Overcoming Shyness

The room was more than full for the talk. The late comers had to squat on the podium or stand at the back. Ali commented that he was surprised to see so many people and it meant people were not shy to attend the talk when he actually meant that the topic interested so many people that they had come in droves.

1shy_girl_He said people confuse shyness with introverted nature, guilt, shame and other emotions hence he would like to define shyness before gong ahead. He said shyness is a feeling of anxiety of discomfort in social settings, and to the inability of a person to engage or interact fully with others. Shyness is not something genetic that is it is not something you are born with. It is normal for all of us to be shy in certain situations. That is okay. Only when the shyness is preventing us from doing something it needs to be addressed. For instance if someone is not interested in being a public speaker, that is fine, but if he or she wants to speak in public and is shy to do it, then the person has to work on overcoming shyness. He said shyness is inevitable when doing something for the first time like say an adult learning driving. He said shyness is imposed whereas introversion is a choice that an individual makes.

Shyness can be selective or it can be an overall shyness. Here Ali gave an interesting story.

A young girl – the daughter of Ali's friend - held a public figure in great regard and wanted shy_girlto meet and talk to him but was extremely shy to do so. When the public figure came to speak at a certain occasion, Ali suggested that the girl could walk upto the stage and get the person's autograph. This way she could break the first barrier and most public figures would be too glad to give an autograph. The girl decided to try it out. She hesitatingly moved towards the stage with a paper and pen in hand. The VIP watched her moving towards the stage. At the base of the stage, the girl looked to her dad and Ali for reassurance before climbing the stage. The VIP watched her nervously as the girl approached him. When the girl thrust out her book and asked for autograph, he willingly gave it to her. The girl extended her hand and shook his hand and proudly looked at her dad. Her dad cheered her for her effort. Ali said this was a way to show how you can overcome your shyness in small ways. The punchline of the story came later as Ali met the VIP afterwards and the VIP asked who the girl was who had approached him for his autograph. Ali explained that she was his friend's daughter and she was a great fan of the VIP and it was an exercise to break her shyness. The VIP expressed relief that it was only for the autograph. He had been watching her moving slowly towards him and had become extremely nervous because he was shy of young children!!

shyAli said shyness is often selective, meaning we are shy in a particular circumstances or with a particular group of people of with just one individual. He said our shyness often results from our being extremely conscious of our physique or our dress or our characteristics. He said it is important to remember that other are equally immersed in their own world and very few people are interested in us. Hence no one really pays much attention to our traits and once we become conscious of this, it is easy for us to work on our shyness.

Ali said whether it is about ourselves or helping someone else overcome shyness, we have remember that we need patience in great quantities. We cannot expect miraculous results in short time. Infact trying for drastic changes may also boomerang and result in the person going deeper into a shell. He also cautioned that certain amount of shyness is okay in adults as well as children and we don't have to look at eradicating shyness totally.

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Leading Banjara Academy's online email counselling team of volunteer-counsellors, I realize it is not an easy task reaching out to a person one has never met, never seen, without the added advantage of gestures, eye contact, a gentle reassuring touch, tone of voice and yet providing empathy, positive strokes, making the person feel heard and understood.

With the aid of only written words, it is quite a task building trust, making people open up and share and helping them cope and feel better. So when in many instances they write back saying thank you and that they feel so much better, the feeling one gets is priceless and incomparable - knowing one has done something right, something good!

Hats off to all the volunteeer-counsellors of Banjara Academy who have been carrying on this work silently, anonymously for the last couple of years. Truly commendable! - Ali Khwaja

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