“I’m lonely. I would be interested in dating, but I’m just too shy for that.” I feel a pang of sadness when I hear people talk about how lonely they feel and how shyness stops them from enjoying this important and highly enjoyable aspect of life. I want them to feel the joy of genuine human connection.
It has been a while since I was actively looking into dating, or even making new friends, but I know the importance of human connection and affection. I depend on my strong ties with family and community and fortunately, at those times when I need moral support, encouragement, and companionship, someone is usually there to listen and care. When someone I love is patient with my rough edges, it’s easier to get past them. When my wife shares the delight I feel in our granddaughter’s antics, it doubles my joy.
Connecting with others gives life its pizzazz! It is relaxing to feel that another person sees and hears and understands you, or is at least making a sincere effort to understand, which often feels just as good. So what is happening when we feel we cannot make genuine human connections? Could it have something to do with our thinking?
When I talk with people who are thinking about dating or making friends, I hear a variety of common complaints:
“Everyone is staring at their phone.”
“Millennials would rather play remote video games with each other than meet up in person.”
“Dating sites are a hassle. People misrepresent themselves. It is hard to tell if someone is going to be interesting, or even safe.”
All of these may be valid observations, but in themselves, they are not the root cause of the difficulty we tend to have with meeting new people. What is the root cause of loneliness and shyness, then? It’s fear.
Sometimes it’s understandable to be afraid. We shy away from exposing ourselves yet again –– what if it doesn’t pay off? Never mind bad relationships, even a bad date or an argument can leave us feeling wounded and stuck. We may start out withdrawing a little, hiding out and laying low after a crappy experience with an ex, only to realize later that years have passed and that we’re spending a surprising amount of our free time streaming videos and eating ice cream. At that point our shyness has claimed our evenings and weekends. Where would we find time for another person? We may be lonely, but shyness (a code name for fear) is now making our decisions.
When we focus on our fearful beliefs (“Maybe I’m just meant to be alone,” or “Maybe I’m just not interesting or lovable”) we generate even more fear. We make it very scary for ourselves to overcome loneliness and shyness.
Let’s break this down. How does it happen, exactly?
When we focus again and again on feelings of fear and a belief in our shyness, we replay the stories that go with these feelings. It’s like we are staring at a GIF of ourselves frightened and failing, a never-ending loop of doom. This gives our brain a powerful message:
“This is reality.”
Our brain is a gullible sort.
Unfortunately we tend to take our brain’s conclusions at face value. So when our gullible brain repeatedly presents us with a barrage of “ads” depicting us in a fearful state of shyness, we decide that this is a permanent hopeless condition, that “this is us.” We believe more and more strongly that we are incapable of creating and maintaining connections with others.
7 Thoughts for Overcoming Loneliness and Shyness
You can change how you talk to yourself! Self talk is just thinking, and most of our thoughts are only arbitrary judgments, not laws of the universe. By thinking these 7 new thoughts on a regular basis, you can get your brain to show you “ads” that help you enjoy a better, kinder life. And when you are enjoying life, others take notice –– connections come easily and naturally.
1. “I am an amazing creation of life itself, equal to every other being.” Every being on Earth is an expression of sacred living energy and consciousness, regardless of its appearance or abilities. Self love and self respect, as well as simple gratitude for the miracle of life have a way of revealing and radiating beauty in a person, regardless of their form, their age, or any other attributes.
2. “I deserve respect and encouragement.” To begin practicing kind and encouraging self talk, it helps to look at how you think about yourself and talk to yourself. You may discover that you are putting yourself down more than you ever suspected. You may see more clearly how often you are tricking yourself into believing that you are “not good enough to interest anyone” and that “there is no one out there anyway.” It can be a great exercise to write down your self judgments. That way you can look at each one before it vaporizes and is replaced by the next one. Then you can have a great time creating self encouraging and self respecting statements and repeating those to yourself instead.
3. “Even though …[Fill in the blank with any negative put-down thought]…, nevertheless, I love and respect myself thoroughly and completely, as a mysterious creation of life itself.” This is a useful template for applying kind, encouraging thoughts in an unstoppable way! Whatever judgments, temporary feeling states, or “special conditions” your brain cooks up, keep insisting. Just repeatedly affirm that you love and accept yourself regardless of any conditions. Don’t struggle with your negative thoughts. Agree with them, and build on them. You can be tricky, too!
4. “Hmm, thanks for sharing. You could be right about that. Nevertheless, I love and respect myself thoroughly and completely as a mysterious creation of life itself.” Affirm this positive truth in the face of any fearful or negative thoughts that come up. Don’t fight with or struggle with negative thoughts. Relax as best you can and smile at them as you think this. To make it even more interesting, think this thought while smiling into a mirror.
5. “I enjoy my own good company.” There’s real magic in this one. First, realize that you are never really alone because you are always “with yourself.” As you practice relating to yourself with more kindness, interest, and encouragement to enjoy your unique gift of life, you become less and less concerned with others’ judgments, real or imagined. Your own judgments of others dissolve, too, as you replace them with kind, encouraging thoughts. You realize your shyness was a result of self rejecting beliefs others trained you to think when you were too young to know any better. Seeing through this false programming more and more, you are happy to enjoy the good company of others when it happens, but you are not particularly concerned about being alone or with others. You are becoming your own good company more and more vibrantly every day.
6. “I am happy with myself.” When you are happy with yourself –– in other words, happy with the mystery of life that creates us all –– you are no longer struggling to be happy with a false self. You gradually let go of this false self altogether, because you see it for what it is, nothing more than a high maintenance collection of ego-judgments needing constant justification just to stay afloat. You are happy with your real self, which means you can relax and enjoy the gift of life that is effortlessly arising as “you” –– breath by breath, heartbeat by heartbeat.
7. “I have unlimited kindness to give.” Heard of meditation? This is the real meditation. It is not a struggle to create some goodness in yourself. Nor is it a big effort to attain some super-spiritual state of consciousness. Cultivating kindness towards, interest in, and respect for your freely given, living consciousness, moment by moment, is perfect nourishment and support. You are enjoying a natural state of giving. “Free kindness for all! Here you go.” No strings, no condemnations attached. You don’t have to “do” anything, and others don’t have to do anything, either. As you see yourself and others more and more from this perspective of “free kindness” you realize that all of us are receiving the same gift. Life, given freely. Reveling in this gift, you begin to enjoy exploring ways to relate to our shared humanness together.
Enjoy the gift!