Shyness And Social Anxiety – What’s The Difference?
And most importantly – how do we break free?
Join us for the first episode of the show to get answers to all these questions and much more!
Click below to listen now:
What Is Social Anxiety?
Welcome to the Shrink for the Shy Guy. I am your host Dr. Aziz, coming to you from the Center for Social Confidence here in Portland, Oregon. And I am particularly excited. Today is a monumental day because this is our first show! So whether you’re catching this and you’re with us here with number one or you found a much later episode and have worked your way back through the archives through this initial episode, this is where it all begins.
So this is a particularly important show. I’m going to lay some of the foundations, some of the groundwork for what I hope to cover in this show and shows to come. And also just what the show is about, what the purpose of it is, a little about who I am – which you’ll hear a lot more about as the weeks go by. Well, let’s just start for a moment with looking at what is this show is all about. It’s called Shrink for the Shy Guy.
So as you might guess, this show is for people who are shy. If you’re shy, if you’re struggling with shyness or social anxiety then this is going to be a resource for you. This is going to be a place you can come to listen regularly, to get very practical information that’s going to help you overcome your shyness.
Something you can listen to, get inspired by, get impacted by – whether it’s something I say or interview I have with another expert. That way you can take away what you’re learning and go apply it in your life starting today.
That’s the main purpose of this show, is to provide a massive value to you. For free. So you can leave here feeling more confident in yourself, believing yourself and having the courage to put yourself out there at a greater level than you are right now.
Because if you’re stuck with a sense of shyness or social anxiety, then there’s one thing I guarantee that you’re doing, and that is holding yourself back from the world, inhibiting yourself, keeping yourself small so that you don’t get criticized, you don’t get ridiculed. And there’s a cost associated to that. And I’m sure you know what that is. Whether it’s missing out on relationships or friendships or opportunities at work on any level that you want to or area you want to expand to the next level, it can be difficult if you’re stuck with that shyness.
So I’m here to help you break free of that. Which leads to the first question you might have in your mind… And that is “who are you and what are you doing here?”
So I want to share a little about who I am so you know where this information is coming from.
My name is Dr. Aziz and I’m a clinical psychologist. I did some of my training down in Stanford and Palo Alto Universities in the Bay Area, my graduate school down there. And I did my internship and post doc work up here in Portland, in Portland State University actually.
As my cousin who’s a psychiatrist tends to remind me frequently, you know even though we’re both adults, we can be a little immature sometimes (more him than me – I’m all grown up).
My cousin often reminds me that, in fact, I’m not a “real doctor.” He’s an M.D. and so he can prescribe medications and so that’s the marker of a real doctor. And to him, I’m just a “love doctor.” But hey, I’ll take that. I spent a lot of time studying this stuff and I spent a lot of time learning how to help people shift through therapy and coaching and that sort of thing. But what really taught me about shyness and why I really get where you’re at if you’re struggling with shyness. Or even if you’re not really inhibited, you just want to feel more empowered in your life, more free, more bold to take on more.
The reason I know that so well is because I, myself, I struggled with shyness for much of my life. I’m going to get more into my story in future episodes and tell some humorous and shameful anecdotes just so you know where I’m coming from. But the first thing you need to know is that I really get this stuff because I was incredibly shy.
When I was a small kid, I used to be afraid of family friends coming over. My mom said I used to run and hide behind her legs. So even from a very young age, I was nervous. I was shy around people.
That continued on into my grade school years. Middle school is when I particularly started to notice it. That’s often when it starts for people, is around the age of middle school. And then, I noticed it incredibly when I came to high school, and I was just paralyzed when it came to fear of talking to women and initiating relationships.
And I really missed out on a major stage of development because of my shyness. And then of course, into college, it continued. I had a fantasy that went something like this: when I get to college, there’ll be beautiful women everywhere. I’ve seen the movies. I’ve seen animal house.
But it wasn’t like that. And so I spent much of college being really limited, really restricted in my ability to create relationships particularly with women.
And so I know what it’s like. But I also know how to get out of it.
I’ll share again so many ideas and tips and tricks and tools and techniques that will help you follow in my footsteps. That’s what I do for a living now.
