In each of us, there is a voice that speaks from the place of our insecurities. Though we may otherwise feel confident, we are all prone to experiencing shyness in one or more areas of our lives.
Sophia, happily married for 5 years and a mother of two, finds herself overwhelmed by her own shyness. She has always been open to the swinging lifestyle and when her husband agreed to try it out, she found herself “locked in her insecurities”. She describes herself as being “less sociable and more introverted” than her husband, which is why she always felt comfortable with letting him lead the way. However, Sophia feels that because of her shyness, she withdraws from experiences in which she’s on her own without her husband’s support, even though she knows she would enjoy them. Sophia is definitely not alone.
In the swinging lifestyle, many women at different stages of their life, experience shyness. Some may attribute it to circumstances, some attribute it to their personality. Either way, the behaviors that result from feeling shy block their way to experiencing more pleasure in swinging.
What can women do to cope with their shyness and experience more freedom and pleasure in the lifestyle?
Let’s look into this together.
The Origin of Shyness
Understanding what is at the core of your shyness can help you navigate towards overcoming it. The first step towards understanding shyness is increasing awareness of the situations in which we behave shyly. Actively notice the situations in which you feel shy. They are likely to have certain “triggers” in common, such as being (or feeling as if you are) evaluated or judged.
It’s important to keep in mind that shyness emerges for different reasons. Our personal, relational, and cultural experiences are different and each person has their unique challenges that cause shy behaviours. We must not assume that we know what the challenge is just because we call it the same.
Still, it may be helpful to look into some common categories of challenges that can lie underneath shyness.
We may not be happy about the way we look now, or we may still carry the insecurities we had in the past. You may try to hide parts of your body that you feel ashamed of or that you feel may not live up to other people’s expectations. Women are usually more self-conscious about their looks than men. Though women are trying to free themselves from perceiving certain, socially affirmed looks as more or less attractive, the pressure can still feel burdening. Shyness can “speak” on behalf of those body insecurities, minimizing our exposure to other people’s judgement.
Though fear of not living up to partners’ sexual expectations is usually more burdening for men, women too can feel insecure about their sexual performance. Shy behaviors may communicate: “Take it slow. I am not ready yet”. They signal to the person that we need more time before we can let go of the control. Shy behaviours can temporarily lower people’s expectations of what we are ready to give or show.
Negative Past Experiences
Our past experiences may carry the weight of rejection and pain that sticks with us, making us feel insecure and self-conscious. Our shyness can serve as a protective layer between ourselves and others. It’s a shield that lets fewer people in and only if they show support and care that makes us feel comfortable to open up. Shyness “tests” the willingness of people to show compassion and understanding towards our insecurities over swinger regrets.
Fear of Rejection or Judgement
Opening a relationship up to new people can be a threatening experiment. Sure, women can feel safe with their partners, confident that they are interesting, desirable or sexy, but getting back on a dating field to meet new people can cause anxiety that hides behind shyness. The lingering fear of being rejected and judged can affect how we present ourselves. Sometimes, it feels safer to be shy than to risk acting too confident and get rejected.
How Shyness Affects our Behaviour
At the core of shyness is usually the anticipation of negative evaluation. We think someone will think poorly of us, so we pull back to minimize the amount of “wrong” things that we can do. Shy behaviours usually have a protective function.
For example, we hold back from being fully present in a situation, and the avoidance provides temporary relief. Our shyness successfully keeps us away from being noticed. Though we’ve successfully avoided judgement, we still haven’t experienced pleasure. Though we protected ourselves from evaluation, we ended up feeling neglected or ignored. This is usually where we blame ourselves for not taking action for not stepping up with confidence. Shyness and self-blame often go together.
When we act shy, we also tend to leave it to other people to make the first step. When they don’t pick up on our signals or direct their attention elsewhere, we tend to assign blame and think of others as neglectful, unsupportive or inconsiderate.
Shyness is how other people may perceive our quiet, lingering anxiety. In a lot of situations the “signs” of your shyness will resemble the ones of anxiety, such as – heart racing, hands sweating, having negative and judgemental thoughts about yourself or the situation, situation avoidance, etc. They can have the same “origin”: fear of judgement, of being evaluated or making a mistake.
