimism did this for me and lifted me above my shyness. I surprised myself and even “made friends and influenced people”. However, not long into my degree I slipped into a deep suicidal depression as my unassimilated past caught up with me. Many issues surfaced and I pushed them under with hard work – work made much harder by my emotional burdens. I retreated from friends and eventually lost them.

I found, to my horror, that in addition to my course requirements there were some unofficial requirements – I would need social skills if I wished to attain my cherished dreams. I watched my fellow students find valuable mentors within the academic staff who were very willing to help. I watched my fellow students take up rewarding summer jobs within the university that gave them valuable experience. I could not even consider approaching the staff. Authority figures set off extreme paralysis in me. I could not even walk properly when passing lecturers in the corridor. The sadness I felt was overwhelming as I watched my dreams crumble before me. I looked for help from “counsellors” but found their advice to be shallow and dismissive. I slipped into denial. I finished my degree with mixed results and took a menial job. It was all I could cope with in the face of lost dreams and a deep depression.

My growing suicidal impulses frightened me into seeking real help. My therapist helped set me on a transformative path of self exploration. I learnt to consciously engage the “observer” in my everyday life. The “observer” is the silent witness that is with us all the time, taking in the world around us, feeling the feelings in our bodies and watching our thoughts pass, all without judgement. The observer watches without becoming coupled to and overly drawn in by experience.

I was taught that it was important to “be in my body” whilst observing, by feeling my physical presence and feeling grounded. Are you feeling hot, cool, tired, frightened or bored? Then feel it in your body. Watch your thoughts and let them move on. Everything can be observed – even the quality of your observation! It’s about being in the present. With practice, your observation skills will grow and you begin to guide yourself more naturally. After much practice and with gradual exposure to social situations I found that I could simultaneously take in the whole experience of the person I was facing, listen to them, feel my feelings and stay with them without lurching into internalised panic attacks. I could spontaneously converse without the crippling need for self-editing and self-censorship. I began to feel natural in more and more situations as I learnt to love myself more. I found myself worrying less about what the other person thought of me. I began to trust and let go of my deep layers of control.

As you engage or identify with the observer you find that situations don’t push you around so easily. I was taught to observe in a compassionate and loving sense. All kinds of conditioning gradually dissolve under gentle, loving observation and I found myself “loosening up” and feeling freer. Previously I had tried so hard to overcome and defeat my shyness with the aid of will-power, self help suggestions, affirmations and a ton of well meaning advice. It all just amounted to more conditioning and more blockage! The power is in the present moment and complicated thought systems can dampen that power.

To my way of thinking, learning to observe is the same as allowing a greater intelligence to look into my life to help unravel the knots. I haven’t got the complete perspective to see the shape of my knots but I can enlist help from the observer. I’m not really sure what the nature of this observer intelligence is but I feel that it is loving. I have a scientific mind and feel that many common notions of “God” are little more than parental projections, so I avoid using the the “G” word where possible!

I feel that there are some misunderstandings about “self-consciousness”. I remember many times being chided (gee, that really helped!) for being too self aware or even self obsessed! I believe that self consciousness is the seed that grows to transformative self exploration and that sometimes we need help to grow from that seed. I was delighted to see that idea already outlined on this wonderfully enlightened website.

I am now middle aged and have been with my soul mate for 7 glorious years and I’m loving my life. I have my pains and hurts to live with and I am still “quiet” but that is just fine with me. I wish you all the very best and thank you for sharing your stories and listening to mine.



Shyness and Consciousness

Dear Editor,

The drama of shyness I experienced in my life could easily go into a book of records. As I never acknowledged it to myself, it progressed to depression, then panic attacks (which included hospitalisation due to severity of fear), social phobia, intense spiritual isolation, never having a loving partner, travelling across the globe searching for a man of my dreams, truth and God.  All I looked for around the world was love, and when I met someone I fell in love, they would only reject me because of my extreme shyness, although I am beautiful, talented and sensitive.

My shyness has crippled my whole youth. I am 25 now. This shyness is a deep mystery because sometimes it disappears from my life forever and I behave with great confidence and charisma.  A month ago I came back from India where I stayed 5 months with a holy man, my guru. He showed me the whole nature of this universe, my own true nature and the nature and origin of all human beings. He revealed to me my own divinity and oneness of the universe. I have been in Samadhi and experienced states of Self-realisation. I was given the rare understanding of the whole philosophy and practical path to the experience of Truth of oneness of humanity and divinity. I came back to this large city from India; I do not know anyone here who even had a glimpse of the same. My old friends however and memories revived the past shyness pattern from which I fled to India in the first place. With this profound knowledge of very subtle states of meditation and self-awareness, here I am, coming out of Samadhi, going on the streets, seeing a beautiful man, and feeling deeply shy.

I never wanted enlightenment, I wanted a loved one. What I found is this half-enlightenment at which I am simultaneously Absolute Consciousness and a shy woman whose love has only been rejected multiply. This is a mystery that I am to solve. I am absolutely alone now in this large city, and I have a difficulty finding friends because of this vast body of wisdom that I have.  The depth of understanding about this world is unsuitable to my age and isolates me from young people who have very different interests and intellect. I have a brain of a philosophy professor (I am saying this with bitterness as I never wanted such advancement).

I have written a book on the nature of this world and human beings the content of which is quite revolutionary. However, I told myself not to think of publishing it until my shyness stops afflicting me. But how can it stop, if even seeing my own divinity does not break the mind’s pattern?

