Shyness is a villain.
It’s insidious, invisible, and it ruins lives.
It stops you from doing what you want and sabotages your efforts when you try to break free.
You can’t talk to the cute guy in the other department at work. You cling to people you know at parties. You find it hard to bond and actually make new friends.
It’s like an oppressive monster living inside you, holding you down while life passes by. Really, shyness is the worst type of villain because it makes YOU seem like the problem.
Shyness is an evil bastard (cue maniacal laughter).
What you need are “super powers” to smash your shyness so you CAN bond with new friends. And who better to model than the Master of Smash himself (who doubles as a shy nerd), the Incredible Hulk?
What a Movie Bromance Can Teach You about Overcoming Shyness
If the title about super powers and the Hulk caught your eye, it’s likely you watched the blockbuster film, The Avengers. I for one loved it (and contributed twice to its record setting box-office take).
But for me, one particular part of the story stood out more than Robert Downey Jr.’s clever bantering, the Hulk succor punching Thor, or Scarlett Johansson tied up in lingerie…
That would be the friendship between Bruce Banner (Hulk) and Tony Stark (Iron Man). And I’m not the only one who was intrigued. A quick search of “Avengers Bromance” proves that.
Part of what made it appealing is the fact Bruce Banner is such a shy, retiring character. He’s quiet and soft-spoken. Yet he becomes friends with Tony Stark; the most brash and outgoing of the lot and the type of person who would intimidate most shy people.
So how did it happen?
I mean sure, it’s fiction and all, but are there some practical lessons to take on how you can get past your shy, quiet nature to build new friendships?
Yes I think there are. And they’re actually based on sound psychological principles many experts have proven to work time and again.
So sit back, put on your Hulk stretch pants and get ready to flex some confidence muscles.
1. Follow your passions
Bruce Banner (Hulk) is a remarkable scientist. He obviously has a passion for his work. Not only has this gained him respect, it gains him the attention of Tony Stark (Iron Man). Stark is more of an engineer, but he’s also brilliant.
This brain-power and passion for science is part of what lets the two connect so well. That’s their common bond no other members of the Avengers can claim.
So be sure to take a cue and figure out what your passions in life are. Explore these and make them an active part of your days. Your enthusiasm will create attraction and respect all around. Plus, when you find someone else who shares your values and passions, it can form a friendship like no other.
2. Face your fears gradually
Despite being shy AND fearing he might tear an entire city apart, Bruce Banner leaves seclusion to share his unique strengths with the world. Throughout the movie, he gradually transforms from cautious and controlled to more empowered (and green).
Really, this is the foundation of overcoming shyness. You’ve got to get out into the world and face the social situations that cause you anxiety. You have to face your fears. There’s no other way.
But the key is to do it gradually. It might be too hard for you to talk to that beautiful girl in the bar tonight. But maybe you can look a woman in the eye as you pass her on the street. Maybe next time you make eye contact AND say hi. Keep upping the ante and eventually, talking to that hottie in the club won’t seem such a monster leap.
3. Show your weird side
Bruce Banner turns into a huge green freak that levels anything in sight. He’s also a nerd, through and through. Yet he was able to find someone who could relate to all that in Tony Stark. After all, Stark is pretty eccentric and has his own quirks too.
While it’s pretty hard for Banner to hide his weird side (because it’s 7 foot tall and green), many of us hide our quirks fearing they won’t be accepted. Yet these are usually the things that make us unique and stem from our passions and core values.
Maybe you :
- Like comics or romance novels
- Believe in healing crystals
- Are prepared for the zombie apocalypse
Whatever it is for you, we all have our quirks and most of us tend to be self-conscious of them.
The thing is, there will always be someone who doesn’t approve of you, no matter what you hide or reveal to the world. So you might as well be straight forward about who you are. That way, you’ll weed out the haters and attract people more compatible to you. Believe me, that’s much more fulfilling in the end.
4. Accept your dark side
At one point in the movie, Tony Stark pokes Bruce Banner with a sharp object and leans in, waiting to see if the Hulk will pop out.
He doesn’t; Bruce has a tight leash on the beast. Yet Stark doesn’t stop there. As he and Banner grow closer, he encourages him to accept the Hulk and learn to control it so he can use its power to help others.
Psychologically speaking, this is great advice. I think the Hulk represents what legendary psychiatrist Carl Jung called the Shadow. The Shadow is the part of ourselves we repress because we think it’s socially unacceptable.
So things like our impatience or our darkest fantasies get repressed and hidden in the shadow. After all, we don’t want anyone to know about that stuff. In fact, we often don’t want to acknowledge that stuff about ourselves. The problem is, many times our greatest personal resources lie in our shadow. As Jung said, “In the shadow is the gold.”
For example, when Banner finally accepts the Hulk and works to control it, his strength is enough to turn the tide of the war. He helps his friends save the day – something he wouldn’t have been able to do as the carefully controlled Bruce Banner.
- Maybe you’re an excellent writer but quit because someone criticized your work.
- Maybe you’re the next great physicist, but you never pursued it because most of your family believes science is the devil’s work.
- Maybe you have a limiting belief that says, “Out-shining others makes them feel inadequate and that’s not good.” But all this does is stop you realizing your potential.
Whatever it is for you, being aware of and accepting your dark side can empower you in ways you never imagined, socially and in your life in general.
5. To gain friends, first be a friend
Stark greeted Banner warmly on their first meeting by shaking his hand and saying he admired his work. Later, he offered Banner value by suggesting he come work at Stark Industries to enjoy state of the art research equipment. He also displayed genuine caring by giving helpful advice on how to deal with the Hulk.
Often, you’ll have to take the initiative to build a new friendship. When you do, remember the rule of reciprocity from psychology. Put simply, it means if you act kindly toward someone, they’re much more likely to do the same. Likewise, if you’re cold or standoff-ish , they will be too.
Just don’t over-do the kindness thing, ok? You don’t want to seem needy and approval seeking.
So a good rule of thumb is to cultivate the attitude of giving without expecting anything in return. That way, when you give a compliment or offer your help, you do it from a place of abundance instead of neediness.
A bonus tip to help you overcome shyness and make friends is to learn how to improve your conversation skills. That way, you’ll have more confidence socially. In fact, Dean J is a former shy-guy who helps people overcome shyness and be more outgoing on his blog. Click Here to watch his free video series on how to beat shyness and be more interesting in conversations
Photo credit: ‘The Incredible Hulk’ by Big Stock