I have always identified to some firm of shyness or social anxiety disorder (SAD) since I was a kid. I hated going to events, parties, gatherings – effectively any place where there will be lots of humans. And considering that Earth is full of them humans, that put me shit out of luck. I dreaded meeting not only strangers but even people I knew. As long as the number of people was big, I shied away from such social events.
So it was a no-brainer for me to pick this book up. I have read books on shyness/SAD before but the problem about many books, especially in the self-help genre, is that most of them are filled with anecdotal fluff, or pointless exercises in a workbook style. And AFAIK I don’t recall finishing any book on this topic that was substantial in content.
However I’m glad that I gave this book a chance. What I immediately liked about the book was that unlike most self-help books it is not full of fluff. The author has not chosen to fill the book with random stories or pointless exercises. And for that I’m thankful. The book is a quick read and for its compact size (only 230 pages), packs in quite a punch.
Getting to the point
The book is divided into two parts. The first part talks about the problem – the causes of social anxiety and how people with SAD tend to think and behave. The author immediately jumps into listing the major causes of why a person with social anxiety feels that he is not up to the mark of his peers. Many a times, the overhang of having an ugly experience in the past overshadows the present day situations. People with SAD have a very strong and ruthless self-critic that berates every endeavor by the individual in connecting with others. Hence shy people tend to reject their self worth even before (if ever) other people do so. As they say, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
The second part, obviously, is about the solution to social anxiety. Dr Gazipura starts by explaining what people with social confidence do instead of sabotaging their self. It is not that people who are confident do not have thoughts of inability or in-adequateness rise in their minds. They do as well. However, they do not let such thoughts overwhelm their actions.
So what’s the secret?
Effectively, it is a developing a habit of feeling the fear and doing it anyway. The author talks about a set of clear and effective steps to overcome this fear as and when it is happening. Being aware (or mindful) of one thoughts is one way that the author suggests this can be done. But first one needs to accept oneself even before making any such effort. The book also mentions that shy people have a fear of being vulnerable and that they prevent themselves from getting hurt by avoiding such situations. However, the author believes that such people need to put themselves in such situations and consciously think and behave differently than their automatic patterns of thought have done till now.
All in all, the book does a very good job of mapping out the most common causes of social anxiety and the steps one can take gradually to decrease or reduce the feeling of shyness. Reading this book made me realize that there is no rocket science to this. Plain old common sense and getting out of your comfort zone. Although this book by itself may not be as powerful as some others, I still feel that it is quite a useful book because of its succinct message and its useful suggestions. Read it as a starting point for your journey towards becoming more socially confident.