In this post I will argue that although some people may be more careful in social situations than others, this so called ‘introversion’ is not a fixed trait. Everybody needs alone time sometimes, and these same people that want to be alone, at other times have an urge for human interaction. Both can be very satisfactory, and both are necessary to different extents for all people. Regardless of whether people are considered introverts or extroverts, we all crave a bit of both: we enjoy the company of those that make us feel good about ourselves, and we relax all by ourselves when we have had enough.
Naturally, when social situations make us feel bad about ourselves, we prefer to have more alone time and we will feel more easily drained spending time in such social environments. This is not because social environments drain people: it is because feeling less socially capable than others drains people. This holds true for everyone, and as a consequence those who feel they are successful in interacting, will not experience this draining feeling so often. In contrast, those who have been led to believe they are not socially gifted will have an inner critical voice all the time that tries to confirm this negative self perception. The more socially successful you believe yourself to be, the less drained you will feel after interactions. Of course initially, it takes a lot of willpower to improve your social skills, and you will feel very exhausted if you push yourself out of your comfort zone, but over time you will feel very comfortable in social situations if only you learn how to play them.
That you have ended up being labeled as an introverted, timid or shy person is social conditioning – NOT an unfixable given. That you feel uncomfortable in interactions with others is because they convince you you are. Say for instance, that you are not speaking for a while, and suddenly they put an interpretation on something you haven’t thought about. They say you are uncomfortable speaking, are socially awkward, afraid of social interactions, or give another negative spin to what you are doing, and convince others that this is the reason for your actions. By sheer social pressure you internalize these false interpretations and come to believe you truly more afraid and uncomfortable in social situations than are others. From then on confirmation bias helps further internalize this interpretation that others have forced upon you. You start to wonder “am I really uncomfortable?” You notice you aren’t speaking for a while, and you start to think: “Damn! It’s true. I haven’t spoken, so I must be socially awkward. Oh no!” The mere thought makes you so uncomfortable and self aware that when you try to prove yourself wrong by thinking of saying something, you start to tense up, because you don’t know what to say. You are just trying to prove yourself the unfalsifiable interpretation forced upon you can’t be true, and by being so focused on proving yourself wrong, you become nervous, and you automatically fail at proving it wrong. But this only happens because others have put that idea in your head, they have made a statement you cannot verify to be wrong, and you have grown to accept it as a truth.
Now you have to outgrow those false beliefs about yourself. You have to realize that what is going on in reality, is that these same somewhat ‘outgoing’ people calling you shy are equally nervous (and often MORE intrinsically nervous) than you are in social situations. If it were only the so called ‘shy’ people who were sensitive to social pressure and ostracisation, public speaking wouldn’t be higher on the list of fears than death, because everyone fears death to some extent. For something to be statistically feared more than death, it should be as universal as a fear of death, and not restricted to just a subset of the population. Thus, it is not just a fear experienced by those labeled as ‘shy’.
Those people calling others shy care more about what others think than do you, and they would feel more uncomfortable when people don’t validate them, than that you would feel uncomfortable in the same situation. In fact, probably you because of being called shy for so long, you can stand a lot more social pressure than they do: you have learned to not step away as soon as people give you a socially ostracizing label. Do you think that such people who give those labels would be able to hold themselves longer than you if they were given such an ambiguous label reducing them to who they are as a person into a socially negative trait, and socially pressured into believing it is true?
If people call you shy, you need to realize you are not strange, there is nothing negative or unusual about what you feel in social situations, and most of all: the way people perceive you -shy or outgoing- is very easily changed. (You can test this on people who don’t know you: body language and loudness of voice alone are sufficient to make them put a label on you, and it can be a different label than what you have been given so far, if only you know how people form their labels for others.) It is just that people are apprehensive of change and thus try to cram you into an unchangeable perception of yourself, but they do is only so they can stay in the social position they have grown comfortable with.
To further understand that your shyness is not a character trait, but is a learned and changeable behavior, read on.