I help guys who are struggling with shyness to overcome that, to pursue the relationships they want. Dating, a girlfriend, a wife whatever it is that they want. In their work, in their career, being able to put themselves out there at higher level to take on leadership responsibilities, be assertive, challenge their bosses and supervisors, and be able to do public presentations. All that stuff is related to shyness and our ability to put ourselves out there.
That’s my intention for you. By sharing what I’ve learned and what I continue to learn from people that I work with everyday, you too can benefit from this.
And that’s the beauty of the interwebs is we can share information like never before. You can take this and then really have a positive shift in your life.
What I like to get into now is actually start talking about the meaning of things starting with what is shyness and what is social anxiety, and how are they different? And how are people, in the country in the world affected by these things and give you some interesting, fascinating, statistics about social anxiety. What the differences are between social anxiety and shyness. We’re going to get into all of that including some of the most common questions that people have about shyness and social anxiety.
What Is Shyness?
What is shyness? This is an important question because maybe you’re asking, how do I overcome shyness or how do I become more confident? But we have to know what’s going on first. We have to define the problem and the challenges that we’re facing which then gives us the ability to identify it and correct it, overcome it.
So let’s get started by saying what is shyness? What do I mean when I say shyness? Well, I want to distinguish between what fancy-pants psychologist would say is a state versus a trait.
A state is something that’s just passing by, like your in emotional state. You’re happy one moment and then you’re sad in another moment, and then you’re irritated, and then you’re relaxed. Those are emotional states that we pass through many times throughout the day.
Well, there is an emotional state of shyness, right? That means in the moment, you feel inhibited, you feel self-conscious. You don’t want to put yourself out there. You’re a little nervous. You’re anticipating that someone’s going to think poorly of you or think negatively of you so you don’t want to show yourself to them. That’s a state of shyness.
The trait of shyness, basically means you have that state all the time, or most of the time. So we’re just talking about a frequency and an intensity sort of thing.
So if you say, “well, I’m a generally shy person,” that means you have the state of shyness very often in a lot of different situations. And so what is this state of shyness? I just alluded to it a second ago but it’s important to really understand it on a deeper level.
The state of shyness is basically made up of two things. First, you predict that you’re going to get a negative response from someone else. That’s the first part of shyness.
You are anticipating a negative response. That either means they’re not going to want to talk to you. Or if you’re going to sing a song or play an instrument, for example, then they’re going to notice you and judge you negatively. So you’re predicting some sort of negative social outcome which really comes down to disapproval.
Social disapproval which I’m going to get into in future episodes, is at the core of social anxiety and shyness, and is the main thing that we need to start learning how to manage, tolerate, and overcome in order to be bigger in the world, be bolder, and take on more.
We have to learn how to manage that fear of disapproval. But that’s the fist part of shyness, right? It’s that sense of it’s going to go bad. People aren’t going to like me.
And then what’s the second part? Well, it naturally follows from the first part. It’s that we don’t put ourselves out there. And why would you if you thought you’re going to get rejected. So that’s where the inhibition comes in. We inhibit ourselves. We do that by not speaking up, not singing, not playing the instrument, not dancing.
If you’re in a group, not speaking up, not going over and talking to the person to start a conversation, not asking the woman out on a date, not seeing if that person wants to hang out and be your friend, just not taking in action, inhibiting yourself. Or sometimes we inhibit ourselves by talking more quietly or kind of trailing off at the end of the sentence. That’s another way of inhibiting ourselves, right? To not be fully heard by making ourselves smaller in our body and in our voice.
Those are ways that we inhibit ourselves. And that is a big part of the state of shyness. So if you think about that, if you’re at a party for example, and you may not go into parties because if you’re shy, you might think, “why do I want to go to a party where there so many opportunities to feel awkward?”
But just go with me for a minute. Let’s say you’re at a party and you’re sitting on the couch there. And there’s people that are laughing and seem to be interacting around you.
In that instance, what you would be probably doing is you’ll be seeing some people over there that you might want to talk to but what do you say to yourself? You say, “they wouldn’t want to talk to me anyway. I’d be annoying them. I would be a third wheel. I’d be awkward.”
So you predict a negative outcome and then what do you do? Well, you stay on the couch or you get another beer and try to build up your courage and confidence.
I’m going to get into that in a bit when I talk about the statistics but that’s one of the most common ways that we deal with shyness, is through alcohol or way of altering your state. There are pros and cons to that—it might work in the short term, but it can prevent you from really learning how to overcome shyness on a deep, internal level.
