Too shy for love?


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For some men, the phrase “Just talk to her!!” sounds as dangerous as “defuse the bomb!”. For those who are extremely shy, the search for true love can actually feel like a nerve-wracking thriller. Winking, buying a drink or a simple “hello” are real hurdles for the shy. So how on earth do you get to know someone if you belong to the “extremely shy” species? Is it possible at all without a professional matchmaker and lots and lots of alcohol?

Nadine Laban is an alternative practitioner for psychotherapy with her own practice in Potsdam (practice-laban.en) and has revealed to us how shy men can actually overcome their inner inhibitions and why shyness can even be a pretty awesome bonus when it comes to dating.

The cliché of the uptight nerd

One thing right away: Shyness has nothing to do with the image of the uptight nerd in the plaid shirt who was already thrown juice boxes at school. First of all, shyness is something deeply human and, moreover, to a certain extent even likeable. People who show a certain reserve are usually considered much more pleasant and socially acceptable than those who need the big show like the air they breathe.

And yet: When it comes to the acceptance of shy people in society, men have a noticeably harder time than women; especially when it comes to flirting. “Men are still expected to actively approach and talk to women. Women, on the other hand, can lean back in their passive role without being seen as a weakness,” says Nadine Laban.

Why be shy in the first place?

But why do some people stumble through life so wonderfully lost in thought and bang out one line after another, while others are often frozen by their own fears and inhibitions? Is it a matter of type and is shyness already in the cradle?

Only in part, says the therapist: “Behind shyness is usually a fear of rejection. Those who have already experienced during puberty that they are constantly rejected by women may withdraw more and more. The shy person tries not to experience the situation of being rejected by another person”. Thus, shy behavior has more to do with what we experience in life and how our environment shapes us.

“If you observe small children, you quickly notice that they express their needs in a completely unbiased way, without fear of the reaction of their counterpart,” says Laban, “The more we are shaped by upbringing or society, the more such restraint and caution is developed”.

What are the different forms of shyness?

Shyness is not clearly defined in science, but depends strongly on one’s own feelings in each case. Moreover, it may well be that people are extremely reticent only in a very specific area. “Someone who performs great on the job and has no problem managing employees may well go completely silent when it comes to flirting with a woman,” Nadine Laban knows.

This does not have to be a catastrophe or a case for a therapist, but: “When shyness starts to limit your life and makes you feel uncomfortable, you should act”, says the therapist.

People who retreat further and further into their shells in order to no longer be exposed to certain situations can end up standing alone. Social phobia is then the diagnosis, in which those affected are often completely isolated and can hardly find their way back into social life on their own.

How to get rid of extreme shyness?

But what can men do to feel comfortable in their skin again and to appear confident and self-assured? “Silence your inner critic,” says Nadine Laban. He is to blame for the fact that many people only focus on their deficits. “Many people look for the hair in their own soup and forget that the soup is delicious,” says the therapist, “I then ask my patients specifically where their lives are going really well and work out their strengths together with them.”.

Ultimately, this path of self-acceptance leads to the desired goal, namely the realization that one is not as bad as one has often convinced oneself for years. Once the shy person has built up enough self-confidence, he suddenly starts to have more confidence in himself and gradually removes inhibitions.

Another tip of the expert: Ask yourself what is the worst thing that could happen if you get a rejection. Would a simple “no” destroy your own life? Hardly.

The leap into cold water – advisable or not?

In some areas, the “eyes closed and through” strategy is certainly helpful; when you’re standing on the 10-meter diving board or need to rip off a Band-Aid. When it comes to flirting, however, this does not necessarily have to be the case, knows the therapist, who rather advises against going completely against one’s nature.

Do you have the scene from Top Gun in mind, where Tom Cruise as Maverick does this singing number in the bar with his buddy Goose to impress the blonde Charlie? You know, “You’ve lost that loving feeling…”. Pretty awesome number to be honest, but not for everyone. Honestly, if you’re just not the type to go big – don’t try to go big. It will surely backfire. Besides, the loud way is not necessarily the best one.

Better: Be authentic and take your supposed weakness with humor. It can even come across as quite charming if you are completely open about your shyness. A “I’m actually terribly shy, but I’m not going to let you go on – somehow I can’t bring myself to do that” is not only honest, but also sympathetic. 

Another tip: Try it via online dating. After all, if you’re shy about looking your counterpart in the eye, you may well be able to score points in the virtual space with wordplay and witty conversation when flirting online. This gives you the opportunity to get to know the woman better and to have enough to talk about when it comes to the real meeting. 

What advantages do shy men have over the “hello here I am” types?

With all the efforts to combat their own shyness, men should not ignore one thing: A certain degree of shyness can also go down quite well with the opposite sex. “Experience has shown that it’s the confident women who tend to go for men who are a little quieter and more reserved,” says Nadine Laban.

In addition, shy men are actually said to be better listeners. Instead of chattering away and putting themselves in the spotlight, quieter guys let their counterparts have their say; a trait that is much in short supply these days and therefore also quite well received.

Ergo: As ingenious as the flirting tips of your buddies or in any guidebooks may sound – you have to feel comfortable in your role and like it yourself. Become aware of your strengths and assets instead of focusing only on your deficits. Self-acceptance is the first step to gaining more self-confidence. The rest – flirting – will then suddenly become much easier for you.

Our expert

Nadine Laban is a graduate sociologist and non-medical practitioner for psychotherapy. In her practice in Potsdam, she offers her patients counseling and support through behavioral and conversational psychotherapy. She is a systemic individual and family therapist, mediator, burnout counselor, EMDR and hypnosis therapist, as well as a seminar leader for progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobson.

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