what we're reading now
follow us on facebook
follow us on twitter
subscribe to our blog
find it

What We're Reading Now

What Shyness Can Tell You

12 March 2024

Barbara watched David Whyte’s January 2024 Three Sundays Series on The Shyness of Love and learned that shyness can mean new opportunities are on the horizon.

Tags: barbara read, barbara watched, david whyte, david whyte's three sundays series, poetry, writing

David Whyte's Three Sundays Series began during the pandemic, and I'm so grateful he's continued providing this virtual gift every other month. For just $65.00, you can join other participants at 10:00am Pacific Time for a 60-minute presentation and 15-minutes of Q&A. You also get a recording of each Sunday that you can access for three months as well as a resource guide you can keep that is almost a script of what he presented including all the poems. If you can't afford the $65.00, you can contact his team to get a discount. This month, he's helping me to re-imagine shame.

This past January, Whyte helped me to think about shyness in a new way. He says we can be shy in three areas—with ourselves, with others, and with the gifts we want to give to the world. He spent a Sunday on each one. I don’t experience shyness with the first two, but I do with the third one.

Shy with Ourselves
To find out how we are shy with ourselves, we have to get quiet, sit still, and go within to see what we are thinking and feeling. Many people keep themselves very busy precisely in order not to do this. But if we spend some time alone, we can discover what we want and don’t want and maybe find the courage to make some changes.

I’m not shy with myself. I’ll admit anything I have figured out in my journal when I write morning pages every day. Top secrets are written in sloppy shorthand and sometimes completely scratched out.

Shy with Others
We can be shy with others, especially those we are attracted to. Whyte says, “We fall in love with our possibilities. We’ve all had the experience of finding out from our unconscious behaviors that we have a crush on someone or that we’re in love with someone before we are fully aware of the fact. Someone remarks on the transparent dynamic in front of other people and we blush because we hadn’t realised that we stood in awe of the possibilities.”  

This one is a little mixed for me. I’ve never been unaware of a crush and I’ve had lots of them including my crush on David Whyte! After I met my husband 54 years ago, none of my crushes tempted me romantically. However, I would still feel that falling in love feeling, and eventually I learned it meant I was interested in learning how to do what those people did.

Two of my crushes were particularly informative. One asked me as we were turning from Barclay Downs Drive onto Ferncliff Road toward my first house in Charlotte, North Carolina, “When are you going to write a book?” The other was sitting beside me in a lounge chair as we stared at the pool in our Maitland, Florida, house watching my children swim. He asked, “When are you going to do what you really want to do?” Meaning teach like the faculty I so admired at the American College of Physician Executives.

In the way of romantic shyness, I was embarrassed, hurt, and angry after both questions because they seemed presumptuous, impossible, and far above my capabilities. However, over 20 years later I did both of those things and each of those crushes helped me to achieve those goals. My crushes had made me aware of what gifts I want to give to the world. They saw through me into what I wanted, and they spoke to me of the gifts I wouldn’t acknowledge to myself.

Shy with Our Gifts
At this stage of my life, I am in no way looking to be shy in a new love relationship. I had a great love, and now I’m done with that kind of love. But writing is still the gift I want to give to the world, and I continue to be shy about it. I’m always trying to do it better.

I am shy and in awe of the people in my writing group. Many can write better than I can. My son said to me after my first writing class, “Mama, I’m a good runner. I run with a group of people who are all better than I am. That is the only way I’ll get faster.” He helped me go back to the second class. I’ve stayed for the last 12 years.

My writing teacher and most of the group live in Charlotte. Another silver lining of the pandemic for me, is that we switched to Zoom and nobody wanted to go back to in-person, so I didn’t lose them when I moved to Charlottesville, Virginia in 2022. When I read a piece aloud to them, sometimes I’m so embarrassed I almost lose my voice, but I always feel better when I finish. They give me praise for the good parts, suggestions for the unclear or confusing parts, reminders of needed transitions between paragraphs, and questions that surprise me. The answers to the questions are often parts of the story I have left out because I have forgotten them or refused to admit them until they asked.

I often get the feedback in class that I am so very honest, and I like that. Someone I read said if you are going to write and aren’t going to tell the truth, why bother writing? An embarrassing truth for me is that I often wish I used prettier, bigger words as many of my classmates do. I grew up with honest, wicked smart but also plainspoken parents. To have used the vocabulary words I was tested on every week in school would have gotten a comment from my daddy about how I was trying to get above my raising. I’m guessing writers I admire were surrounded by beautiful words while they were growing up, and they absorbed them. They didn’t realize what was happening because good language was as ubiquitous as water is to a fish. (That’s a word I learned to use after I left home.) Or starting at a young age, they read voraciously and remembered words in a way that I didn’t.

Shyness is not valued in our society. Especially at work, we are expected to know things and speak up about them. David Whyte thinks shyness is a reaction that often represents a longing for something and instead of pushing it away, pretending we are not feeling it, we should allow it, study it, and ask it what it wants from us.

What things are you shy about?


Our Comment Policy:

Our blog posts are only half of the conversation. What our readers have to say is equally important to us, and we're grateful for all the comments that continue the dialog.

To ensure that the discussion here is as useful as possible to all of our readers, please be respectful of our contributors and refrain from harassing, threatening and/or vulgar language. We reserve the right to screen and remove any comments from the site. If you have a question about a comment or want to discuss our policy, please contact us. We'll talk it over.

There are no comments for this entry yet.


Leave a comment



Notify me of follow-up comments?

Enter the characters you see below:

« Return to What We're Reading Now