Shyness is nice and
Shyness can stop you
From doing all the things in life you’d like to.
— “Ask�?, The Smiths
Asking someone out on a date can cause mild anxiety in even the most brashly confident person. But what if someone’s crushing anxiety and debilitating shyness keeps them from ever approaching anyone romantically?
It’s called love-shyness, and Chris Gray knows about it firsthand.
“You want to be loved by someone, you want to have a relationship,�? says the Toronto-based author of the new book From Shy To Social: The Shy Man’s Guide To Personal & Dating Success. “But if you’re shy and you’re awkward and you don’t have the experience socially, there can be just an overwhelming fear that gets in the way.�?
Gray spent much of his life too socially anxious to talk to women he was interested in. Whenever he did make a move, his overwhelming anxiety got in the way of his making a good first impression.
“Shyness sabotages your body language, it sabotages your speech and it sabotages your demeanor,�? says Gray, adding one of his biggest fears during the peak of his love-shyness was saying something stupid. Fear of rejection was also huge.
“Rejection hurts,�? Gray says. “It stings.
“The more you get rejected, though, the more you practice, the less it hurts. But if you have very little experience with women, the thought of being rejected is just overwhelming. What these men don’t understand is that rejection is part of life.�?
While it’s not just men who suffer from love-shyness, Gray says that love-shy women don’t have as much of an issue getting dates as love-shy men.
“The reason why love-shyness is more of a male problem is because in most cases, it’s the male that is expected to take the initiative. Even if a woman is giving clear signals that she’s interested, it’s up to the guy to approach, talk to her and escalate things.�?
Love-shy women can also get away with being seen as coy or playing hard to get, whereas love-shy men can come across far more negatively.
“I almost literally cannot speak to women I’m interested in,�? admits Jas, a 34-year-old teacher. “I can manage to have conversations with most people, but the moment I think someone is attractive, I shut down and will simply act as if they aren’t there, and will go to absurd lengths to avoid talking to them. This leads to people thinking I’m rude, aloof and condescending … but I’m mostly just too nervous to behave like myself.�?
Jas tells me that when you start to think of “women�? as a category or symbol or something rather than individuals, you live in constant fear of being judged by “women�? instead of just one person.
“To openly and honestly approach someone not only risks rejection, but (it risks) having all the things you hate about yourself confirmed,�? he says. “And when that confirmation comes from an object of your desire, that makes it a hundred times worse.�?
Jas admits that he is lonely, but finds loneliness preferable to the emotional rollercoaster of romantic interaction.
With the help of a dating coach, a psychologist and a number of books on eye contact, body language and making conversation, Gray eventually overcame his love-shyness. It wasn’t easy. But there came a point where he felt he was missing out on his own life and took small steps towards reclaiming it.
“Nothing happens overnight,�? says Gray, whose book includes step-by-step exercises that coach people how to emerge from a battered, love-shy shell. “You can read a book and you’re not going to have everything magically transform your consciousness. But you read it. And practice it. Until it becomes second nature.�?