I am writing to you to share this mystery of my experience. I do not know what to do.  If I was not so shy, I could easily teach meditation and Jnana yoga, the direct path to self-realisation. but before I went to India, here in America  my experiences of talking in front of a group have been extremely traumatic  and the wounds of all love rejections appeared as an iceberg without an end  to remind me of all the self-inadequacy I have experienced.  I know and I see that the Self of which I feel inadequate and embarrassed is none less that Absolute Consciousness, God himself, who is one and the same in all beings, and yet the pattern came back because it has never found a solution before.  My spiritual master is in India. I feel very much in distress.  With your level of expertise on this subject, what would you recommend?

With love


Land of the Shy and Hurt Ones

This is a story about living, and loving. It is a story about escaping, about pain, and about being free to be the person you are inside yourself, inside your heart. It’s a story dedicated to each person who is hurting and in pain.

Hurt knows no boundaries. It crosses within every race, creed, religion, country, environment and age. From the very young to the very old, we each hurt, and we each feel pain, even though we may deal with that pain in different ways. So let a few of us who have been in pain and been hurt tell you a story. A story of “The Land of the Hurt Ones”.

I wake in a cold sweat, my heart racing fast with fear, the room dark around me…I am alone. I’m comforted by being alone and yet I’m hurting because of it as well. Closing my eyes, I take deep breaths, trying to calm the fear…trying to escape the past. Each day brings a hurt, so why rise to greet it? Each night brings the fear, so why lie within it? “Why?” the word mocks within my head. My heart answers with two simple words, “Why not?”. Why not let the sun kiss your face with warmth another day? Why not let the wind tease and caress you with its tenderness yet again? Why not let the sweet scent of the daisies envelope the senses of your soul in the evening? Why not? These words echo as my heart begins beating it’s strong, and steady pace within me, at last.

Tomorrow will go as today, I think to myself, and the thought brings tears to my eyes. The pain should be gone by now… So many people have told me those words. People that don’t understand, because they have never felt it. They haven’t ‘KNOWN’ it, and lived within it. The world isn’t a bad place, I keep telling myself, there are just some bad people living in it. But it is hard when you fear people hurting you and yet at the same time wish them near on some level.

I go to the open window. The moon is full tonight, shining with the brightest of lights, the trees casting shadows upon the thick wet grass beneath them, reaching, needing, and yet pulling away from it’s brightness. That’s how I feel, craving ‘touch’ and yet pulling away from it in fear at the same time.

Fear… I have heard is “False Emotion Appearing Real”, but it’s not just appearing real in my mind, it’s feeling real in my heart. A short distance away there is a big rock; people would think it’s an ordinary rock, they might even break it into pieces and get rid of it. However, I never had the heart to move it. For, you see, within a crack in that big rock grows a single clover flower. That tiny beautiful ‘life’ had sprouted between the cold hard surface of that stone and was surviving. Against all odds and against all pain, that clover blooms with life and beauty. A statement of hope, a reminder that it can be done. Time is what it needed, so maybe time is what I need as well. Time to grow, time to heal, and time to find the ‘me’ that is hidden beneath all of the hurt, fear and pain.

I have so much fear and pain inside me. Sometimes I wish I were the rock instead of the flower. I somehow know that I can survive this pain. I will one day find that inner flame that hasn’t been burning for so long. That flame will give me warmth and strength to continue life because every person has a purpose. Some days I can not find a match to light the flame. I learn by the day. Sometimes I am the flower, which needs the rock; otherwise it will not grow. I need people around me, although I have been hurt by people. A flower has seeds and these seeds can land on other places, where rocks can be transformed in green landscapes. We can change what other people think of us. Rocks into happy landscapes; careless people into people like me.

Suddenly a memory from when I was a child comes into in my head. I breathe the fresh air. I am shaking and I feel I am going to faint. The pain is taking over my heart and I don’t know what to do. I close my eyes and think about the good things in life. I feel I am nobody, that I have no purpose. Suddenly a bird flies into the room. I am scared. The air is full of mystery and love. The bird talks to me and tells me how beautiful I am. I missed that when I was a child. The bird tells me that behind the rock there is a cave and river. The bird rests on my shoulder and tells me to go to that place. I say to the bird that I am hurt and that I have so much pain. The bird says, “Go there and you will see”. He flies away. I don’t know what to do. I can’t remember a cave and river behind the rock. A bird that talks, that cannot be. I say to myself, “I am strong, I will go”. I leave the house. I walk towards the rock. I see my name written on the rock. It dates back to my childhood. I had written it down, so that people would remember me. When I was sad, I used to cry on this rock. Nobody could see me then. I was alone and I could be free.

I feel the memories of the past. I want them to go away, but they are deeply rooted in my heart, sticking like chewing gum, unwashable. I know I need those memories to understand who I am and why I think like this. I know I can overcome the barriers. I picture a rock transforming into a beautiful flower. I will be “me” instead of being what others tell me I should be. I am the flower! The wind is blowing softly.

Suddenly I hear a river. There is no river here. I am sure about that. I had dreams about being a dolphin, swimming in a world, so free. I follow the magical sounds of a river. I feel love. I didn’t know I could feel it. I walk faster. I see a small green mountain. I think the river should be behind the mountain. I compare people to rivers. Rivers can be strong and dangerous, but sometimes they are so gentle, peaceful and relaxing. Sometimes I need gentle people around, who are willing to accept the way I am, who realize that I have a life too. I live! I am a human being. I deserve respect! I also know that people just don’t understand me, they can be like that rock. I want to show them that I exist.

