Wear it Like Armor and it Can Never Be Used to Hurt You.
Shyness and owning who you are.
Posted March 30, 2013
We often see people with social anxiety who mold themselves to whomever they are speaking. For example, clients tell us how they try to be like what they think the other person likes (demand characteristics or a social desirability bias to more of an extreme). One client told us about being on a first date and creating an image of himself that he felt the girl would like. This idealized self was very social and had tons of friends. In actuality, he watched Netflix at home most weekends. We had him do an exposure where he had to tell the complete truth about himself and not try to describe an idealized image. Afterward the girl to whom he was speaking described how much she liked his honesty and that she liked the idea of going out and creating fun social experiences for him (she likened it to a challenge to show him a good time). She also described how she did not really want an overly active social guy as that did not fit her personality (even though she was much more social; i.e., she did not want a mirror image of herself).
This experience reminded me of a quote from the HBO show Game of Thrones, where Tyrion Lannister discussed 'owning' his stature to another character (who is a 'bastard'):
“All dwarves are bastards in their father’s eyes,” Tyrion tells him. “Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.”
This quote is great in that it sums up the biggest fear for many people with social anxiety - showing their true self. If they show their real selves, the feel the world will hurt them. However, if people with social anxiety 'own' who they are, without fear, then the world, in most cases, does not hurt them.