In swinging, women who are shy can have a harder time with jealousy in swinging, especially if their partner acts confident and connects fast(er) with others. Seeing their partners fitting into the lifestyle faster, can make a woman feel inadequate or replaceable if she’s not able or wanting to keep up with his pace.
We, and others, tend to recognize shyness from non-verbal signals. It reflects in our swinger body language. Our body tends to shrink, as if we are trying to minimize our presence in the room. Arms crossed, looking down, avoiding eye-contact, dressing in a way that does not attract attention, sitting in the corner, letting someone else take the spotlight or speaking in a quiet tone are some behaviours we connect to shyness.
How does shyness affect your behaviour?
What behaviours do you associate with your shyness?
Coping with Shyness
We all have different ways of coping with shyness. One size does not fit all, so it’s important to keep your own needs in mind while choosing strategies to experiment with.
Here are a few tips that may be useful to try.
Communicate with Your Partner
Before going into swinging, have a conversation with your partner about the experiences you connect with shyness. As much as possible, try to describe your feelings and the behaviours you believe stem from it. Do not assume that your partner knows what kind of support you need. Instead, share your expectations. Help them understand the pace you are comfortable with.
Let Others Make the First Move
If making the first move makes you feel anxious, allow others to approach you instead. You may signal your interest non-verbally or ask your partner to help you get the communication started. It’s common to feel nervous when you are surrounded by people you don’t know, and especially if you are new to the lifestyle.
Have a Back-Up or Exit Strategy
Though it is likely that you will not need one, knowing that you have it can soothe your thoughts. Think of a subtle non-verbal signal to your swinging partner that communicates that you are not comfortable. If you are a unicorn or playing solo, have a friend on a standby who is ready to call you and get you out of the party or a date if things go south. Knowing that there is an easy way to leave or take a break can help you feel more relaxed, even if you never decide to actually use it.
Practice Self-compassion vs. Self-judgement and Self-blame
Shyness speaks from our insecurities, and they are likely to get amplified every time you turn to yourself with judgmental words. Notice and calm your negative thoughts with a more gentle attitude. Swinging is a new situation that takes time to adapt to. If your shyness became more noticeable, it’s because your mind and body are needing some more time and assurance that everything will be okay.
Find Your Confidence-Boosters
Surround yourself with positive influence. Devote more time to those people who appreciate and care about you. Do more of what feels good and validates your inner voice of confidence and strength. Think of all those seemingly tiny things that make you feel more confident – sexy lingerie, a fresh haircut, a black dress or light make-up. Remember your strengths, things that you are good at. Talk to your partner about the qualities they love and appreciate about you. Feed your inner confidence with what feels good.
Practice Social Skills
Starting or leading a conversation, asking engaging questions, showing non-verbal or verbal cues that you are interested, flirtation and other behaviours are skills that can be taught and practiced. A course or a workshop in social or flirting skills can help you improve your skills in a safe environment. Your partner may want to accompany you and help you explore these skills together.
Work on Understanding Your Fears
Your fears are not likely to disappear because you chose to ignore them. Instead, try to understand their roots and the ways they affect your behaviours. Reaching a deeper self-understanding is challenging, which is why it’s useful to have a support of a counsellor or a therapist.
Stop Thinking of Yourself as Shy
Don’t label yourself as “shy” or speak of shyness as your “trait”. The labelling reinforces the behaviours which act like a self-fulfilling prophecy. We think of ourselves as shy, and then we act as shy, which serves as a proof that we are shy. Think of how you would like to see yourself behave and practice those behaviour's. If you don’t succeed at first, remember that every change requires practice and effort.
Give yourself the permission to try new things, to get out of your comfort zone and meet new people, knowing that it is okay to make mistakes or stumble upon your own behaviours. Self – confidence is not something you have or not, but something that you do, grow and believe in. Nurture a positive self-image, surround yourself with positive influence, practice behaviours and dare explore the unknown territory.