First, you need a little background to fully understand this process…
Most my life, I was referred to as “the quiet one.”
I was also affectionately called “weirdo” and “loser.”
You don’t get to choose your own nicknames right?
By the time I was half-way through college, watching re-runs of Friends and Star Trek: TNG was my “solution” to not feel lonely.
I also worked a part time job back then.
Yet despite being surrounded by interesting classmates and co-workers my age, I had no friends.
In class, I tried to connect with people. But always felt uncertain to open my mouth.
They’d chat casually before and after class while I sat quiet.
At work it was the same. I’d get left out while co-workers bonded over drinks.
I remember one time in my Greek Studies class, this girl Josie actually started talking to me.
(I know! I was shocked too.)
Yet within minutes, she was laughing. Mocking how quiet and awkward I seemed.
(Okay. Not so shocked anymore…)
Let me tell ya, it was just awesome how everyone in class saw it happen too.
(That’s sarcasm by the way…)
After I got home, I kept playing the scene over and over in my head. Thinking what I could have said. And feeling lousy none of it came to me in the moment.
But most of all being haunted by that look she gave me.
Y’know that look of disgust people get when you say or do something awkward?
Sometimes subtle in their eyes…
Sometimes written plainly on their entire face.
Well, it was a look I knew well. And it made me want to hide from the world.
But guess what, I didn’t need to.
Because go figure, I was ALONE at home.
Yup, another weekend and I had NO plans. As usual.
“Engage” Captain Picard.
It was a heavy weight knowing ”normal people” were out at that very moment living a REAL life. An exciting life of socializing and meeting new people.
Or even enjoying a quiet evening with someone who cared about them. Who they could share stories of their week with.
Meanwhile, my life was passing me by.
I hated being so afraid to reach out. It was crippling!
I just never felt good enough y’know?
I saw myself as worthless.
Probably something to do with my history of being called a weirdo and a loser.
But hey, that’s just a guess…
It was SO frustrating! Because I desperately wanted new people in my life.
In the student quad or the break room at work, I’d see groups laughing together. And I longed to be included.
I’d see those “naturals” so effortless and FUN with people.
Everyone LOVED them.
Why is it so EASY for them, I’d wonder. And for me so DIFFICULT?
If I could at least make 1 or 2 really good friends, I thought. People I could be myself around.
People I could invite to go do things. (And they’d actually show up!) Who would include me in fun stuff they did.
I wanted to really connect. Not just have acquaintances I chatted to about the weather for a minute. That was so superficial.
Of course the problem was, I had NO idea how to connect. And I felt people wouldn’t like me even if I could.
I just didn’t know what to say…
Either my mind totally blanked, or I feared people wouldn’t accept what I said.
I thought of myself as boring. Like I had nothing to add compared to people more interesting.
Yet when I did brave speaking, I’d usually botch things at some point. I was so awkward and uncertain.
The other person could sense my nervous vibe.
And it made them uncomfortable.
It was an oppressive cycle to be trapped in.
I had no control.
I was stuck in an unfulfilling life with no way out.
After one embarrassing failure too many, I couldn’t take it anymore.
I was DONE with hating my life…
…with MISSING OUT on my life.
I realized something…
Hoping things would get better on their own wasn’t working.
If my social skills and confidence hadn’t improved by now, they never would.
Unless I took some bold action.
So I DECIDED I’d do whatever it took to fix this problem.
Well, I found out the hard way…
Some “fixes” work MUCH better than others.
So have you been scouring the Internet, looking for advice?
From talking with many insecure people, I’ve found that’s where most start.
I certainly did.
And of course there’s lots of advice out there, right?
Like “just be yourself.”
Most people agree that’s just not helpful.
Because what the “experts” fail to understand is…
…people in our situation often don’t know HOW to “just be ourselves.”
I mean, by that time in MY life, I didn’t have much of a personality at all.
When talking I was so cautious. I rarely gave my opinion if it differed from the group.
