Coming Out of My Shell--Again
"Witnessing a shift in how we view shy people..."
Posted Aug 25, 2011
I'm a psychologist with over twenty years of experience counseling people with all sorts of problems. I'm also a writer who has written four books for the general public and had the good fortune of being on Good Morning America, The Today Show, a PBS documentary and featured in national publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. My work has mostly focused on social anxiety and shyness.
My career has taken anything but a straight path. I've had breaks to focus on being a mom, deal with chronic health and pain issues, not to mention a few loosely defined "nervous breakdowns" along the way. I've struggled with depression and social anxiety myself. I've enjoyed plenty of high moments (being able to appear on Good Morning America without falling apart) and suffered through low moments (cancelling a book tour due to anxiety).
What has prompted me to start this blog is a letter I recently received from a mother whose teenage daughter read Dying of Embarrassment (my first book) and found hope and help in reading it. This mother tracked me down and graciously acknowledged the role my book had in helping her daughter. She said her daughter worked diligently on the strategies in the book, and also found an excellent therapist (Teresa Flynn, one of the co-authors of the book) to guide her. She said her daughter was on the way to getting her life back!
Dying of Embarrassment: Help for Social Anxiety and Phobia is almost twenty years old now. That is a really long time for a book to stay in print in today's publishing world. I realized if I want to keep this book in print, as well as my other two books on the subject, Painfully Shy and Nurturing the Shy Child, I was going to have to put myself out there again, at least a little bit. I love to write, but hate the attention that goes with it.
The timing also seems right in that just maybe, we're going to witness a shift in the way we view shy people. Recently, the New York Times ran an article titled: Shyness: Evolutionary Tactic? Author Susan Cain lays out a number of scientific studies that show the value of quiet, introverted people. In a favorite line, she quotes science journalist Winifred Gallagher: "Neither E=mc2 nor Paradise Lost was dashed off by a party animal."
I do think a lot of people's pain, my own included, has come from the fact that shy people aren't understood or accepted in our society. Cain notes that, in the end, the natural sensitivity of the shy or introverted person can be "a catalyst for empathy and even leadership." By putting myself "out there" with this blog, I'm hoping to be such a catalyst.