You have to be hurt in order to know it. All the hurt ones of the world are my true friends. I climb the mountain. I get excited. This is totally new for me. I pinch myself to know if I am dreaming. It’s real. It is so beautiful. This moment brings sad tears to my eyes. My heart is like a machine. There is something behind the green mountain. I look behind. Nobody is following me. I am alone. This place is my place! I spread my arms and I shout at the top of my lungs, “Leave me alone, let me be ‘me’, respect me!!!!”. Never have I cried so much. I am happy. I go to the top of the mountain. The sound becomes louder and louder. As I reach the top I understand the sounds I am hearing are the sounds of other hurt people … a sound to faint for the world to hear. It’s a soft mellow cry that rings through my head like a train at midnight. I walk closer to the sounds and find what I was looking for … others. They welcome me into their world, a place of disorientation.

Others in the real world walk by not even knowing we are there. They cannot see us … understand us. We carry the pain of world and see the sorrow all around. There is no place for us to go, so we sit in limbo waiting for the world to wake up and feel the pain they have caused. We sit and listen to each other tell the tales of the sorrow we have manifested so others could go on. We are heroes in our own way, we gave up our lives and true beings so that the ones we cared about would never find the world that I now reside in. I begin to understand my new place as the numbness sets in and the visibility is gone.

We decide to move on, one says “there is nothing for us here”. We find a plan and try to begin to move. It’s painful, walking through the pain we hid in this world. We try to focus and have a singular movement because we only have the search now; we search for our utopia, for our light to the better world. A world where no dream is impossible and where happiness reigns in abundance. You can be and do whatever you wish without the fear of being singled out or labeled as strange, different, odd or quiet. In this New World you can commit no harm because the occupants live in harmony with one another. Everyone is equally important and respected.

You may think that it might be nice if this world actually existed and it does within the hearts of all those people whom have suffered the abrasive waves of sorrow, pain, deceit and hate. For the hurt ones know the path to this utopia – this world only others dream about. The entrance is concealed to the evil tormentor in order to prevent extended harassment. The New World is filled with music, dancing, poetry, singing and people who care about each other.

Now, all the hurt people of the world will be banded together for happiness. Our souls forever reside in this place of tranquility our eternal home to which we have escaped to many times before in order to ignore our pain. But it’s hard to ignore it sometimes when all you ever feel is hurt.

I deserve someone who only wants ME, forever. I don’t want to be second best. Sometimes second place is better than no place at all. Maybe having someone part-time is better than to have no one at all. But the hurt is always there. I want to be loved so much, just for ME, not having to take whoever comes along just because he makes me feel good at that time. Someone told me once that I use my faults to avoid getting too close to someone for fear of getting hurt again and again. This protection, this shield I’ve built around me is hard to break now. I’m too afraid to let it down. I’m afraid to hurt. But I don’t want to be alone any longer.

I know I’m hiding in my own little utopia, my land of the hurt ones. I feel safe there. No one to hurt me, no one to judge me for what I look like. Will this pain ever go away? No. It’s there to protect us against the cruelness of this world. Listen to us world. We are beautiful, loving, giving people who are just tired of being hurt and being alone.

Written by Javier, Virginia, Kristina, Nicole and Chandra and contributed by Javier on December 26, 2000.

Shy Legs and Feet

I’m a 17 yr. old female who would like to share my story in hopes that it will help someone else who shares this strange form of shyness. I don’t think I’m alone on this, I just don’t think it is that common and have never seen anything written on it. I think though that there are other people out there who share this problem and just ignore it and live with it. I was very shy about people seeing my legs or feet. I can’t explain the feeling, it was like I thought everyone was looking at me and I felt naked. I would not go barefoot not even to answer the door if someone knocked. I would not wear shorts, skirts or even a swimsuit.

Well that all changed last summer. Unknowing to me my mom heard my friends talking while I was getting ready to go out. They wondered what was wrong with my legs that they never saw them. My mom heard them talk about how I was the only one in gym class last year that wore sweat pants. They went on to say how I skipped class when we were required to wear a leotard or or swimsuit. I guess that explained why I received a D in the class. A couple days later my mom came into my room. She asked me why I got that D in gym last year. I told her I just wasn’t that good at it. She asked me if I took part everyday? I lied and said yes. She then told me what she heard my friends say. I was so nervous I didn’t know what to say. I was caught in the lie and she new it.

She then made me remove my jeans and stand in front of the mirror. She told me to tell her what was wrong with my legs, and that she would forget it. I told her nothing was wrong with them it was just how I felt about people staring at my legs and feeling naked. She told me this summer I would get over this and I had no choice. She made me take out all my jeans and put them on the bed. She took the first pair and cut them off very short just below the back pockets and made me put them on. She had me cut off two more pair the same length. She told me I could keep one other pair to wear the first week. She took the rest away from me.

I had to wear the shorts around the house for 1 week to get used to the feel of wearing them. I was so embarrassed even around my own family. The following week the hardest part of getting over this began. She told me we were going shopping so I changed into my jeans and off we went. Not knowing it was to buy my clothes for the summer. She made me pick out shorts and skirts and even a swimsuit. She had me try all of them on and come out of the dressing room so she could see them. I just couldn’t come out though with the swimsuit on. I thought the shopping was over when she stopped at a shoe store. She picked out a pair of sandals that only had a few straps. She made me take off my shoes and socks and try them on and walk around. I felt like everyone was looking at my feet and laughing. As soon as we were in the car she made me put them on.