So that’s the experience of shyness, the state of shyness. The question you might have is well what’s the difference between shyness and social anxiety?
Shyness And Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is a term that’s used in clinical psychology and psychiatry, and it’s a way of describing people who have a very intense form of shyness. It’s basically shyness that is strongly interfering with your life. It’s more intense than just a passing state. Everyone can feel shy now and then, right? And no one wants to go up in front of a group of people and give a spontaneous impromptu speech. That’s sort of the normal natural range.
But when we get into the range where it’s hard to leave your house or you can’t apply for a job because you couldn’t stand doing an interview, or there’s a major block that’s inhibiting you from moving forward in your life, that can be called social anxiety. Here’s a handful of symptoms or experiences that are common for social anxiety. I’m just going to read a few out here.
• You feel extremely uncomfortable in social situations and you often avoid them.
• You’re frequently worried that other people are judging you negatively.
• You are hyper self-conscious and always watching what you say or do so you don’t say the “wrong thing.“
• You find rejection or disapproval intolerable and you do whatever you can to avoid these.
• You often feel like others are watching you and you constantly avoid doing anything that can lead to embarrassment. There’s a hyper self-consciousness going on.
• You can feel worried or anxious for days or even weeks leading up to a challenging situation like a presentation at work for example.
• You regularly criticize and judge yourself for feeling anxious. That’s a big part of social anxiety, a lot self-criticism.
• Your anxiety, worry and avoidance are significantly interfering with your life as I described before. And you may feel hopeless about your situation, angry at yourself or angry and resentful of others.
So these are some of the symptoms of social anxiety. It’s a very uplifting list, isn’t it? Well, I’m hoping as you listen to this that there’s things that you might resonate with even if you never have labeled your feelings as social anxiety. And the term is not really what’s most important.
It doesn’t mean that you have a disease or a defect. It’s just the way of describing an intensely uncomfortable emotional experience.
So if you can identify, oh, “that’s what I’m feeling. I’m feeling social anxiety.” Then you’re one step closer to learning how to break free of it. And that’s what this whole podcast in this series you’re listening to is all about. It’s not just about being able to label yourself with something and stopping there, saying, “well, I guess I’m broken. I have social anxiety.” No, that’s absolutely not true. There so many things that you can do. There are hundreds of things that you can do.
And I’m going to share them with you over these weeks to come about how to break free from shyness and social anxiety. It’s absolutely possible. I’ve done it in my self and I’ve witnessed and helped hundreds of men do this over the last six, seven years that I’ve been working on this, and really seeing profound transformation. And I’m going to have interviews in upcoming episodes with people I’ve worked with, with other experts so you can really get a sense that it is possible.
What I’d like to get into, in the next segment, is going to be about some of the fascinating statistics that are out there about social anxiety because some of the stuff is just really interesting. They are fun, party tricks you can share, little old information tidbits to share with your friends and neighbors. And I’m also going to get into some of the most common questions that people have about shyness and social anxiety.
Some of the things that are the first things we’d get into if I was working with you one-on-one in Confidence Coaching, like where does it come from? Am I born with it? Stuff like that that can help you get a better sense of what it is and what your options are for dealing with it.
Social Anxiety Statistics
In this segment, we’re going to get into some interesting statistics about social anxiety and some of the most common frequently asked questions about shyness and social anxiety that I get on a daily basis. These statistics are sometimes a little bit alarming but can really highlight what a challenge this is for people. Because so many people are struggling, especially with shyness or feeling really nervous about meeting someone or just feeling in that really stuck place, and I know that place.
I had this experience where I heard my roommate in the room – we shared a house and we shared a wall between our rooms – and I could hear his girlfriend laughing. I could hear the murmur of his voice and then it was punctuated by bright laughter coming from the other room. I was in my room, sitting on my computer chair and just feeling depressed, thinking to myself, I’m never going to have that.
And what I didn’t realize is that there so many people that are also struggling with the same challenges that I was—feeling shy, feeling down on themselves, feeling stuck. And that there are so many ways that you can shift things. But a lot of people are stuck in shyness. And I don’t want that to be you. But here’s some interesting stats about that.
