In researching Quiet, I met a scientist performing groundbreaking work on social anxiety disorder. A charming, articulate man, he confided to me that his interest in the field came from his own struggles with shyness. But he asked me not to use his name in my book. “Not everyone is as comfortable as you are exposing their true feelings,” he said.
To which I could only say “ha.”
I am not a natural self-discloser at all. It took me thirty years to realize my childhood dream of becoming a writer, partly because I was afraid to write about personal things—yet these were the subjects I was drawn to.
Eventually, my drive to write grew stronger than my fear, and I’ve never looked back. I still envy friends who write about topics like science or politics. They can show up at dinner parties without everyone announcing: “Here comes the introvert!”
But you get used to it. And really, it’s a small price to pay for the freedom to say what you think.
I tell you all this because I hear often from people who burst with ideas but decline to share them because they dislike the spotlight. Maybe you fear others judging you and your work. Or you’re uncomfortable with self-promotion. Or perhaps you’re afraid of failure, or of success.
So many fears, so many ideas worth sharing. What to do? Here are eight ideas to help you power through these disabling emotions.
1. Know that you’re in good company. People have always had to put themselves out there. We tend to think that in the good old days, no one had to self-promote the way we do today. True—but if they wanted to share, or lead, or create, they had to go public with their thoughts too. And this has always been scary. Darwin waited 34 years to publish his idea that humans evolved from monkeys. Scholars call this “Darwin’s Delay,” and many believe it was due to his fear that others would judge his heretical for the times theory.
2. When it comes to social media, think self-expression, not self-promotion. Blogging and tweeting, if practiced properly, feel more like a creative project than an exercise in self-disclosure even though, of course, they are both. They also don’t require the in-person social multi-tasking that many people find so exhausting.
3. Coffee will deliver you from self-doubt. It gets you excited about new ideas and helps you ignore the chorus of judgers inside your head. It propels your thinking and helps you make connections between seemingly unrelated things. Hence the saying that “a mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems.”