When we got home she told me the plan. I had to go barefoot at all times at home. During the day I had to wear the sandals anytime I went out. I had to wear shorts out in public for at least 2 hours a day. The following week it would be 4 hours, and so on increasing each week. The first 3 or 4 weeks were very tough, I took a lot of teasing from my friends but that soon faded. I soon realized how comfortable I was in the heat and that no one was looking at me.

About a month later I wore the swimsuit for the first time, it took me about 20 minutes to come out with it on. I took a deep breath and walked outside; my friends didn’t say anything; it was no big deal. By this time I was wearing only sandals at all times. I wore shorts every where I went day and night through the latter month of July and August. I would still get nervous when I first put them on but after I was out I didn’t even think about it. I want to Thank my mom for what she made me do. I feel a lot better about myself and I fit in with my friends now.

Today for the first time by my own choice I wore a skirt to school. As I look back I can’t believe I was that shy. I’m so glad I got over it.

Good Luck
And again Thanks Mom
Story contributed by Jill on November 11, 2000

Grohol Excellence in Mental Health Award

Psych Central“I believe you represent the very best of what the Internet has to offer in the area of mental health information or services. Thank you for the fine work you’ve given to the Internet community. I hope you’ll continue it in the years to come!”  18 June 2000 – John Grohol of Psych Central

Journey From Shyness to Learning

I am a male aged roughly in my mid 30’s. It was not until about two and a half years ago, however, that I received a startling wake up call, which made me begin to question and eventually re-evaluate almost everything I had thought, said, wanted and done in my life up to that point.

For the past two and a half years or so I have read, soul searched and consulted professional counselors, both psychological and spiritual, in an attempt to understand and reverse a life long pattern of dysfunctional self undermining behavior which I now realize had propelled me from one destructive set of circumstances to another, and which had by my mid 30’s, left me feeling empty, unwanted, worthless and alone.

Having come to terms with my past and my own dysfunctional ego, I have begun to rebuild my formerly shattered sense of self and now feel that it is finally time to tell this story. For whatever it is worth, I hope that others who have had similar experiences and feelings may be able to benefit in some way from what follows. My life story is in no way extraordinary. In fact it is quite ordinary, which I think is why it may strike a familiar ring with others whom may have traversed a similar common pathway.

On the surface, I do not think that anyone who knew me growing up would say that I had a particularly hard life. I grew up in a comfortable upper middle class family and like my siblings, was never the victim of any parental physical or verbal abuse. I never really wanted for anything and all my material needs were amply met. I went to expensive private schools and partook in fairly normal childhood weekend activities like riding skateboards with my friends. And I was not necessarily all that shy as a child.

Yet there was always something missing in my make-up, or something which seemed to set me apart from my peers and others generally. When I was very young, I don’t think these missing elements were very apparent, except for the obvious fact that I was always an overweight child. A condition which I predominantly grew out of by about age 16.

During my grammar school days, however, life was often difficult as I was an obvious target of school yard abuse, at least until I lost the majority of my weight. And as academia is the last thing on your mind when you’re contemplating your next escape or worrying about the next encounter with the resident bullies, I never quite had to the time to develop an interest in scholastic activities as a youngster.

I was still, however, able to maintain close friendships and even began to date seriously after about age 18. As it turned out, I was not bad looking underneath all that excess body fat. By the time I reached early adulthood, however, it was becoming fairly apparent (although not yet to myself) that I was not developing healthy relationships with other people.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, most of the friendships which I had developed in my adolescent years after finishing grammar school were not good ones. While my relationships with other people usually started out normally, they almost always eventually degenerated into relationships of co-dependence in which I was subconsciously afraid of rejection by those I considered my friends. A fact which I also now realize was the result of a life long sense of horrendously low self esteem, which by the time I was in my mid twenties, would develop into a chronic case of shyness and increased lack of self confidence.

One of the many adverse behavioral effects of low self esteem is that you almost always end up saying and doing things to either prop yourself up in the eyes of other people, or you end up patronizing and imitating others to the extent that you loose all sense of your own individuality, because you are always trying to emulate someone else or obtain their approval. At that end of the day, you end up behaving in ways that others rightly find offensive and eventually intolerable. And that’s just the people who know you.

People who don’t know you become immediately aware of your obvious lack of confidence which you carry around like a banner and which they interpret as being distrustful and stand offish. Another problem with low self esteem and shyness is the snowball effect it has on you, with each subsequent negative experience you encounter. Eventually, you become too afraid to do anything or go anywhere without feeling as though people can’t stand to be around you and that you are unwanted and unloved every where you go. For many, this becomes an extremely dark and viscous circle in which you continually return to the conclusion that people just don’t like you.

But deep inside you there is a spark of knowledge, something which tells you that there is an answer to this dilemma, and a way to move away from the darkness which you instinctively know you have created yourself and towards the light. When this spark of knowledge or instinct comes to you, it is a wake up call which tells you that there is a better way to live, a more peaceful and natural way. It could result from something that you read or something that someone says to you or does to you, or just a feeling you acquire. It might be all of these things.

About two and a half years ago I finally experienced such a wake up call. It was not a melodramatic experience and did not involve any visions or any particular spiritual awakenings. I simply walked away and quit a job which I had only commenced the day before. I quit because I felt so inadequate in not being able to deal with all the people there and because I had been unable to approach and speak with many of them. I also very quickly felt disliked and distrusted by my new workmates. After only the second day, I just could not stand it anymore, so I quit.

I then realized that my shyness and low self esteem which had impacted on my social and personnel life was now about to ruin my professional life as well. I then realized that I had to take a really good look at myself in the mirror. I knew I wasn’t crazy, but I also knew that I had to admit to myself that I was not relating to others in a normal healthy way, and that I had a serious problem on my hands.