WE ARE PRIMATES
A. Human nature
Humans are primates, and primates are social creatures that live in hierarchies like most species of monkeys. The monkey’s behavior is shaped by its social status which is reinforced by its life experiences, and this all starts from birth where the monkey depends on the social status of its parents. Throughout this post, I argue that humans and their “unchangeable characters” too are products of their social hierarchy, and as in other monkeys, this position in social hierarchy starts at birth and may in part be determined by birth order and social status in early classroom experience. Apart from minor unchangeable influences, it is primarily others that will try to keep each individual that is hierarchically below them below, and there are usually only a certain number of life phases where challenging one’s social position is more common and likely to have some effect. That it is mainly those surrounding us that push is to maintain our established social position is reflected in the resistance people have to change: not only acquaintances, but friends and even family will be strongly opposed to any “character” changes (a.k.a. hierarchical changes) and will all try their best to keep everyone at their position, especially whoever is lower (more timid) than them.
B. Social status
In most monkeys, social status is of utmost importance to males, as it determines their chances of survival AND of reproduction. This is not to say that social status does not impact females, however their survival and reproductive success – not only getting pregnant, but also getting protection while rearing offspring – is pretty much guaranteed. Thus, being labeled as ‘shy’ is much bigger of a problem for men than it is for women.
For female monkeys (including primates, thus including humans), social status is merely an “extra”, because they don’t depend on it for survival or reproduction. Females depend on it only to give themselves and their offspring an extra edge in the game of survival and reproduction. High status of her mate, or if she’s one of many females – being the preferred one – determines to what extent she has priority to food access, and to what extent she and her offspring has impunity to being bullied as well as getting away with bullying. This holds true not only for monkeys, but also for humans. (Or do you think any classmate of Barack Obama’s daughters would even consider bullying them straight in their face? This is of course an extreme example, because your father doesn’t have to be a president for you to be better off: you just need to be popular.)
C. Sexual euphoria, and sexual frustration in relation to shyness in men
In contrast to female primates, for male primates, status determines whether he can get any chance to have offspring at all, and in primate species where most healthy adult males get to mate, as in humans, social status determines the ratio of offspring-to-investment. That is: plenty of women prefer to give birth to the child of a president or go to bed with a player without him having to spend time on her, than to go to bed with a Joe average that doesn’t spend time on her. In human society, Joe average, a.k.a. lower status heterosexual males, those that some people would consider nerds or losers, are considered lucky if they end up with a woman at all, and are more or less expected to be stable partners that invest in the relationship. Women will let these guys go through a lot more hoops and fulfill a lot more requirements before considering sleeping with them. So in essence, men that are considered as average or low social value will only get a chance for reproduction if they go through a long time of proving that they aren’t just after sex; they must first invest plenty of time in the woman before getting any sex, and will only get it after more or less having socially established they are in a relationship. Traditionally this implied these men had to wait for sex until after marriage, even if their girl had had a fling nobody knew about. Nowadays it means these men only get sex if they explicitly confirm beforehand they are willing to officially announce themselves to friends and family as bf-gf. Higher status males, now often referred to as players, got (and still get) to have a chance for reproduction with plenty of females, often without having to invest a lot of time prior to having sex, and also very little after, and without ever having to establish their relationship socially. They are not expected to invest in order to get sex. Their offspring-to-investment ratio is high: until the introduction of birth control they had relatively more offspring, with less time and resource investment spent on a woman.On the other hand, lower status males got a low offspring-to-investment ratio, because they only got to have offspring only on the condition they would bond for a lifetime, thus not impregnating any other females (and further lowering their social status if they did, because that would make them cheaters, which is socially unacceptable). Since most women start out with at least one “failed relationship”, usually a bad boy/player, that means that if lower status males wanted a chance for offspring of their own, they had to implicitly agree to being cuckolded in a socially acceptable way, namely by the heartbreaker that came before him, before the nerd was in relationship with the impregnated woman. (The cuckolded man may not even have at all been aware of the detailed sexual history of the woman he was going to invest in, and might have been fooled by the woman he loved into thinking another non-investing male’s baby was his. and she would love him for being such a good caretaker, while at some point having felt more easily sexually attracted to the player that got her pregnant) If the low social status male wouldn’t agree, he wouldn’t even get a chance to have sex: that’s how lowly he is considered to be. Thus a low status male, gets relatively fewer offspring, for more investment, and even has his lower status further established by agreeing to long-term mating with a female that is by all likelihood already impregnated by another male, thus providing another male reproductive success without that male needing to provide any investment in the woman or his own offspring. (Truly investing males are also most easily upset by a woman’s history and most likely to be jealous, because they don’t want to be in a relationship or fall in love with someone that disadvantages his reproductive success while advantaging that of another man.) Players on the other hand need only a very short time window and little time investment, for the women to offer their womb at little expense, as well as taking the trouble to look for a lower level caretaker (a.k.a. “the one”) that will agree to being cuckolded and who will take care of the donor’s offspring in return for preparing him food and giving him a chance to have his own offspring (wow, he should be so happy he got that chance at all, and such a wonderful woman…NOT). In addition, “the one” also gets the privilege of having to deal with all her emotional troubles. Due to the latter, the sex drive of the ‘loved man’ will naturally go down from having to see, deal an live with all her bad sides for eternity, thus increasing the chance he will be cuckolded further. (In fact, in long term relationships, starting some years after the onset of the relationship, statistically it is the man, not the woman, who is usually not in the mood for having sex with the other half.) When he’s consequently not fucking her, it becomes more socially acceptable for her to cheat. (After all, if a man doesn’t fuck his wife, others will say he’s no real man, and it is only logical his wife cheated. She may be considered a cheat on one hand, but on the other hand, society gives her a ‘pass’ for doing so if he is unable to satisfy her sexually.)
