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Hi! I hope you can help me. I'm shy! I'm shy of doing any and every thing. I can overcome it a little at work, but I've never asked a girl out. Sometimes I think I will never be able to do it. I worry that I'm ugly or repulsive or something. Although I don't think it's that so much really, it's just that I'm too scared to...I don't have any confidence. Please help me. It's really miserable being like this and I feel like I need someone to help me sort out my complications. Thanks.

Ah...very frequently asked question. Being too fucking scared to ask someone of the opposite sex out, or approach one, or what have you, is one of the most common excruciating dilemmas of life. Even people who run around blithely flirting with every joker they meet often run into a sudden heart-stopping Blast of Fear when it comes to doing something dreadful like placing themselves in Close Proximity to Someone They Are Actually Really Attracted To. This is just fucking natural. It's also a real bitch.

And since this problem has many components and is, as you brilliantly pointed out, complicated, let's just tackle the components one by one until they are sick of fighting you and just decide to give up and let you meet some women.

So let's start listing some components in random fucking order for no apparent reason until we hit on something potentially useful.

Component #1: Chemicals!

Ah yes, our old friend chemicals. We often start out addressing any problem by looking at the chemicals. For two reasons - one, they are exciting. Two, they can really fuck with you.

So what your body is doing is basically fucking with you whenever you get around Other People. It is opening the dial on fear and cranking that valve wide until you are just basically flooded and awash in highly alert and agitated chemicals who are full of worry and have no fucking idea what to do. So they mill around in a state of panic and essentially prevent you from doing anything in many social situations except perhaps freezing up in an uncomfortable and embarrassing manner.

So let's take a look at why they do this and see if we can get them to fucking quit it.

Reason #1: Your body is naturally and logically afraid of Other People. Shyness, that scourge of humanity, is nothing more than Fear of Other People, and everyone in their right mind experiences it. Other People are fucking scary! They are the most dangerous creatures you will ever encounter, although I don't recommend seeking out a rabid grizzly bear to test this theory, and yet Other People are absolutely fucking necessary to your health. As you are discovering by means of being so miserable when you can't interact with them comfortably. Regardless, the human body's first instinctive reaction when it encounters Another Person who is paying attention to them, particularly one not known to it, or whose intentions are not clear, is to widen its sensory input systems via the mechanism of fear, so that it can more alertly determine whether the Other Person represents a danger or not.

This is why people say 'Good morning!' to each other and 'hello!'. Good morning and hello do not mean good morning or hello. They mean - 'I am encountering you and actively aware of your presence and yet I am not currently contemplating attacking you or otherwise harming your physical person - even though, as Another Person, I could easily do that. But I'm not going to right now, I come in peace.' These kinds of pleasantries are necessary Friendliness Indicators. 'Hi, I'm a friendly Other Person, I'm not an enemy. I will not attack you. Please do not attack me either. Thanks.'

People who have known and worked with each other for five fucking years will very often still take the time and trouble to go through a Greeting Ritual each time they initially encounter each other. Hell, people who have been married for more years than that will often say hello or something when they encounter each other in the kitchen during the morning. Look at this phenomenon closely for a second. Human interaction is rife with greetings. From the symbolism of the cowboy & western movies where the Indian chief held up a hand and said 'How' to simultaneously indicate awareness, friendliness, and peace to whatever idiot white guy he had the misfortune to be encountering, to the way people start telephone calls with hello, to the pleasantries and introductions that start speeches and meetings, to the way someone who stops by your cube at work will often at the very least say 'hey' before launching into whatever work-related matter they're going to torture you with, to the elaborate greeting rituals of International Diplomacy, this shit is everywhere. And it's there for a reason. The human response to encountering Another Person is fear and Greetings provide that necessary brief buffer of time that allows the fear to subside and for all concerned to reassure themselves that they are not currently in a dangerous situation. It gives us all that little bit of necessary time to adjust to each other's presence. To dispense with a greeting implies extreme familiarity and comfort with the person you're not greeting. It means that your chemicals and their chemicals are so familiar with each other that the fear response is no longer triggered.

