There’s a game called Liar’s Poker, in which the last card you are dealt you stick on your forehead (with gum or something). You stick it face out so that all the other players can see what you have, but you have no idea. Except by trying to read their expressions and reactions.
Stay with me a sec so I can show you how this relates to the metamorphosis of my painful shyness, and how it’s helped me do much better work in the world.
I’ve never actually played Liar’s Poker (and I’m pretty bad at most kinds of poker I’ve played) but when I heard about it when I was 15 or so, I thought, “That’s what I feel like! There’s something terribly flawed within me that everyone else can see but I can’t. I have no idea what defective personality card I’ve been dealt, except by trying to read other people’s expressions and reactions.”
Believing that there’s something(s) flawed within us — or wondering if we are good enough to be loved and accepted — is such a widespread condition in humanity that I think almost everyone is afflicted with it, to some degree.
And it’s definitely what was behind me being painfully shy for the first three decades of my life.
“Painfully shy” looked like me talking in a tiny voice and swallowing my words before they left my mouth. Assuming that people didn’t like me, found me boring, couldn’t wait to get away from me, and felt like I was wasting their time.
I found it very tiring spending my days trying to read other people’s expressions and reactions to figure out what damning card was stuck (with cosmic gum) to my forehead.
When I was in my coach training program, as part of a homework assignment to help get over fear of talking to people, I was sent out on the streets and into the subways of New York City (where I lived at the time) to talk to strangers. Thirty strangers a week, or about five strangers each day.
It was horrible and terrifying and awkward at first, as you might imagine.
And then, I did something miraculous.