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Shyness. How to Take Control of Social Anxiety Using Your Compassionate Mind

Lynne Henderson

Having a bashful or timid personality is natural. It’s a normal part of life that everyone goes through at some point. It is a natural emotion that everyone can experience. However, there are instances when social anxiety becomes debilitating and starts to hinder one’s ability to navigate life. 

Various situations in life can bring up feelings of uncertainty. Moments such as being placed in a new, unfamiliar social environment where you are surrounded by new people. Or, during moments of intense focus, like suddenly being put in a spotlight in front of an audience. People attribute feeling physical pains and sensations like goosebumps or sweating following situations similar to these. One would suddenly feel as if they are not in control of one’s body. These problems don’t even include the mental anguish that people with timid personalities go through. For some, whose social anxieties border on uncontrollable and damaging, they opt to forego situations that necessitate them being challenged, limiting themselves to situations that they feel they are comfortable with, or feel that they have control over.

Human experience over thousands of years has necessitated shyness for survival. Humans, as a whole, are “social beings.” When it interferes with life goals, progresses to social anxiety disorder, or causes “learned pessimism,” “mild depression,” or even “learned helplessness,” it can become a problem. In this sense, shyness and shame frequently prevent us from achieving our potential and from fully interacting with others.

This is not to say that having a shy personality is a wholly negative trait. Those who are shy are not particularly motivated to be forceful with others. They simply don’t feel an immediate need to dictate the actions of the people around them, instead perhaps preferring to be listeners within the social circles they take part in. 

These people typically adopt a “pause to check” strategy in social situations and may be just as well-adjusted as extroverts. They are perceptive to other people’s feelings and thoughts. They exhibit caution, thoughtfulness, diligence, agreeableness, and a propensity for cooperative action.

We are not to blame for our social anxiety. In order to safeguard us, the brain states that cause these emotions have developed over time. To live the lives we wish to live, we are all trying our best.

The good news is that shy people can develop coping mechanisms for their emotions and refute unsettling notions. They can try new, self-assured behaviors and grow in their capacity for self-compassion. This entails developing the soothing and calming alternative brain state and learning to use our innate kindness and compassion toward both ourselves and others.

The Compassionate Mind Approach (created by Paul Gilbert) combines knowledge about how our minds can cause us problems with a potent remedy in the form of mindfulness and compassion. It provides techniques for energizing the area of the brain associated with kindness, warmth, compassion, and safety while calming the area that causes us to feel tense, irritated, unhappy, or depressed.

Lynne Henderson is a licensed clinical psychologist with over forty years of experience. She founded the Social Fitness Center, and is founder and Co-Director, with Philip Zimbardo of the Shyness Institute. She was a visiting scholar in the Psychology Department at Stanford University for thirteen years, a lecturer for five years, and a faculty member in Continuing Studies. Dr. Henderson also served as a Consulting Associate Professor in Counseling Psychology for ten years. She directed the Shyness Clinic in Palo Alto for twenty-five years and conducted research and shyness groups at the Stanford Counseling Center. Her research interests include translating the results of social psychology and personality theory into clinical work, specifically, the negative stereotyping of shyness, the influence of personality variables and cultural influences on interpersonal perception and motivation, the leadership styles of shy leaders, and compassionate social fitness. She is the author of The Shyness Workbook: Take Control of Social Anxiety Using Your Compassionate Mind. For more information, visit

Team Humanity USA Talks Efforts on the Ground and Helping the Most Vulnerable Communities in Africa

The problems of the world, most of them daunting, are endless and overwhelming, especially to the underserved, unprivileged, and marginalized. From racial discrimination and gender-based violence to child malnutrition and climate change, today’s social and environmental issues hinder people from achieving quality life and maximizing their potential. Highly cognizant of the growing number of individuals and families suffering from different crises, Ayat Abuznade founded Team Humanity USA, a non-government organization committed to providing humanitarian and educational outreach to vulnerable communities. 

Established in 2019, Team Humanity USA is the brainchild of a purpose-driven humanitarian whose volunteer work has exposed her to the harsh realities that confront millions of people across the globe. The seedling of an idea that would eventually flourish into what would become Team Humanity USA was planted back in 2014 when Ayat volunteered at Zaatari Refugee Camp. The largest camp for Syrian refugees, which gradually evolved into a permanent settlement and is located at the border of Syria and Jordan, was where she connected with many families and witnessed firsthand the impact the war had on more than 80,000 vulnerable individuals. 

With her life changed and her view of the world altered in irrevocable ways, Ayat continued to travel and volunteer at several other camps. Ultimately, it was her encounter with various small groups of volunteers that not only highlighted the fact that more is needed to be done but also inspired the creation of Team Humanity USA.

Since then, Team Humanity USA has served the US and a long list of countries abroad, responding to major emergencies, fighting disease and poverty, as well as nurturing and promoting human welfare. Additionally, it has gone all-out in alleviating human suffering by advocating for fundamental human rights and creating opportunities for communities in despair. 

Currently, Team Humanity USA is on the ground, supporting numerous remote areas in Africa by building water well systems and providing safe access to clean water daily. “Our goal is to improve the water supply for African countries by delivering clean and safe water to communities in need,” shared the passion-fueled team at the helm of this initiative. “We promise to create water wells in Africa that will support and promote a healthy living environment and reduce unnecessary suffering from waterborne illnesses.”

Apart from being present in African countries, Team Humanity USA is also highly active in Pakistan, providing women, children, and families with life-saving food, water, and essential aid in the face of the catastrophic floods that have become the new norm in the country. Moreover, the well-respected organization has expanded its reach to Ukraine, delivering aid and assisting, evacuating, and transporting innocent civilians to safe territories. Under the leadership of Ayat Abuznade, Team Humanity USA has been at the frontlines in many countries over the years. In the future, operating under the recognition that wars and climate change will put more individuals and families at risk, it plans to remain a reliable provider of emergency aid and relief work, as well as a strong advocate for basic human rights.