Now this may not seem like it has anything to do with you. But it does. Shy people listen up. What is happening to you is that your natural fear chemicals are not subsiding. This is not the end of the world. It is not even that strange. If every single person on the planet, all 6 billion of them, still need a few seconds or minutes worth of greeting to calm their natural fucking alarm at encountering Another Person, almost every single fucking time they encounter one, even after decades of living amongst them, it is not all that weird that occasionally the chemicals are going to forget to subside. It may seem weird to you, or excruciating, but that's because you never actually looked at the process that makes them subside. You never even fucking thought about Greetings in a global context! You never even really realized there was a process. That's what you pay me to do. To realize these things while you are busy thinking you are shy and Other People aren't.

Okay, so now we are going to implement Practical Exercise #1. To help your chemicals learn the process.

Practical Exercise #1: Practice Greetings. Shy people often have a terrible fucking time with Greetings. It is their least favorite part of any encounter. Those first few awkward terrible godawful painful fucking first moments. Sometimes they are just fine once that part is over and sufficient Friendliness has been established to allow them to speak and move normally again without hyperventilating, but those first horrific moments of pure fear are often a strong deterrent to anyone in a Shyness Situation. It is that goddamn awful fear that convinces many a love-struck or even just horny person to turn around and head home from the bar alone or paste their back against a wall at a party, or even just Avoid That Beautiful Girl At All Costs. It's enough to make a lonely person want to cry. After they have gone home alone.

So we are going to toughen you up by making your fear chemicals confront Greetings so that they will get to know how they work and how to make themselves subside. Here's your assignment and yes you are allowed to whine about it. Say hello to people you encounter.

Now you have a job or a business of some sort so we are going to start there. Admittedly, this is a tough assignment, so we are going to walk you through it. We are going to start nice and easy. If you encounter Other People on the job, there's a decent chance that some of them will accidentally say hello to you or engage in some other sort of Greeting Ritual out of sheer habit. What you are going to do is say hello back.

Now you may think to yourself - 'That's too easy! That's not going to help me get a girl.' Particularly if you already say hello back to people and are only shy around certain girls or what have you. It's not too easy and it will help you. Because while doing this we are going to pay attention to the 2 components of Greetings - Awareness and Friendliness. It's the Awareness one that fucking kills you. You hate that one. And therefore never get properly rolling with the Friendliness one. It's perfectly fucking natural to be intimidated by the Awareness component and to attempt to avoid it so that when you do talk to a girl you look down and around and sideways and every fucking where but in her eyes. Awareness is chemically powerful and that's why you avoid it. And that's why we're going to practice it.

So when the person at work says hello to you, you are going to pause for a second to look directly at them and be aware of them. You are going to acknowledge their chemical presence and then you are going to say hello back. You are going to stay aware and engaged in the moment until your chemicals are forced to acknowledge to themselves that the Other Person they are encountering is friendly or at least neutral and not posing a threat. We are teaching your chemicals how to accurately assess a situation and not flee by forcing them to hang in there until they get the information they need. You are not going to relax your awareness until you can feel your body respond to the Other Person's complete lack of interest in anything other than getting their morning coffee. You are going to stay with the moment until your chemicals subside from sheer lack of interest in what is obviously not only not a threatening situation but not even a vaguely important one.

Now there are many different levels of shyness, so we'll address how this plays out at various levels. If you are normally not all that shy, then you are going to use this exercise to practice looking someone in the eye and responding to them on purpose. You respond often anyway, but when there's a certain kind of attractive person or intimidating circumstance, you forget because you don't ordinarily do it on purpose. So you're just going to practice on people you don't really care about - like your co-workers. You may be surprised actually at how really being aware of someone else, dropping your internal monologue and just acknowledging them for a second can really energize a chemical encounter. You are going to futz around with this, getting used to what it does to your chemicals and energy levels and then you are going to imagine doing this when someone you really want to go out with says hello to you. You are just going to rehearse and rehearse this whole business of saying hello back while really looking at them and being aware of them. Even just thinking about this will make your body nervous, but take it through the whole cycle, all the way to where it calms down. Because it will. Our bodies are very interested in Other People's Chemicals and once they have broken through the fear to where they can actually pick up on them, they'll drop everything else in wide-eyed fascination. Understand that the apparent fact that nobody you really want to go out with is ever going to say hello to you in a million years is completely beside the point. For 2 reasons - one, once we get you to where you are actually able to say hello first, there's a decent chance they'll say something back and you'll need to be prepared to respond. And 2, just being aware of people often fucks with them chemically, making it all the more terrifyingly likely that perhaps accidentally they will say something to you first! Ay! We need to be prepared for that now!