Following this realization, I decided to seek some professional counseling from a highly recommended psychologist. She was a very nice lady who concluded that I was suffering from some form of social phobia, however, was not extremely concerned as I seemed to be able to relate to her without any great difficulty. To be honest, its not very scary talking to a shrink who you know is trying to help you and is not going to judge you.

Anyway, we talked a lot about my family life and she taught me some basic relaxation exercises. After about half a dozen sessions, however, I had to stop seeing her as I found another job in another town and had to move. I continued to practice my relaxation exercises, however, little changed for me, and I found subsequent social encounters as difficult as ever.

Nevertheless, something told me that there must be a way to tackle this problem. It was then that I started browsing through the new age section of the local bookshops where I lived and began perusing the “self-help” books. I was totally unfamiliar with any new age philosophy or spiritual philosophy and although curious about after life theories, I had basically considered myself to be an atheist.

I was totally unprepared for the enlightening lessons I was to experience and the intelligent gentle and worldly wisdom of these wonderful authors whom seemed to understand more about people and the human condition than any text book psychologist. Over the next several months I digested about half a dozen books on spiritual philosophy which for me became the catalyst for an entirely new and different perspective on life, culminating in a completely new vision of myself and a new perspective of the world and other people around me.

Apart from general spiritual theory, of the many things I have learned which have inspired me to change my burdensome negative thinking to positive, I think the most significant has been learning about the difference between the personality or ego with all its opinions, beliefs, prejudices and fears, which is programmed into us as we grow up, and other higher levels of awareness which exist within our consciousness, but which are not judgmental or fearful, and are not adversely affected by the life experiences of growing up.

Following on from this comes an understanding of how the human mind actually works, and the differences between those various levels of conscious awareness, and how it is possible for all of us to manipulate our own level of conscious awareness, and in doing so, to manipulate our own emotional state. Ordinarily, we think of ourselves as being our thoughts, our emotional states and our personalities. But we are not. In reality, your thoughts and even your personality are merely tools which can be manipulated by you from higher levels of awareness to create the kind of emotional state that you require in order to achieve your goals.

As it turns out, we humans have an amazing ability to control our own minds through manipulating our own level of conscious awareness. In its simplest most practical terms, this merely means learning how to look to the positive side of life when your natural tendency has always been to look at the negative. Unfortunately, however, many of us allow our minds to control us and we tend to dwell on the negative.

Negative thinking and feelings we have about ourselves can become naturally reinforced within us by our minds which ordinarily operate in similar fashion to a tape recorder, continually playing back negative past experiences to us which we then use to evaluate present and future circumstances. For example, when you anticipate having to meet a new person, your mind tells you that you have had negative experiences meeting new people in the past, therefore the correct response to this scenario is fear and avoidance. So if you listen to what your mind dishes up to you, you’re reaction to meeting the new person or people is a foregone conclusion, and you’re piped at the post before you even get out the gate.

The good news, however, is that all these negative thoughts and feelings we have about ourselves can be challenged. I finally realized that my shyness and lack of self confidence emanated from my sense of low self esteem which I now realize I have carried around all my life. That in turn emanated from my unwillingness to attribute any sense of value to myself as a person. And that unwillingness to value or to love myself was a choice that I made a long time ago, probably when I was too young to remember making it. And that unwillingness to love myself meant that I was unwilling to be loved.

It is true that there might be many reasons why I decided not to attribute any value to myself or to not love myself. It might be easy to blame family, the school system or my peers, but at the end of the day, it was still a choice I made. My choice was to not value or love myself and to believe that I was unworthy of being valued or loved. And if you are unwilling to be loved, then you cannot receive love. After all, if you think about it, how can you receive something which you are unwilling to receive. Its like someone trying to leave a package at your front door. If you are not willing to open the door and receive the package, it just sits there while you go without. And if you are unwilling to receive love, then others obviously cannot give it to you, as you cannot receive what you are not willing to take.

This scenario then continues to play out in every facet of your life. And I think it continues to play out until you finally “get it.” What you have to “get” is that you can’t receive love from anybody else, until you are willing to give it to yourself and are willing to receive it from yourself. That’s why Whitney Houston says that learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all, and is also why nobody else can love you until you learn to love yourself.

The further good news is that, just as deciding to not love yourself was a choice that you made and a behavior that you learned and which your mind reinforced for you, deciding to positively love yourself is also a choice you can make and a behavior which you can learn, and which you can train your mind to reinforce for you. And when you make that conscious choice to love and value yourself, and to discontinue your prior downward spiral, you enter into a higher level of conscious awareness. It is a level of awareness in which you consciously realize, perhaps for the first time in your life, that you have the power to control of your thoughts and feelings. You begin to realize that you have the power to manipulate and control your own psychological environment and create your own experience.

You also realize that this is what you have been doing all along, its just that you have been focusing on the negative and creating negative experiences as a result. Once you realize that you have this power to create, you can then begin to create positive thoughts and experiences, and you begin a journey which you will find much more rewarding than the one you have been on. I’m not trying to tell you that its easy or quick. And like learning any new skill, it takes persistence and practice. But it is a wonderful experience to realize that you are the creator of your own destiny, and that in truth, you have been all along.

But now its time to use your power of creative thought to begin creating positive experiences. And it begins by telling your mind, that you are willing to be loved, that you are willing to love and to be loved, by yourself as well as others. All the negative crud you have been subjecting yourself to all these years is a sham. It is untrue and unnatural. The truth about you is that you are a wonderful and powerful living entity and that you have the power to create, and that it is time to start using that power positively.

