I forced myself to move past my shyness. I decided I would find uncomfortable situations and participate. Whether that meant going to a meetup full of strangers, having dinner in a restaurant alone, or talking to strangers at an event - I was going to find, and do, new things until I fought my way out of the debilitating shyness.
I absolutely have empathy for people who are in the same situation. Empathy - not sympathy. My personal feeling is that if I can find a way to overcome 30+ years of shyness - to the point where new friends don't even believe I am shy - then anyone should be able to help himself with the same issue.
One thing that helped me get out of my own way was a sincere, fervent drive to not give the appearance that I lacked confidence or needed to control and plan every step. Especially when meeting new dates; I wanted to come across as easy-going and self-assured. I forced myself to exhibit those attributes, even when I didn't feel them. Fake it 'til you make it.
It's kind of like the saying "never let 'em see you sweat." I had a problem with worrying and needing to plan every single step, because I lacked the confidence it takes to just go with the flow. I had the problem - but I didn't want anyone to know. It has always perplexed me why some people don't worry at all about how desperate, worried, or controlling they seem, and how they don't realize that it's all tied back to a lack of confidence or self-esteem.
Not too long ago, I went on a date with a guy who had been insisting we get together for about a week. Even after I pointed out that I really didn't think we had a whole lot in common, he kept coming up with reasons why we should meet. Finally, I agreed to an afternoon coffee date.
At his suggestion, we decided to meet at 2 pm. He told me he'd text me at noon to confirm. Now - I understand wanting to confirm. No one likes to be stood up. Honestly, that's one reason why I choose coffee shops for first dates. I can just sit and sip my hot chocolate alone as if that was my plan all along, and I won't feel (or appear to be) stood up.
But confirming the confirmation text? That seemed a bit much.
Confirm he did - and he changed the time, moving it back 30 minutes. That put me ahead of schedule, so I got there early and grabbed a table. This particular coffee shop has a couple of smaller rooms off the main sitting area, so I texted my date and let him know where I was seated. I was so happily immersed in hot chocolate and Pinterest, I didn't even realize he was late, until my phone buzzed:
Are there any tables in the bigger room?First of all - beggers can't be choosers. You suggested a time, then changed it, and now you're late. Before you've even met me, you're criticizing my table choice. If you wanted a particular seat, you should have gotten here earlier and grabbed it yourself.
That's what I was thinking - what I said was:
No.A few minutes later:
What table ya at?The shop is carved into three sections. They are rooms, so one does have to look to see who is sitting where. I had already told him I wasn't in the main sitting area, and that I was in the smaller room to the right. He had asked if there were tables in the larger room to the left - suggesting he knew what room I meant. So why ask again?
I repeated myself and said I was the only woman sitting at a table alone. His response:
Where?I'm not sure if he thought I was going to come looking for him, or if I would offer to come meet him at his table. Neither happened. I told him again. I was ready to leave and just say forget it, when he finally located me - 15 minutes after he said he'd meet me.
I don't know if he was being rude, or shy, or nervous, or controlling - or maybe all of the above. I do know that even if we'd had a chance at a connection, by the time he sat down, it was gone.
Being confident and taking charge is not the same thing as being cocky and controlling. It's hard to learn the difference - but the lesson is well worth the trouble.