Now, in this light, guess which male got to have the most offspring before the existence of effective birth control? On top of that, take into account that despite birth control, human minds are still emotionally wired as if there is no birth control. With tens of thousands of years of evolution hardwiring of emotions, men will have stronger feelings of euphoria if they do what would have made them more successful in the reproductive game, and will feel this sort of euphoria way less when they are lowest on the social hierarchy. This allows us not only to understand the importance of sex to men, but also to understand the importance of social status to men, because that is what determines who gets to have the feeling they have a reproductive edge, i.e. the feeling of euphoria. (For women, an equivalent level of this euphoria is experienced for finding “the one”, not for having sex, even though women do enjoy sex.) Thus, being ‘shy’ is much more of a handicap to a man’s reproductive success than it is to a woman’s.
D. Climbing the social ladder
And yet, despite the reproductive success of players, the world is not full of guys who are players, which seems strange given that players have always had an edge in spreading their genes and thus their traits. There is a simple explanation for this… namely that genetic influences on “a shy character” are negligible, in other words that this socially awkward ‘trait’ is in fact a learned behavior! (Reinforced by social pressure.) And that’s the good news for timid guys! We argue that being timid is a result of your social status which was established early during your childhood and we argue that it is not an unchangeable given, unlike what most people will make you believe.
True: genetics can influence risk taking behavior, and (epi)genetics even is presumed to be responsible for changes in risk taking behavior at specific phases of life. However, it is not (epi)genetics, but your social status which determines whether you will be made to feel whether or not it is socially acceptable to explore another side of yourself. Often even therapists aren’t fully aware of these hierarchical dynamics influencing our minds. Despite their rational intentions to help you overcome your shyness, they are just as much wired as anyone else to prevent you from climbing up the social ladder too much, and from upsetting the hierarchy that got established in the initial interactions. Thus, climbing the social ladder is something you can only do by yourself! (Not withholding you can get useful tips from therapists or that you can collect such tips from anyone between those words intended to push you down. Metaphorically put: if you pay attention, you will find people who will tell you where the ladder is, even when they have an urge to prevent you from climbing it.)
LESSONS FROM MONKEYS
1. The monkey’s story
This whole post was inspired by an episode of “Wild Chance” – a series of documentaries that in each episode follows a different animal of a different species and observes their struggle for survival and reproductive success. The inspirational episode – a Monkey’s Story – was first aired in August 2009. It shows the life of Bandar, a gray langur monkey born in a troop of langurs located in Jaipur, India and follows him into adulthood. At a young age, Bandar was much more timid than his brothers or sisters, and much less of a risk taker. He usually stayed close to his mother, who was part of a harem of females living with one dominant male – Bandar’s (presumed) father. Due to their location (living in the city center in a culture where Monkey’s are revered thanks to Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god) monkeys living here have plenty of food for the take, with relatively little risks, unlike monkeys living in the wild who have to evade predators and who have to search hard for every scrap of food. Both teenage and adult males other than the dominant male and his own male offspring, live in a form of imposed exile in the wild, and occasionally come to the city as a gang to challenge the one dominant male. If Bandar’s father would lose only one such a challenge match before Bandar reaches his teenage years around 15 months of age, Bandar will end up killed, as would all other infant monkeys sired by Bandar’s father. The murder of young monkeys sired by a previously dominant male is standard behavior in male langurs that take over a harem, and is done to ensure their own offspring does not suffer disadvantages at the expense of offspring from the previous male. Up to a quarter of males that live into adulthood never gets to be king and have females: their only chance for reproduction is during the night immediately following the overthrow of a “king”, before they get kicked out by the new king which they helped “ascend the throne”. Females and their offspring always sit on the sidelines to watch the result of each challenge match, each “Game of Thrones”. Male offspring have an additional interest in observing such challenge matches to learn by observation how such fights are won or lost, and to learn intimidation tactics as well as fighting skills they’ll one day have to use.