If you are much more shy, then this business of being aware and saying hello back is going to be a little more difficult for you perhaps. Because shy people often avoid being aware in even the most minor of social situations. They absolutely fucking hate it. They look down when someone says hello, speak very softly, mumble, squirm, hyperventilate, half-ignore, and do every fucking thing possible to pretend they are not actually encountering Another Person who is acknowledging them. Particularly someone not known to them or who they feel uncomfortable around or what you have you. They really dislike the whole process, particularly Greetings, and just wish the whole damn thing would go away. And I am certainly not here to condemn that dislike. It's perfectly sensible. It's also fucking killing you.

So we are going to practice looking up and straight at the person greeting you. Directly at them and saying hello as a solid and definite indicator of awareness and acknowledgement.

All right, it sounds easy, but sometimes habit or circumstances make it not the least bit easy. So we are going to break this down a little bit and explain what happens and where things go awry for the Recurringly Shy. So...the part the shy person often dislikes about being aware is not that so much that they are aware of the Other Person but that horrifyingly The Other Person might be aware of them! Yikes! Shy people often experience this as self-consciousness. They have a dreadful overwhelming powerful sense that it is completely fucking dangerous for Other People to be aware of them because they might attack! And they reason that it will be difficult for anyone to attack them if they are not really aware that they're there. So they try avoid being noticed and so on. They dislike the sensation of attention because it seems absurdly and unrewardingly fucking dangerous.

And so they avoid eye contact and so on. There are a couple of components to this. Regarding eye contact, it's not all that uncommon among predators and territorial animals to react to eye contact and acknowledgement as a threat to territory, a challenge, or an invitation to battle over resources. Human beings are both predatory (of other humans) and territorial. They're big, skinny (well not in developed countries any more, make that big, obese) unfurry mammals. So the desire to avoid eye contact is instinctive. What the shy person is attempting to do, usually unconsciously, is to signal that they are not a threat, using awkward body language, lack of eye contact, lowered voice, and so on to indicate that they could not possibly mount an attack.

People often do this when they feel at a disadvantage in the social situation. Maybe they have an accent or are from a foreign country, maybe they have a lisp or a limp, or think they are ugly, or not as smart, or unfamiliar with the situation. They feel they might not be able to hold their own in the potential battle all of us fear when encountering others, unrealistically or not. So they try to signal that they don't want battle by trying to communicate lack of challenge nonverbally.

These kinds of instinctive behaviors can be triggered by Overactive Chemicals, Dire Previous Experiences, or a combination of both. Sometimes a person has had plenty of experiences where Other People who were paying attention to them took the opportunity to yell or criticize or pounce or spew bad energy or just generally scare the shit out of them. This can happen fairly easily during childhood when Adults are Larger and sometimes even Louder and their big insensitive nervous systems which are used to the world overwhelm your relatively inexperienced and cautious nervous system. Pouncing parents, mean siblings, bullying schoolmates, abrasive teachers, you name it, the world is full of potential attackers. And so some people come to associate being paid attention to with bad fucking shit. They don't care for it. And some people's nervous systems are just naturally more aware to begin with. Shy people often hate awareness because they have too much of it. Other People with less awareness blunder around blindly being friendly and unshy all the fucking time because they basically can't detect chemicals even when they are being blasted with them like a firehose.