When you finally come to this realization, it is the beginning of a life long journey of learning and progressing to higher levels of conscious awareness. I still have my occasional downward spirals if I allow my mind to re-hash negative crud from the past. But those occasions are much fewer than in days gone by, and I find I can recover very quickly now. I begin by remembering how lucky I am in so many ways, and then I remember my power and use it to create my own positive reality. So learn to start being the painter of your own canvass and the creator of your own positive reality. It begins with telling your mind that you are willing to love yourself, and continually reinforcing that feeling. Say it to yourself fifty times every hour if you have to.

Once you have practiced this for a while and have become proficient at it, just wait and see how you are able to walk down the street holding your head higher than you normally would. The reactions you get from people compared to what you are accustomed to are amazing. But you know that its really emanating from within you. You know that those positive reactions you start getting from other people are sourced from within yourself. And if you sense that someone doesn’t like you, then that’s ok, because you’re not looking for their approval anymore.

Chances are that those people are dealing with their own life issues as well, and they may not be as advanced in their ability to offer goodwill to others as you are. And by the way, not everyone is going to love you. But that’s ok too, because the love you now have for yourself is enough. Don’t harbor any resentment towards them. Simply wish those people well and continue on your journey. You are in control, you are the creator of your own experience. That is the gift which the creator has given to each of us.

If you are just starting out along this journey of discovery, I recommendInfinite Self 33 Steps to Reclaiming Your Inner Power by Stuart Wilde andThe Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav. Both books contain theory on how the mind functions from a spiritual perspective and provide amazing psychological insights to which people who suffer from shyness can relate.The Power Is Within You by Louise Hay is also an excellent read. Another excellent book on how to discipline and control your own mind isDiscovering Your Soul’s Purpose by Mark Thurston.

In addition, both Journey of Souls by Dr. Michael Newton and Many Lives Many Masters by Dr. Brian Weiss contain amazing case studies of life between life experiences which demonstrate the type of theory taught in the abovementioned works. However, I would recommend reading some of the theory before reading the case studies. This makes the case studies easier to relate to and more interesting to read.

Story Contributed by Luke on October 11, 1999.

From Luke: I have been reading your Shy and Free web site and am also extremely curious about this general condition (shyness), and agree that conscious awareness and acceptance, rather than resistance is the key to working through these issues.

As challenging and burdensome as it is living with a shy personality, it has occurred to me that there can be some advantages to all this. I agree with you that self-consciousness leads to consciousness. Through dealing with the problems of low self esteem and reading reasonably widely, I have been able to start developing quite an understanding of the nature of conscious awareness and what I call “mind mechanics” or how the mind works. I have also come to understand the differences between the waking conscious state that we call personality (with all its opinions, beliefs, fears and insecurities etc.) and other states of consciousness, including what is usually called soul.

As I mentioned before, I have traditionally been an atheist, however, no longer feel this is the case and feel that life after death or spiritual theory holds the key to understanding why we act the way we do in life. I have become resigned to the fact however, that I will have to rely on my intuitive senses to discover these ultimate truths, and don’t hold out a lot of hope for any intellectual confirmation of life everlasting or the purpose of being here in the living state. But something tells me that it has to do with achieving true self awareness, beyond the kind of human personality awareness that is programmed into us as we grow up. And somehow, just becoming consciously aware of the difference is a great help, even without having intellectual knowledge of the details. So who knows, maybe the soul chooses to experience a lifetime or series of lifetimes dealing with low self esteem, principally as a learning tool for coming to know the true nature and value of itself. Or maybe such a life experience is like a field exercise in learning about shaping and creating your own reality.

I think we really do create our own experiences. And having lived with low self-esteem and shyness has finally taught me this. And perhaps it is only by becoming consciously aware of this fact that the power to shape self-awareness and one’s own reality actually manifests… that seems to make some sense..

Finding My Tribe, and Myself

What a revelation to find my tribe! I know the great benefit of sharing our stories publicly. If a young person reads this story and can identify with the feelings, my sincere hope is that they can then choose to follow the way and process suggested on this site, rather than the alternative choice that I made in ignorance as a teenager. The puzzle is starting to come together now that I’ve found this site and understood more about shyness – particularly the “born with” kind.

I kept searching for a “root cause” of my extreme shyness, but the anecdotes went way back to early baby years – crying whenever visitors arrived or being taken to a new place. At 4 years old, being taken to nursery school and then feeling so uncomfortable with the sudden onslaught of social interaction that I cried at the door until the teacher had to drive me home because I was starting to upset the other children. Although we had just moved into a new home that day, I gave her directions to my parents front door, much to their amazement – the keen observer within me was already alive and well. Needless to say, many such incidents prompted my mother to try everything to get rid of this shyness as I was growing up – sending me to drama classes, trying to get me to interact with other children. Instead, I chose to focus on one or two friends and refused to become involved any further.

My mother finally resorted to claiming that I was “just like my father” and that shyness is nothing more than selfishness! I vividly remember this hurting me deeply, knowing how intensely I cared about people and the world, but simply being overwhelmed by the depth of my feelings. I didn’t know how to express any of this, and so instead retreated even further into pained silence. As I grew up, my Mother started to believe that I was withdrawing from her as some form of punishment, and would go through my personal stuff in an effort to try and get to know and understand me. This made me become even more secretive and afraid of feeling the embarrassment of her reading the stuff I wrote or even see the drawings that I constantly doodled! And so the vicious circle continued. My pain became her pain, which pained me further.

