Shyness, a wasted opportunity

Shyness is a misunderstanding, founded on “taking ourselves too seriously, and our lives not seriously enough” as Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche expressed it. It’s the anxiety of ego, a baseless fear.

Shyness is thinking of being seen by others, rather than noticing our own experience of ourself. We are thinking about ourselves, rather than experiencing ourselves.

When we are concerned, as an unconscious habit, with the welfare of our ego, then situations like standing up in front of others or speaking in a large group will focus us upon the idea that others are seeing us. In fact we never have the experience of others seeing us, we have the experience of seeing them.

If we keep our focus on our experience of others and their needs, then our attention is taken up with what we are saying and doing for them, and so ideas about being seen – which are only thoughts – are eclipsed.

We don’t actually know how others see us – we tend to ignore the evidence in favour of our own anxieties. Does it matter anyway? Having the purpose of benefiting others, we only need feedback as to whether we succeed or not – their opinion of us is their projection, based upon their own distortions.

Keeping our attention on our own experience, and not on vain imaginings of what their experience may lead them to think about us, we avoid sitting in the mire of our self-opinion, our self-notion. This is all the ego is: a notion of ourself, a mere thought-habit. To be dominated by this erroneous idea is pointless and detracts from our true purpose.

The two-part remedy for shyness is:–

  • to focus on our actual experience, ignoring thoughts of being a self seen by others,
  • this leaves us free for the second remedy, to focus on our purpose.

These two things are the same: when we see our first-person experience of the world and others, there is no consciousness of self. We don’t notice hearing our voice if we are focussing on what we want to convey, we don’t see our face or how we look, we only see others. Mentally we are centred on our purpose in communicating with them.

Why are people who are not shy called “unselfconcious”? Because they are exactly that: not conscious of themselves. So if you don’t want to be tied up in self-conscious shyness, notice that if you don’t think about it, you don’t have consciousness of yourself as a self, you have consciousness of others.

Pieces of Five on shyness


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