So you, Mr. Shy Person, may not particularly like having Other People being aware of you, particularly during the dangerous Greeting Phase. And if you don't, your mind may jump into the fray, coming up with all sorts of reasons why it's dangerous, why you're defective (hence the thought that you're ugly), why it's not a good idea for anyone to be aware of you because they'll hate you and pounce. This line of reasoning can seem quite convincing at the time. And then your mind will realize later - Fuck! This line of reasoning is having us avoid all human contact. Shit! That's no good. We'll die, or at the very least, never get laid! And then it will turn to you and shout 'why aren't you more brave?! why don't you go out there and stop being shy you wussy pussy motherfucker! Get out there and score some chicks!' The mind is very fond of being contradictory and illogical when it's gotten itself into a pickle. You will experience this if you haven't already.

So...we are now going to come to your rescue and short-circuit all that bullshit. As you have realized being ugly or what the fuck have you doesn't really have anything to do with it. What you need to do is avoid that trap by taking advantage of Step #2 of the Greeting Process. Establishing Friendliness.

You are going to entirely skip worrying about the Other Person's awareness of you, by firmly Establishing Friendliness with your responsive hello. Here's how you're going to do this. You are going to say to yourself a million billion times 'I am Friendly.' You are going to say this until you are exhausted. You are going to repeat it to yourself like a mantra, you are going to treat it like a rosary and act as if it will bring you closer to God. Because it will.

Everything in your brain has to compete for processing space. Right now, fear is winning. Habits are winning. Deep-rooted autonomic responses to stress are winning. We are going to shove them out by having you process something else. The Friendliness Mantra. When you go into work, you are going to repeat this phrase to yourself until you are sick of it.

Then, when someone says hello, you are going to accidentally leap into action by responding in a friendly manner because your brain is going to have nothing else to work with, you have stuffed it so full of this helpful and necessary crap. Chronically shy people often don't realize the incredible fucking magic of the Friendliness Gesture and how desperately and pathetically all those unshy people in the world depend on it to navigate through life with a little bit of safety. You need to help them out! They are counting on you! Really!

So okay, someone says Hi and you respond automatically with a Friendly Demeanor because you have fucked yourself up so badly with the Friendliness Mantra that you can't do anything else and then magically you will experience a tiny moment of amazement at how friendly you sound and you will find yourself accidentally looking at the Other Person full on in a friendly manner. And then you will experience awareness and your chemicals will calm down. That simple.

All you have done is sidestepped the same danger you were afraid of in the first place with an alternate method of making yourself safe. You have established your non-threatening identity in a different way. You don't have to get in a long conversation as a result of this. 'Hello' will do. All you have to do is let your body experience how the damn process works.

Now for you advanced students chafing at the bit because this is baby need to realize you are going to use this same technique when you ask a girl out, attend a Dreadful Social Mixer, some godawful Networking Event, Give a Speech, Speak Out in a Group, or whatever advanced social horror it is you're afraid of. You are going to go through the steps of Awareness and Establishing Friendliness by Mastering the Greeting Process.

Understand that the chemicals are not necessarily going to subside until after the Greeting Process has taken place. Your body may still be all hyped up. It's supposed to be. But because you are repeating the goddamn Friendliness Mantra like a nervous maniac it is not going to be able to get into your mind where it can convince you to freeze up or make an awful fucking fool of yourself. Your mind is going to be taken up with the Friendliness Mantra and it is going to operate on autopilot enacting various Friendliness Gestures until you have established that situation is not dangerous.

Honest to fucking God you are going to be going around that Goddamn Networking Event being friendly to people you don't know and are very intimidated by as if you were a goddamn fucking pro and really were a friendly person which maybe you would be if you didn't fucking freeze all the time.

Okay, now Shyness Students, have you got it? 'I am Friendly' a million billion times. Remember beginners to practice this first in familiar situations where people are already talking to you. Soothe yourself by remembering that you don't have to talk a lot and display your embarrassing accent or whatever, you are simply learning to feel friendly. A simple greeting will do. If people are not used to you responding in a direct and engaging manner and start saying things like 'you seem perky today' or whatever, don't worry about it. It's okay.

You are Friendly!

Okay, now it's on to Step 2 where you will actually initiate conversations.





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