In the United States, 6.8% of people would meet criteria for social anxiety, which according to varying sources, ranges from 9 to 15 million people at any given time. Of those people, only 45.6% of those people received treatment. That means less than half of the people who were just like me, stuck in their room, feeling lonely, feeling helpless get help. And that’s unfortunate because there so much you can do.
But out of those 45.6% that do receive treatment, only 33% of them get what was dubbed “minimally adequate treatment” by the National Institute of Health which means they’re not getting something that’s very effective, that’s very good. I might get into this in future episodes, what is effective, what is good? And here’s a little bonus—much of what I’m going to share with you in these podcast is directly from the types of therapies that have been shown to be the most effective for social anxiety and shyness.
Empirically, showed in studies that have been controlled and done with numerous people and subjects, they found that the kind of stuff that I’m going to share with you, which comes from cognitive behavioral therapy and other things, is powerfully effective. So of course, this is to be taken with the caveat that this is not a substitute for treatment of any sort of disorder.
And if you need treatment for something, you should go seek that out. That’s my disclaimer. But I want you to realize that you can get a lot of really good information from this that is drawn from the same sources. Of course it’s not the same as really sitting with someone and sharing. So if you feel like you want to not be this statistics, and be one of the people who actually does get help and shift things in their lives, then you might want to consider getting some treatment.
I’ll talk more about how to do that in future episodes. But a few more statistics which are fascinating. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, very impressive body there, 36% of people with social anxiety disorder report they’ve been suffering with social anxiety symptoms for 10 years or more before seeking treatment. And these people are struggling for a decade—alone in their rooms—you might be one of those people.
Let’s make a shift here. And you can make that shift starting today. I’m going to get to this at the end of the segment where I’m going to give you a mission and an action step that you can take to start shifting your life. I’m going to give one of those to you each week. So you can make a shift today. You don’t need to be one of those people who’s waiting over 10 years to get help.
The average age where it starts, this is fascinating, I said earlier that its middle school, it’s actually the age of 13. That’s where it starts for most of people, which means they are waiting many, many, many years. And that’s often the case. In my case, it goes unrecognized. It’s just like, “oh yeah, he’s a little nerdy. He’s not very good with women.”
But no one realizes the extent of what it feels like inside which is a high level of self-criticism, self-doubt, inferiority, feeling anger and not being able to do anything, helpless, a perpetual sense of inadequacy.
And these are very painful things that actually have a major effect on people’s lives as they progress. And there’s a lot of research that actually points to people that have social anxiety also have other challenges. Mainly, one is not surprisingly, with alcohol. A lot of people with social anxiety can develop an alcohol problem because, hey, it works at first.
Now, I remember in my training, I worked in a Residential Rehab Center for Veterans where people lived there for two to five months. And one of the addiction counselors there, which means he had gone through his own cycle of addiction and had recovered and now helped guys who were military veterans to overcome their addictions. And he sat me down for lunch one day, his name was Greg Barrens, and he was awesome.
And he was a big black guy with a big mustache and beard and just a big presence and a loud booming voice, he would totally command the room of these pretty tough vet guys. And I remember I sat down for lunch with him one day. And he was saying, “the first time I took a drink…” I think he said he was 17. “The first time I took a drink, I felt like I was me. I used to be so nervous and I just felt so confident and comfortable and I can make people laugh, and I could just have a great time.” And he really was describing how it helped him overcome, temporarily, his social anxiety.
From that, he developed a pattern of going out more and more. Then eventually, turned into a full-fledged addiction when he got out of the service. So it is incredibly common that alcohol problems result from where you’re not treating and attending to social anxiety.
One final important thing you realize, this comes from the Mayo Clinic, is that people who do not seek treatment for social anxiety disorder will find that their anxiety increases over time even if they do their best to avoid situations which could trigger the anxiety.
Now, that is a no-brainer to me because as I’m going to get into in future podcasts is all about exposure therapy, doing what scares you, challenging the edge of your comfort zone. So of course, if you continually retreat and don’t do what scares you and avoid what scares you and to limit your life space so you can avoid all things that might scare you, eventually, just get smaller and smaller over time.
And you’re going to get more and more stuck in shyness. So we’re going to help you break free of that.
Ask The Shrink
There are few more things here about common questions around shyness. So let me just throw out some of the most important ones. One is, “is this something I’m just born with or is this a genetic condition that I’m just stuck with?”