I so desperately wanted to be “normal” and couldn’t fathom why I felt so estranged all the time. None of this was helped by the fact that I read vociferously, and had started including Philosophy (from my parents bookshelves) in my book diet by the time I was only around 9 years old. Because I absorbed so much of this stuff, I was yet further estranged from my peers who were busy with sports and parties and such outgoing and light-hearted childhood pursuits. I performed well at school, and teachers perceived my shyness to be “good behavior”. Little did they know the dread I felt at free/break times when spontaneous play would erupt around me without my knowing how to participate.

By the time I reached high school, the prison of my shyness had become almost unbearable. Until I discovered alcohol at the age of 14. I thought that I had found the magic elixir to switch off my mind and allow me to be normal at last. In the beginning, this seemed to be the right medication…I could participate socially for the first time. Let me be quick to say that this route led to years of sheer hell as it evolved into alcoholism. Because I was using alcohol to avoid the issue, I didn’t have a chance to hear my inner guidance. And not only that, the escapism I sought in alcohol led me to miss the vital, learning experiences of growing up. If any of you are thinking of trying alcohol as a means to cope with your shyness, let me share that my experience is that if you are shy, you will quickly become dependent on alcohol because it seems to work so well. Sadly, it took me 10 years to discover the lie of this solution. In those years, I stopped drawing and expressing myself artistically – thus almost missing a chance to become the person I was meant to be. Instead of focusing on the positive, sensitive qualities I had and learning how to cope with it, I almost destroyed the exquisite sensitivity with the mind and sense-numbing qualities of alcohol.

Today, I no longer have the need to use substances of any kind, and have not done so for almost 3 years now, thanks to the rediscovery of the real Spirit of the universe, not the false one I was trying to pour into me! There is great joy in rediscovering the sensitivity within me after years of living without it. Yes, in the beginning, it was difficult to cope with the extreme shyness that returned with the sensitivity. But here is a wonderful secret. The process that is suggested on this site really does work, if you work it. I took the plunge and started playing Netball with a group of Mothers at a school – even though I’m 29 now and without children. The benefits of bodywork are unmistakable for me. I want to dance – freely and unselfconsciously – something that my shyness used to inhibit. And so I have started with 10 minutes each morning alone at home before I go to work.

With practice, I’ll be able to dance with a small group of friends, and then maybe even out at a social event – what a gift for someone like me to discover! I have also started singing out loud in my car on the way to work in the mornings…getting used to freeing my voice. I do love people, animals, and nature… especially trees…now I have a chance to really be a part of it all. Earth can be Heaven for people like us, if we learn how to see our sensitivity and shyness as a gift to enjoy Heaven on Earth and as something important to share with others!

Thank you for bringing Shy and Free to the world – appreciated beyond words.

June 9, 1999


Mental Health Net Award

Mental Health Net“A site dedicated to transforming shyness into wholeness and happiness. A positive site showing how shyness can be transformed — written by someone who has transformed their own shyness. Contains original content and links to other useful Web resources. Down-to-earth material may be of help to people looking for suggestions and ways of dealing with their shyness. Easy-to-use and nicely designed.”
http://www.shyandfree.com/ – 26 Jan 1999 – JMG

Publicly declare what you truly want

Oil painting by Najat 1995

This picture was painted and given to me by my friend Najat. The art hung in my home for many years. To me it is both beautiful and sad. I was attracted to the painting because it reminded me of myself, the guy who fantasized about women he longed for without knowing what he truly wanted.

I was always attracted to someone I could not have, either because they were in love with someone else or because they did not have the same feelings for me.

I could predict what my dates would say and knew that at some point in the evening they would speak of someone they were still in love with – letting me know I did not stand a chance. On one occasion the girl could not wait to introduce me to her boyfriend who had been away for the summer as to her we were just buddies.

It always was that way, me falling for someone and them not having the same feelings for me.

I can’t explain why, only how things finally changed. I attended a workshop held by a couple who gave relationship advice based on esoteric knowledge which proved to be interesting, mysterious, and full of truth – the kind one can experience for themselves.

One of the exercise was to write down all the qualities you wanted in a partner. This lead to a list headed by wanting mutual attraction and love. The list also contained compassion, empathy, passion, intelligence, beauty, youth and many qualities I recognized as lacking in my previous attempts at forming meaningful relationships. My list contained ten or more qualities I wanted in a partner.

Next there was a ceremony where we read our list in front of the group, to publicly declare what it was we wanted in a relationship.

While I do not pretend to know how the universe works, I can only tell you that a year or so later I met someone, unconnected to anyone in the group, with every one of the qualities I had written. I met her in a small town in another country on a business trip.  We spoke casually, met for coffee and on my next trip got to know each other even more. She is my true love, the one I had always dreamed of but perhaps not as clearly as was needed. Publicly declaring what I truly wanted made my dreams come true.

Start with being clear on what you want. When the time is right for you, find a positive and supportive group and publicly declare what it is that you truly want. Next be open to receiving what you have clearly asked of the universe.

From “Shai” to Shining

For whatever reason, I didn’t speak intelligibly until I was nearly three years old. And when I did begin to speak, getting a full sentence out of me was like pulling teeth. I was so painfully shy that one of my relatives nicknamed me “Shy” and it stuck – for twelve years!! My real name was ignored. I was referred to as Shy, introduced as “Shy” and on family Christmas cards, where my mother signed the family’s names, she’d sign my name as –  “Shai” It was as if the fancy spelling might obliterate the meaning. It didn’t. But it did cause some people to wonder whether I was adopted from China.  All I can remember about that period of my life is the feeling of wanting to disappear the moment anyone turned their attention towards me.  Yes, I was shy but the nickname didn’t help. It served to suffocate me and trap me in that role. I wanted out but wasn’t sure how to do it and didn’t know if I’d be accepted by my family if I did change. In my second year of high school, I heard about auditions for a play at the boy’s school next door. Without telling anyone, I went to the audition and got a lead role!

