You know you’re shy when your stomach is bottomless, your mind goes blank and you struggle to say “the right thing” when you’re in a group or just with one person you don’t know well. That happened to me until I was almost in my fifties, when I forced myself into activities to help me understand and feel more at ease with people.

This month I gave my first talk about shyness in public. It was billed as an overview of my new book, Brave. A dozen gray-haired women filled the sunny meeting room at the Healing Garden in Harvard, Massachusetts. With notes in hand, I felt well organized. More important, I felt mentally charged, ready to share some of my history of shyness.

For so many years I’d tried to imagine what this would be like, and yes, I was still very, very aware of the mountain of pain connected with my shy past. I wanted to be well prepared and to avoid being tired that day from driving from Maine, I’d spent the night at my son’s house, not far from Harvard. Then in the morning, even before I’d finished my stretching exercises, adrenaline began taking over my mind. I knew it was a blessing, that it would shelter me from nervousness and feeling scared.

I felt focused and comfortable talking about my history, and I liked that. But halfway through the ninety-minute talk and half a dozen questions, I knew something was not right–the audience members were way too solemn. I sensed an air of detachment, but I didn’t know why or what to do about it. I continued to concentrate on delivering my talk about Brave.

After the talk, three women lingered and I asked them what they thought. They told me they had wanted to talk about their own shyness. This exchange with the women taught me I should listen to how people are responding to what I say. I should have picked up on the women’s need to talk about themselves. After all, they had come to the Healing Garden for a talk on shyness—why else would they be interested in the subject except to learn more about their own problems with shyness? I realized for talks in the future I should focus less on the particulars of my story and discuss shyness problems in general. Exactly what I want to do with this blog. Here we can talk about what we want because everyone has time to reflect on feelings, offer insights and learn from each other.

Let’s get a dialogue going. Use this blog to comment on your own shyness, or the shyness of loved ones, or to ask me questions about my shyness. You can post your comments here anonymously, under a nickname, or under your own name.


  1. Hi Helen//kudos for finishing and publishing your book. I remember a time in my life where I was shy..People who know me find that hard to believe I know. In college I would slide into the classroom and sit in the back row. My final class for graduation was public speaking. The first time I took a valium to get through it. To my surprise I was a natural and made people laugh. The next time I skipped the drug and was a hit. That ended my shyness and gave me confidence that has lasted all my life.
    Good luck with your book/

  2. I’m so glad you have started this blog. I was at a weekend retreat over the weekend and I wondered if one of the participants suffered from shyness or depression. She hardly spoke at all and when she was asked to participate, she couldn’t think of anything to say. It was a safe environment for her and we accepted her quietness. What is the difference and/or connection between shyness and depression?

  3. After reading “Brave”, a recent memoir on shyness, I gave a copy to my psychologist. He was amazed, profoundly impressed . Now treating me in a different way. Feel much more confidence.

    Frank Pope

  4. I hope your book and blog will help people who suffer from shyness. Your advice and knowledge is invaluble to them and your talks help you to improve your own confidence. That confidence will, in turn, provide inspiration to others.

  5. I forgot to mention that they were probably way too solemn due to the seriousnous and sadness of your story. It couldn’t help but invoke such feelings in them. When you see them like that you could lighten the moment by saying ‘It does get better!’ and carry on.

  6. Helen, your life journey, becoming what you are now gives us all an eye-opener to aspects of people we tend to ignore or miss everyday due to our busy and often very selfish lives…I hope many people read BRAVE and use this Blog. Your world through BRAVE will give so many the confidence and inspiration. You are amazing. God Bless You.


  7. Some thoughts on the book———!
    I did think early in my reading, that it read as a memoir for well over 250 or so pages and that shyness was sort of an after thought added later. I know that is wrong but it read that way in my eyes for so long. But——once I finished it I got it! You see it took me the whole book to really catch that “you made it!” You’re not that shy person that you were—you made it and others can also—–
    How did I come up with that—you may ask? Here are my scattered-late night thoughts———— It’s not a “How to” book with pat answers. You don’t present a magic bullet or magic prescription so that others can just take some and their shyness will end. No–your story says “Don’t give up” —“It’s beatable”—“I beat it—so can you–It’s do-able”
    Now you may disagree but it’s my “take” and you did ask, so please don’t take offense. Here is my “provenance” to think that way. I wasn’t locked in a literal room and excluded from childhood as you were but I got Polio at age 3–and was locked in a mind set—not of my own but of society. And that was just as destructive and damaging to me as that room was to you. I was told I was “different” and “sick” and even “retarded” by some—just because I had Polio—which scared them enough to treat me as a pariah—an outcast. At 3-4-5-6-7 years of age —my formative years —were spent missing out on growing up with friends and having some sort of normal youth— No I spent it trying to figure out why I didn’t fit in—and not learning the social graces it took to play and interact with others. Those early years turned into later years and my teen years were still on outside looking in—only wanting to be “normal”, be like everyone else and never quite getting there. No matter how I tried to fit in–trying and doing what they did—smoking-drugs-sex- the whole gamut—just trying to be normal. It never worked and only got me in trouble. You can’t catch up per se—you move on and go around the walls.
    This ended up with a “certain shyness” that I almost can’t explain—and it still follows me but only on those occasions where I doubt I will fit in somewhere—so I don’t bother—cause the hurt of being excluded is still too easily remembered. So on that occasion I just don’t get out of the car or go into the store or whatever or wherever I feel like “this could be one of those moments”. Shyness–not sure?—–but reading your book I did realize I was not an introvert—–as I always claimed in self-defense—-just a “certain shyness”. When I got to the end–it was an “Overcomer” story—you overcame shyness caused by the abuse in your youth. My story ended with the same results (for the most part) and in turn—is also an “Overcomer” story. So—I like the term “Overcoming shyness” better then “Kicking shyness”.
    I hope I didn’t ramble to long and bore you—-just thought a lot about you and your wonderful book!

  8. Helen,

    I am so happy for you that you have started this blog. It is wonderful to see all the comments about your book here. I have finally read your published version (and this is my favorite).

    I think I can speak for all of us, of how lucky we are to have this book. I see Conrad in a new light now – through the eyes of a child. And feel closer than ever to him.

    I hope you continue with your writing. I think that you have found your true form of expression. You have much to say.

    Congrats & Love, Ellen

  9. Hola Helen
    Wonderful that you are publishing this book. Bravo and all good luck with it.

    Beverly Russell
    author of the spiritual fable “The Adventures of Kundun the Golden Cat.” available at Amazon.com

  10. Thank you Helen for giving voice to how painful social isolation in the company of others feels. I know that others see at times my distress but I never know what to say that would be understood. I still have a way to go on my journey and am inspired by your story.

  11. Hello Saskia,
    I am happy to see your email and to hear you are inspired to overcome shyness, that Brave helped you. Yes, it is sort like an attitude and can be overcome. Good luck and please keep me posted. Helen

  12. Hola Helen,

    Se hace camino al andar……….
    Este es el camino de la vida. Lo maravilloso de vivir.

    Quiero transcribir estas palabras:

    Time to Grow……….
    You see, we don’t know what our goals are. We learn our
    goals only in the process of getting there… You don’t know
    what the baby is going to become. Therefore, you wait and
    take good care of it until it becomes what it will.
    Milton H. Erickson, M.D., 1979

    Me alegra haberte encontrado.

    Juan Diaz

    1. Buenas Dias Juan,

      Estoy aprendiendo usar mi blog poco a poco. No sabia que podria responder asi!Tambien he estado disfrutando tanto San Miguel de Allende que no me da tiempo. Gracias por tu comento. Hasta pronto, Helen

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