How does Fascinating Womanhood apply to a shy woman and what she can do about it? Is shyness inherently feminine? Does it work to her benefit or not? We recently did a video on this, and I’m going to elaborate a bit more here.
Growing up, I was always too shy to raise my hand in class (asking questions would have helped me so much when I was drowning in math!) or to speak to strangers. It was hard to stick up for myself when a teacher bullied me, and my shyness kept me from trying out for the cheerleading team even when a friend said she could get me in. I’d shake with nervousness having to make phone calls to businesses, even just to ask them how long they’d be open. Feeling sorry for me, my mother would just call them to help me out. Shyness can be crippling, keeping you from accomplishing the things you want to do in life. But take it from a naturally shy person: there are ways to bypass or even overcome it, and to turn it from a weakness into a strength.
I’m going to recap for you the 5 tips from our video on this subject, and explain them a bit more. But first, let’s make sure we’re on the same page as far as defining the word “shy”.
Here is how Merriam-Webster defines the word*:
1: easily frightened : TIMID
2: disposed to avoid a person or thing //publicity shy
3: hesitant in committing oneself : CIRCUMSPECT
4: sensitively diffident or retiring : RESERVED
5: SECLUDED, HIDDEN
*Notice that femininity and masculinity are both left out of this definition. Shyness is equally possible for men and women, so it’s not by nature a feminine quality. As we mentioned in the video, the vulnerability sometimes associated with shyness in a female can appeal to the types of males who especially want to protect a woman. However, a female wrestler who is very capable of protecting herself can also be horribly shy. And a shy man can still be very masculine and even powerful.
By the above definitions, a shy person tends to be timid, socially avoidant, circumspect (very careful), reserved (or hesitant) due to lack of self-confidence, and might often find themselves preferring to be secluded or hidden. But to what Merriam-Webster has to say, I want to add a couple things: first, a constant feeling of worry or anxiety that a lot of us shy people tend to have. And second, constant struggles with social comparisons and feelings of inferiority. I believe that most or all shy people spend a lot of time comparing themselves to others and deciding that they fall short.
“Bethany is so put together, so confident in the way she speaks, walks and dresses. I’m not even close to being as charming or desirable as she is. There is no point in me trying to chat people up when she has command of the entire room.”
We all compare, don’t get me wrong. Confident women do it too. But it seems that shy ladies have a greater and more constant tendency to do this, and to be much less fair to themselves in their final conclusions. “Bethany is amazing, and therefore I am dirt.”
It has taken me decades to overcome a lot of my shyness, and I’m still working on it. Early in our marriage, Bob had me do all the phone calls for the first 6 months (banks, cinemas, shops, bill collectors) because he knew I partly just needed practice and familiarity. I was terrified, but he was right and I did gradually get less and less afraid to dial numbers (yes, we had dial phones back then!).
In working to be a more confident person, I discovered that all my shyness issues began with me; how I felt about myself and how I reacted to others. How focused I was on myself, on how I MIGHT be coming across to others. And I could see how this had been holding myself back.
Shyness is an inside thing; it has very little to do with the people around us. That means that when you’re feeling the feeling of being shy, you are not focusing on, and sometimes not even aware of, the feelings of others and what they are going through or needing. That means you’re being self-centered, and missing out on a LOT of good things as a result.
Perhaps you’ve wondered what specific things I’ve done over the years to deal with my own shyness? My confidence to start began when I realized I could actually improve, and my motivation came when I realized shyness was hurting me in multiple ways. It inhibited me from making more friends, made me somewhat insensitive to the needs of others, and stunted my ability to understand men. I began by studying the basic principles of Fascinating Womanhood my mother first wrote in the 1960’s. These are very simple but essential principles that are focused on working on yourself. Learning about femininity by focusing on angelic and human qualities can help clarify what is needed. Doing that gave me a plan.
Then I began to implement the plan by ignoring my shyness whenever it interfered with any social situation that would help me or others; like inviting people over to dinner, public speaking, even writing and promoting my book. I discovered I can accept those feelings of shyness about myself when I need to and then put them on a shelf so I can do what I both want and need to do. And the good news? My shyness began to be much less dominant as I improved myself, did what was originally very hard for me, and learned I could do it.
You can do it as well. Perhaps few people are as shy as I was. It dominated my childhood. But now I’m so much more free. If I can overcome my almost paralyzing shyness, so can you. You’ll be happier and have better relationships, and those you love will be happier too.
Finally, I’m giving you the tips from our video, as promised. And a couple of bonus ideas that came to me after we filmed.
5 Tips to Overcome Shyness
1. Pay attention to your body language—deliberately adopt more confident poses even when you don’t feel confident: head up, back straight, lean forward when you listen to people. Don’t let shy body language put people off and keep them from connecting with you. And remember, as you adjust your posture and refine your movements, you will actually FEEL different. Just holding your head higher will improve your confidence and your mood. And don’t forget to smile.
2. Focus on your strengths and remind yourself of them before heading into social arenas. What do you have to offer the world? Make a mental list and tell yourself how valuable you are before meeting people. You are not a burden on them but a blessing. Think about ways you and your unique personality can be of benefit to those around you.
3. Appearance (focus on the positive qualities of your appearance). Do you have beautiful eyes? Accentuate those. Lovely hands? Draw attention to them either by doing your nails or by using your hands more when you speak. Go into difficult situations feeling put-together. Wear something that makes you feel comfortable and pretty and confident. Spend a little extra time on the days you’re feeling the most anxiety about social time. It will pay off. Never throw yourself into a social situation without preparing to feel your best.
4. Learn and develop conversation skills, practice with people who you feel safe with (such as family and friends). Use open-ended questions when speaking to people and avoid trite sayings. There are websites and apps devoted to helping people come up with interesting things to say to people. You may be so shy that you become flustered when getting to know someone. Prepare some great questions beforehand and then listen attentively to the answers. A charming person is one who makes others feel, as Bob would say, “Like a million bucks”. Treasure hunt for valuable qualities in the person speaking to you, and then mirror what you see back to them. A shy person can do this. Anyone can do this. It’s about taking the focus off you and shining it on THEM.
5. Take the first social step from time to time—feeling afraid doesn’t have to stop you. Bob taught me by example when we were first married, inviting friends over for dinner. At first, I was petrified to entertain people I didn’t know. But seeing how easy and relaxed my husband was with them, I began to understand how easy and even fun it could be. And that’s when it hit me. I realized I could start doing what Bob did and take the first step, having the idea myself to invite people over. Planning parties. Getting excited over menus. Thinking up activities for our guests. Being the one to have the initial idea, to act on my own without being pressured into something social, was so liberating.
Practice! This comes from what I said earlier about Bob having me make all the phone calls. Make a habit of doing something that makes you nervous. Force yourself to step out of your comfort zone. Walk up to that person you’ve wanted to meet and show your genuine interest in them. Compliment random people when you see something nice about them. Get used to seeing people light up when they interact with you. It’s sometimes easier to practice on strangers than it is on people whose good opinion means a lot to you.
Observe! Watch people who you feel have great social skills. I’ve learned so much from seeing how Bob interacts with all sorts of people. Take note of body posture, tone of voice, and the types of comments that make people’s faces break into smiles. The best thing about this tip is you don’t have to say anything or even interact much with others to do it. You might consider this one of the first steps you take towards being more confident in the world. Study successful social interactions and make mental notes to use these ideas in your own life.