I’ve been a professional actress for over 20 years and a speaker and public speaking coach for more than 10. I’ve learned to really appreciate my shyness. It gave me tons of information. I learned so much about communication while I watched people around me. There was no expectation for me to speak so I got to observe what worked and didn’t work in communication. People who meet me now can not believe I was ever shy. I don’t think I’m any less shy now. I just learned to compensate and now… I gain so much from helping other people learn the skills to “compensate” in a world where shyness is not effective.


March 15, 2010


The world needs to hear this!

Thank you for a very informative site. I hope you don’t mind if I use your first line: “It is wise to understand something before transforming it.” This phrase speaks volumes. The world needs to hear this. (Sorry if I seem a bit effusive but…I am.) Thanks again for the info.

NYC 11/7/98

A Medical Doctor’s Insight into Shyness – the Bampa Notes

The following quotes are from notes left by Clark W. Heath, MD. (known as Bampa) a medical doctor who was shy himself and was “interested in people all his life – interested in their thoughts, their feelings, their career choices, their growth and development, their interaction with other people, their total life adjustment. He had great personal interest in shyness because he himself was shy and had vivid memories of his own shy agonies as a young person. His notes on shyness, therefore, include an autobiographical account of his own struggles with being shy, an account which reveals much about himself as a sensitive and insightful person as well as about his own family heritage.”

Bampa writes “Having had to struggle painfully with shyness myself, I have felt a sympathy with others who are shy, I am a physician, and I have observed in others, and I have wondered if perhaps I could help people to conquer their shyness or at least to live with it. Since I am over 50 years of age, my shyness is no longer the crucial thing it was, albeit still bothersome. I have learned that what was true in my case is repeated over and over in youngsters today.  Perhaps my experience will help shy people to realize they are not unique.”

The Bampa Notes contain valuable insight into shyness because they come from a physician who was shy, someone who studied others who were shy, and someone who created a happy and fulfilling life. I believe shyness is a complex subject and that the human mind, spirit and personality are understood by science and psychology in only a very limited way.

Someone who is shy themselves can have the deep level of understanding, insight, intuition, compassion, and credibility required to really understand the truth behind shyness.  Bampa’s writing reminds me of the writing of Elaine Aron PH.D., a shy/sensitive psychotherapist who wrote “The Highly Sensitive Person” in 1996 which is causing the psychology community to admit decades of misunderstanding shyness.

Summary Quotes

“Shyness… is present in every “normal” person…”

“… is shy because he really is a social person …”

“Quietness and shyness were somewhat virtues and not necessarily something to counteract or battle against.”

“As I search for crucial errors my parents may have made, there is only one possible thing that stands out; that they allowed me to use bashfulness as a tool to get my way.”


Bampa writes “Shyness can be an extreme handicap, just as much so in rare instances as the affliction of deafness, blindness, or severe lameness.  Shyness, however, is present in every “normal” person, in some degree and in certain circumstances. If one lived alone on a desert island, with no dangers or threats, he could not be shy, for there would be nothing to be shy about. But no one lives in this way (if he did he would be extremely unhappy). We live socially, with family, friends and acquaintances and in communities of groups of people.  In the main, I believe one is shy because he is self-conscious of the people about him; he is afraid of something – usually of something he is unfamiliar with.  He wants affection, friends and recognition, and he fears the opposite; rejection, enemies and ridicule – threats to his happiness. Having been rejected or ridiculed at times (who hasn’t been?), he behaves in a shy way.”

“But being shy is more complicated than this.  What I would like to emphasize is that the shy person is shy because he really is a social person; he likes people and is sensitive to them.  He is lonely without a social life, and yet the threats of social life interfere with his obtaining the very happiness that he seeks.”

“As I search for crucial errors my parents may have made, there is only one possible thing that stands out; that they allowed me to use bashfulness as a tool to get my way. Quietness and shyness were somewhat virtues and not necessarily something to counteract or battle against.”

Notes on Gandhi’s Autobiography

Bampa’s notes on Gandhi’s Autobiography: “The Story of My Experiments with Truth,” by M. K. Gandhi, Trans. by M. Desai Public Affairs Press, Washington DC, 1948. Page 81, Chapter XVIII Shyness My Shield: All his life Gandhi was shy of speaking in public.  Had things to say in committee meetings but could not bring himself to speak.  Preferred to write out thoughts in advance. (Cites Addison’s first speech in Parliament “I conceive” three times; failure of Gandhi to make a humorous speech.)  Could not entertain guests by keeping idle conversation going. Page 84.

“I must say that, beyond Occasionally exposing me to laughter, my constitutional shyness has been no disadvantage whatever. — Its greater benefit has been that it has taught me the economy of words. — A thoughtless word hardly ever escapes my tongue or pen. — Proneness to exaggerate, to suppress or modify the truth, wittingly or unwittingly, is a natural weakness of man, and silence is necessary in order to surmount it. — My shyness has been in reality my shield and buckler.  It has allowed me to grow.  It has helped me in my discernment of truth.”


The notes cited here are courtesy of Andrew S. Heath and were quoted in August of 1998.