How to overcome shyness

Originally published at:


Interesting he gives a list of factors that make the other seem “other,” but never mentions race. Probably just didn’t want to get sidetracked into a youtube comment thread, but it came across as if that one’s solved and not worth mentioning.


That is a really nice way of putting it. I was a very shy person for most of my life. I am still riddled with self doubt, anxiety, self deprecation, and humiliation. However, this is the approach I took. It will work for some, not for others.

Acknowledge that 3 out of 4 interpersonal relationships, projects, whatever, just won’t work. Avoid the weeds, the why’s, the self incrimination. This is the same set of feelings as it is for me, you, Robert Downey Jr., Hedde Lamar, Muhammad Ali, Barack Obama, ghandi, you name it. Most things, including interpersonal relationships, just don’t work.

If a person can internalize that, then they realize, “it’s not you, it’s not them, it just is”, and you stop fighting it like you stop fighting gravity. And in my opinion, that is the breakthrough regarding shyness.

Now, I need to be exceptionally blunt: if you are shy, and you like it or it defines you, that is awesome. It is not a defect, you don’t have to change if you don’t want to. And if you are shy, and just want a safe person to talk to, let me know :grinning:


I’m not sure seeing everyone else as “other” really explains this, but I don’t have time to watch the whole video right now, so I’ll reserve judgment. I will say that it took me a long time to realize I wasn’t actually shy. People often think I am when they first meet me. After I’ve known someone a few months, they’ll usually tell me, “You’ve really come out of your shell” even though I haven’t actually changed at all. I’m not shy. I’m guarded. I’m really, really weird, and I’m fully aware of this. I’ve learned not to fully expose the weirdness too soon if I actually want to make friends. So I’m careful at first. This is interpreted as shyness. I’m not even sure anymore that I’m all that much of an introvert.


I desperately want to know how weird you are.


How do people distinguish between shyness and aloofness? If I think I’m shy, that I’m fearful of people, but people respond to me as if I’m aloof or give me reasons to justify my fear of them, and people respond to you as if you are shy when you’re not actually, what are the criteria people use to make the distinction?


Urinate on it?


“Shyness is a way of feeling special”. Fuck that guy.


Hey, when in doubt.


That only works for flagpoles, jellyfish, and flagpole jellyfish.


For me, it was acknowledging that not everybody has to like me, plus forcing me to confront the nature of my shyness. I needed to gradually break myself out of my shyness one step at a time, while at the same time realizing that I’m naturally shy and that natural inclination was never going to change.

The same thing happens with me. It’s my mannerisms more than anything else. People will misread me at first, but then after some time, they’ll learn to read me a little better, and what they saw as shyness or aloofness or whatever begins to disappear because they don’t see it that way anymore.

That’s the $64,000 question. Especially if the shyness or aloofness is misinterpreted, it often depends on the other person reading you, what they expect from you, what their prior experiences are, etc. Not being the first to join into a conversation is normal in some contexts, a little shy in others, and icy passive-aggressive coldness in others. Then there’s the “you think you’re better than me” response, which a lot of current and former working-class people (myself definitely included) do instinctively to almost anything.



I gave my question some thought. A person who thinks “she’s making me do the approaching” would regard the subject as shy and a person who thinks “she doesn’t want anyone to come near her” would regard the subject as aloof.

I’m wondering if shy people have to fake some openness without disclosing vulnerability to discard the aloof label. “Hello everyone looking good here we are another day let’s make it through together okay bye” I may try in my next work experience getting to my desk rather than slink into a cubicle and shrink over my work equipment. Maybe small talk is all that’s needed.

(I have not yet looked at the video. )

Debra Fine has a book suited to introverted engineers (she was one herself) about how to overcome shyness, I liked it. I find, attending meetups and meetings as a first-time visitor that I am not shy about things I am passionate about, and plan for my next career to work daily with my passion so I can be enthusiastic, energetic and open as a representative of the company whose mission and vision statement align with mine.


Thinking as some random person and not as myself, I could interpret “she’s making me do the approaching” as “she’s self-centered and making me do all the work”. Thinking as myself, I’d interpret it as “she’s too exhausted for small talk”. It can vary a lot based on the person.

In my experience, a little small talk is needed. Just enough for social lubrication, and to show that I’m interested. I make an effort to compromise, but I will shoot down any outright demands that I communicate with someone on their terms.

Too Video Didn’t Watch

I’m the same way. At first, it’s hard to get me talking, but once I’m engaged in the conversation I will never shut up :wink:


Okay - here’s another dimension…

I identify with the shy character as described. I have just that sort of difficulty when faced with talking to a single stranger. However, I am unusually free of nervousness when public speaking. I am happy to give an under-rehearsed talk to a crowd of strangers. Indeed - I find being a bit under-prepared makes the talk more edgy and alive. I have known people who are the other way around - they will happily argue with total strangers one-on-one, but are unable to the point of paralysis speak publicly. However, I and they (the ones I knew, at least) both know and feel that a crowd is a collection of individuals.


Done and done. Excellent balance, maintainable, doesn’t overreach, elegant and to the point.


I understated the magnitude of my revelation by leaving out that at the first pen club meeting I attended I had just had my bandage removed, revealing a facial scar where my nickel-sized birthmark used to be, so even my self-consciousness of my fresh “disfigurement” did not slow down the clock, and 110 minutes seemed like half that.


You are dropping truth bombs. Even a person like me that talks a big game…

I shaved​ my goatee a couple months back, went into the office, and the first thing everyone, and I mean everyone said, was a refrain on, “what’s wrong with your face, right there, it looks weird”.

Just untreatable eczema, so I grew my goatee back as fast as possible.


You know, by Boing Boing standards, probably not very. But I’ve lived in red states my whole life (Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri), and I’m an agnostic atheist, extremely liberal, mildly disabled engineer, and also a trans woman with body image issues not related to being trans (more to do with the disability). I’m 48, but think of myself still as a young adult and act like it. I make weird noises all the time, I make up stupid songs, and I probably burp, fart, and cuss too much. Again, probably not that weird to people who read BoingBoing, but I live in a place that celebrates conformity, not weirdness.


You are in excellent company. However the bbs bylaws state you have to learn to play a weird instrument. I got the Hurdy Gurdy, and looking at the spreadsheet the instruments we have left are…

Sarusaphone, serpent, diddly bow, and oddly enough theremin. You have up to eight decades to make your decision.