I'm writing this to shy people. I want to help you understand what's happening in your head. I am informed mostly by my own experience. And I hope that the non-shy people reading this can understand shy people better. This is not a part of the False Self series, but it is greatly informed by it.
Being shy is painful. I can be with someone, and have a lot I want to say, but it just doesn't come out, and it's frustrating. At the moment it happens I get confused, because I don't understand why it's happening. Afterward I rehearse over and over what I could have said, and how awesome I would have sounded, but when I'm with a person, particularly someone in authority, or a potential date, I just can't get the words out. I search for a way to say what I feel, try maybe a dozen approaches, but none of them work. And I get frustrated, blame it on myself for being so poor with people, and that causes pain. Eventually, I find it's just easier to avoid people, or to keep conversation on a very surface level, where I can process the conversation and take part. But even then, the conversation is about things mostly, and not very satisfying.
I have a theory explaining our shy behavior. It comes from Donald Winnicott. Back when we were a baby, just becoming aware of the world, we realized that we were us. At the same time we realized just how completely dependent we were on mom and dad. Mom fed us. If she didn't we knew we didn't feel good. They cleaned this mess that kept showing up. They held us, which felt wonderful, and touched us, which felt so good we'd stop asking for comfort the only way we knew how.
Then one day, expressing some discomfort, we figured something out. We became aware that mom, and even dad, were telling us stuff. Sometimes they didn't seem to like us. They would try to make us be quiet. And then we got this bright idea, using our minds for the first time: if we are compliant to what these big people want, they will continue to feed, clean, and hold us. Sure, we still wanted to cry, and to do whatever we liked, but getting food was really important. Over the days, weeks and months we learned to read their faces, to learn when they were happy, and when they were frustrated or angry or unhappy. And when they were, we did our best to not express what we wanted, and to be "good."
This is a different experience from other babies. When they learned that parents were there to help them, they found that when they cried they were comforted. Mom just sort of knew what they needed or figured it out eventually, and they were allowed to explore being a baby in a strange new world. Sometimes they tried things that upset mom, but she forgot about it pretty quickly and still wanted to feed them and hold them.
Shy kids are taught to be shy as babies. Shy kids were taught by a frustrated mom to be compliant. To be compliant is an intellectual exercise of suppressing feelings, then using the intellect to determine what behaviors will make mom the happiest so that she will continue to provide our needs.
We who are shy are now experts at reading the emotions of others and making them happy by suppressing our feelings so that we appear nice, and happy, and genial. We won't fight, we won't argue, we will give in rather than risk alienating anyone. We are afraid of our feelings, because of the disaster that would follow the accidental and completely selfish expression of how we feel.
And our feelings, which often remain buried deep, go unfulfilled. This is where the pain comes from. We are assisted by a culture which tells us that the meek will inherit the earth, and that the natural man is an enemy to God, which helps us think we're doing it right. But we know in the edge of awareness that there is something very painful lurking inside us. We have fantasies to help us. Lots of fantasies where we are accepted, where people listen to us and pay attention to the smallest things we do. We don't have fantasies where we are better than anyone else, just listed to by a lot of people.
And we have hope. We hope that someone will come along who understands us, and will accept the inside of us, where all the stuff inside us will be cherished, even if we don't cherish those feeling ourselves.
It's a hard life, being shy.
And it's hard to get to know someone who is shy. It takes a lot of work and patience to like or love someone whose life experience has taught them not to share their feelings. You need to tread carefully around a few emotions. Shame is probably the biggest one. You can't even get close to shaming anyone who is shy. For example, telling us our car needs a good wash can make us think we have let you down and you are disappointed. That shame threatens our very survival, because we are still operating on the feeling we developed as little babies. Getting to know us takes patience, care, understanding, and lots of one-way love.
We don't love ourselves. The mind can't love, and we have centered our identity in our minds. Without love for ourselves, we have little to spare on others. But we know that to get love you need to give love, so we do the best we can in faking love for you. This love will look mostly okay, but it gets peculiar at times, because it's mostly fake. There will be times when the love we feel is genuine, but when things become stressful, the love will be fake. And we will behave sometimes very oddly because of the difficulty the mind has in both suppressing our inner feelings and pretending to have different, more compliant feelings instead.
What shy people need more than anything is unconditional love. We need love that can see past the weirdness we do in a intimate relationship. We need acceptance. Eventually we will start to express things which have been inside us for a very long time which we aren't proud of. You will need to listen to us, accept that it is part of us, and find a way to love that, too.
If you are shy I want you to know two things:
You are worthy of happiness. Happiness is your right. It's your birthright, because it comes to you because you were born.
You are shy for reasons which don't exist any more. If you can read this, you are now in a position to express your feelings, and be cherished for having them. Try it out: find someone you don't know well, a stranger who hasn't any notion of who you are, and share a deep feeling with them. I've found almost universally that if you chose someone who isn't shy they will adore you for it. Only other shy people will have trouble expressing how delighted they are in finding someone who can be emotionally open.
If you are shy you are not broken. You don't need to be fixed. You just need to be listened to. Then you will learn over the next few days that you can express feelings and, instead of offending, you will be loved.
If you are with a shy person, listen to them, accept what they say as being genuinely part of them, and love them for it. And here is the payoff: shy people are deep. When they come to trust you they will become an unending font of love, interest and delight. They will love you deeper and better than anyone else you know. They will be loyal, will be willing to work hard for the relationship, harder than you, if you don't abuse their trust. It takes more effort at first, but the payoff is huge.