Therapist Erika Hilliard on Shyness and Social Anxiety

On August 29, 2012 The Houston Chronical reprinted a Chicago Tribune article on shyness in people who are single and breaking the bashful barrier.  The article states that behind shyness is extreme self-consciousness.  Shy people constantly worry that others are judging them, and they blame themselves for negative outcomes, so they choose to not do or say anything rather than risking self-expression. See the original article in the Chicago Tribune.

The article offfered some strategies for working with one’s shyness. My favorite suggestions came from Canadian clinical social worker Erika Hilliard, author of “Living Fully with Shyness and Social Anxiety.” Erika says if you have a  shy attack on a date, admit it rather than freaking out or trying to hide it. It gives the other person an opportunity to relate or reassure you.  She shared that one of her female clients updated her online profile to mention her shyness and found that it boosted her responses.

For people who experience shynes as physical symptoms, like pounding heart and sweaty palms, Erika suggests practing a relaxation technique called “grounding” a few times a day so you can access it when you need it. Feel your feet on the ground, your back against the chair, pay attention to yur sensations and your breathing. You can get a copy of my grounding exercise that will teach you to become more grounded if you practice it daily.

Negative thinking is a shy person’s most paralyzing, self-fulfilling hurdle.  Rather than imagining the worst posssible scenario, Erika recommends imagining the best or how you would recover from the situation.

If you have been reading my posts or following my work with fear of public speaking, you will recognize that Erika’s suggestions are identical to mine.  First, admit you are nervous rather than trying to cover it up.  Give audiences a chance to support and identify with you.  Second, learn to ground yourself in your body so that you become more relaxed, comfortable in your skin and present. Third, imagine how great it feels to be with your audiences, to connect with them and share your ideas, insights and expertise.

Thanks to Erika for her valuable advice for people suffering with social anxiety and shyness! Visit her website at  Find a list of Erika’s Book Chapters or purchase her book at Amazon .

If you’d like to have an audio copy of my grounding exercise, please visit My book It’s Your Time to Shine is another good resource for people who are shy or anxious in social settings.