Quick Summary: The Book About Shyness I Didn’t Think I Needed, But Did!
What’s It About – Overcoming Social Anxiety & Shyness provides practical advice for people who may be shy or anxious in social situations. The book teaches you how to expand your comfort zone via ‘mini experiments’ so that fear, panic and avoidance of ‘threatening’ social situations can be reduced in your life. If you’re not sure whether you might be shy or socially anxious, the book also provides well-considered distinctions of the difference between them.
What I Thought – I really got a lot out of reading this book because it is written from the perspective of someone who knows and understands all the tricks the socially anxious mind plays when it is trying to keep us safe from the fear, anxiety and potential shame that may come as a consequence of being social. For example, when it is nervous about going somewhere, the socially anxious mind comes up with convincing reasons for us to avoid the situation; we decide we are right not to go to the party because it will be too loud and crowded there, and anyway we don’t know who else is going. When we are trapped in the thinking of the socially anxious or shy mind, we find reasons to say ‘no’ to every opportunity or situation that is potentially threatening to us. In this way, we think we are staying safe and protecting ourselves from uncomfortable feelings or shameful experiences. However, as Gillian Butler explains, these ‘safety behaviours’ increase our fears and anxieties overall, and if carried out over time, actually make our anxieties and shyness become much worse. The solution is in fact to go the other way: to gently expand our comfort zones so that we put ourselves forward more and avoid less in life.
Gillian Butler’s approach to overcoming shyness and social anxiety is based on the view that the uncomfortable feelings that arise in us in social situations are due to limiting beliefs about self held at a deeper level than we are conscious of. These beliefs vary person to person but are along the lines of ‘nobody likes me,’ ‘I’m unworthy,’ ‘people don’t like me,’ etc. When we hold these beliefs about self, being social can trigger uncomfortable or painful feelings to arise in us which affirm ‘the truth’ of what we believe. Since these feelings are so painful and uncomfortable for us to face or experience, without realising it, we attempt to keep ourselves ‘safe’ through various sneaky or covert safety behaviours such as keeping quiet when in group conversations. The approach of the book is for us to identify the limiting beliefs we hold about ourselves and then to test these beliefs by conducting our own mini experiments. By testing our beliefs in this way, we gradually expand the comfort zone of what is possible for us socially. Slowly, slowly, we let go of safety behaviours that are no longer serving us.
Who Should Buy This Book – This book is for you if you would like to expand your social self and to take more social risks in life so that fear and anxiety lose their grip on you. Speaking from personal experience here, I believe that the most vibrant life we can experience happens at the edge of our comfort zones. I also believe that if we just stay where we are, staying safe within our comfortable bubble of what we can or can’t do socially, life becomes stagnant and boring for us. Even though being social in new ways does bring many anxieties and vulnerabilities to the surface, and yes, we sometimes ‘fail’ socially when we do something new or different, as long as we are forgiving of our mistakes, the experience stretches us in a good way.
Final Words – Overall I found this to be a sensitive and supportive guide to overcoming shyness and social anxiety. While I prefer to use the word ‘lessen’ rather then ‘overcome’ in terms of approaching social anxiety, I highly recommend it to you if you are ready and open to reduce the grip of shyness or anxiety in your life.