The research is actually much more complex than that. They found that infants can demonstrate what they call behavioral inhibition which means they’re not all about like having people up in their face, and saying, “oh my God! Look at you, you’re so cute.” They get kind of freaked out by that. And some people could interpret that as a form of shyness. Like they don’t want that level of intense contact and they’re too easily over stimulated.
But here’s a thing, kids that are born with behavioral inhibition don’t actually necessarily get social anxiety. They could just be a little bit sensitive. Social anxiety is actually a very complex result of your upbringing, the messages you got when you’re young from your parents and your family and your peers and your siblings.
That also is influenced by your early contact in school. There are a number of factors that really influence that. And so the short answer is no, it is not something that you’re just born with and it’s not just a genetic condition that you’re stuck with. It’s actually a learned pattern of behavior and emotion that you picked up along the way that can be shifted.
Another common question is “what’s wrong with me?”
This might be a question you don’t ask out loud but it’s a question you ask to yourself. And I laugh because it’s all too familiar. I asked myself, that question for so many years. And the short answer is nothing.
Nothing is wrong with you. If there’s a wrong with anything, it’s your thinking about yourself.
That’s the only thing that’s distorted – there’s nothing wrong with you.
In fact, that is the crux of shyness and social anxiety. And that’s what I’m going to get into in the next episode, which is the cause of shyness and social anxiety. And that is the belief that there is something wrong with you. So I’m going to wait to answer that question in more detail next week in our next episode. The last thing I’m going to answer, which is a very common question, is “will I ever be normal? Can I fix this?”
And my response to the first part of that question is, yes, you can be normal. But I think you can strive for something better. And that is to be abnormal but in a positive direction. So instead of being abnormal and really limited and more shy and anxious than most people, you might be more able to put yourself out there. And this might seem like such a far stretch. You might be listening to this and the first time you’ve heard my voice and you’re like, “who is this guy? He doesn’t know me. That’s impossible.”
But I’m saying that with confidence because there so many people that I’ve worked with where they start from a place of “I’m not normal. I’m a freak. There’s nothing I have to offer in relationships.”
And three months later, six months later of working one-on-one in Confidence Coaching, they’re doing stuff and they’re, all of a sudden realizing, “wow, not only am I normal, I can do things that other people can’t do in a positive direction.”
I can go walk over to that group of people and start a conversation. And all my friends were looking at me saying, “who’s this guy and where did he come from?”
So it’s totally possible to shift that to a place of being abnormal in a positive direction. And can you fix it?
The answer is absolutely, resoundingly, yes. You can, you can overcome your shyness. You can overcome your social anxiety. You can meet women if that’s what you want to do. You can go on dates. You can have a relationship.
You can go on interviews. You can learn this stuff! Social confidence—which is what I teach at the Center for Social Confidence—is a learned skill. And you will absolutely learn this skill just by listening to this podcast each week and doing the mission which I’m going to get into now. So before I go into this, next week, stay tuned for the cause of shyness and social anxiety. You’re going to learn what the root of it all is. But I want to end with, what I’m going to end with in every episode, which is a mission.
Time For Action
This is like a mission. Should you choose to accept it, you can do it. It’s an action step because, as you’re going to learn, nothing breaks you out of the cage of shyness and the fears of your mind like doing something, taking action.
And look, I’m going to give you one that is like a T-ball lob here. This is really easy. Your mission, should you choose to accept it for the day, is to go out and get a journal. That’s right, something as simple as that.
Go out and get a journal. Something that you like that you can write. It could be a composition book for 69 cents from the Drug store. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to be fancy. But you’re going to be doing a lot, if you listen to this podcasts or anything that I teach from my website, anything like that. You’re going to learn a lot about how to use a journal, how to take notes, how to look at your thinking, how to start making shifts.
And this is the stuff that comes straight from cognitive behavioral therapy that’s been shown to be effective for treating shyness and social anxiety. So this is the real deal. This is going to help you change your life. But your first thing you got to do is take action. And I made it really easy for you, just getting a journal. I mean anyone can do that. It doesn’t matter how shy or stuck you are right now. So go ahead and get that journal this week. And I’ll talk to you next week in our next podcast. Until we do, until we speak again, may you have the courage to be who you are. Thanks for listening. I’m Dr. Aziz.