I held back who I really was. No one saw the real me anymore.
And after putting up that front for so long, even I forgot who I was.
Similar is the advice to “just be confident” or “act confident.”
Hearing that advice made me feel WORSE. Because I’d try to convince myself to be confident. But it never worked.
I’d think, great! Everyone else can do this except me.
(Here’s a hint… You CAN become confident. But the scientifically backed way to do it is a different (i.e. DEEPER) process than common advice suggests. I get to that below…)
And of course there’s all the suggestions on how to be “INSTANTLY” loved socially.
And the marketing suggests you need to learn it ALL…
…conversation starters, body language, word for word what to say, “weird tricks,” all you “should and shouldn’t do” to “fake it till you make it” so others will accept you and like you “overnight.”
That stuff NEVER worked “overnight” for me.
Most of it was so far outside my comfort zone, I felt too nervous to attempt it.
Or if I did try, I sounded ridiculous.
Plus, there were just TOO MANY suggestions. Some of the books I bought had like, 101 different conversation “tricks.”
It overwhelmed me.
I had too many strategies in my head at once. So when I’d try to “get out there,” I’d get paralyzed…
…often sounding more awkward than ever before.
In the end, I wasted years of my life looking for the “quick” fix.
Because I got stuck in the Cycle of Shyness.
See I eventually figured out THIS is what was happening…
SO many people try to be better socially.
They really do.
Yet when they fail, they conclude something is “wrong with them.”
…could it be the common wisdom just doesn’t work for those of us who suffer shyness and social anxiety?
Since it doesn’t take into account the insecurity we deal with?
– Albert Einstein
We need a different approach.
And thankfully I found it…
A couple of things happened that changed everything…
I joined an improv comedy troupe. Where I learned “practical exercises” to quickly develop spontaneity and wit.
In other words, the basic qualities to FLOW in conversations and always have stuff to say.
And I began studying REAL research on shyness and social anxiety.
Now this was something different. Something DEEPER.
Focused on addressing the real issues CAUSING my shyness. Instead of just hiding the symptoms by “faking it.”
(Combined, these later became the foundations of my Perception Patterning Exercises.)
But I wasn’t sure at first.
There were no claims of instant results. No promises to 10x my friends in 10 days.
It looked like it would take some effort.
But I’d tried everything else already so…
I decided to dive in fully.
It felt exhilarating. Like I was finally on the right path.
Yet it was strange.
When I began using the new strategies, not much changed at first.
I started to worry that once again, I’d followed a dead end.
But I kept at it.
After a couple weeks, I noticed at times my confidence would soar.
People and places once nerve-wracking became easier.
I felt more comfortable being the REAL me.
What to say wasn’t such a problem.
Rejection bothered me LESS.
I was BOLD.
Yet sometimes the next day, I wouldn’t feel as confident.
My nervousness returned. Just usually not as intense.
I pushed forward anyway.
Within a couple of months, I felt like a new person.
Toward the end of those two months, I had an experience that changed my life.
I finished work a bit late.
Then headed over to a local pub.
Some co-workers had asked me to meet them there for drinks.
On my way, I texted a new friend I’d made the previous month… Monica. She agreed to meet me at the pub too.
We all hung out for hours.
I was genuinely having a good time.
Not waiting till it was time to leave like in the past.
I walked to the bar for another drink. A group of guys and girls stood there talking.
In the past, just standing near them would have made me nervous. I’d have imagined they were judging me.
But this time, I started a conversation with them. Don’t recall what about exactly. Yet soon I could tell we had a good vibe going.
So I invited them to our table for a round.
They joined us…
…and ended up hanging out the rest of the night.
Me (and some of my co-workers) became long-time friends with some of those peeps.
The whole time I could sense Monica (the girl I’d met the previous month) looking strangely at me.
Later, I overheard her tell my co-worker, “He’s pretty good with people isn’t he?”
That’s when I realized how far I’d come.
It really snuck up on me.
Now let me show you how I did it…