While growing up, Bandar’s more risk taking brother dies while exploring an electric cable, while Bandar survives childhood easily due to his timid and careful nature. Nevertheless, Bandar also suffers some bullying as his mother is helpless when a more dominant adult female took and bullied the infant Bandar. At 15 months of age, long before he’s fully grown, and with no experience on how to live without his mother, Bandar’s father loses a match, and Bandar has no choice but to live in exile to prevent being killed. Initially, his careful nature helps him out again, so that when faced with a cobra for the first time in his life and at not more than a few meters of distance, he does not go to investigate or challenge it, but sits relatively still and lets it pass, thus living another day. He learns to find food for himself, and gets to interact with other males who have to learn to fend for themselves, and who all have their own agenda of taking over the throne for themselves and getting as much offspring of their own as possible one day in the future. This hidden agenda is an always present undertone in male interactions. Even though when these monkeys go out to challenge the “king” they seem to be united, in fact, once the king is overthrown, the most risk taking male will chase away those who helped him get there the first morning after overtaking the monkey throne. While living in exile, each monkey is in a process of learning how to establish a social status other than the one they used to have in their earlier life.
While living in forced exile, Bandar learns to calibrate what risks he can take without suffering serious consequences, and eventually becomes the biggest risk taker of all the males in exile. He is most daring to risk his own life in games where the males impress each other and psych themselves up. In langurs these games consist of purposefully jumping and running in front of approaching vehicles that may ride them over, with the most courageous being those who wait until the last moment before jumping aside. Other games consist of stealing food from humans. All these games are played while the gang comes from their place in exile and approaches the territory of the current “king”. The once timid Bandar, is not only the most courageous in these games, but is also so bold that he is on the front line in challenging the king, and eventually overthrows the old king, thus becoming the new king himself.
There are quite a few interesting parallels between langurs and humans:
The most macabre parallel between langurs and humans is the killing of another male’s offspring. Infanticide, i.e. the killing of children, is most often done by men. Men that actually perform such horrendous behavior are most often those taking care of a child they know is genetically unrelated (stepfathers are more likely to murder a child), or of a child they consider to be the result of cuckoldry. Although of course not every murder is preventable, modern first world societies are much safer than any society has ever been, and in such societies murders are much rarer than they have been throughout human history. Despite this, men’s brains are still hardwired for infanticide. The jokes of comedian Louie C.K. make this evident. For those unacquainted with his performances, his humor is generally very illustrative of his own male instincts and perspectives, and some of them literally describe an urge for infanticide:
Although he is a mere individual, and he has of course never acted out any seriously punishable urges he describes (except minor offenses he committed as a teenager), his popularity as a comedian is in part due to how he manages to verbalize and get away with humouring his own taboo instincts, common to most men. His popularity and that of his humour indicates that not only the sexual urges he jokes about are something his audience identifies with, but also that the morbid urges he describes lightheartedly are still hidden deep inside men’s brains underneath layers of morality and rational behavior.
3. Dumb and smart kids
In extension of the previous parallel, in previous times when infanticide was more easy to get away with (with no such things as DNA profiling, and natural early deaths not being uncommon), risk taking children -especially boys- would be the most likely to annoy genetically unrelated adult men, and would be most likely to end up dead at a man’s hands. Being timid, although not preventing bullying and threats even from adults, does increase chances of surviving into adulthood. According to longitudinal studies, children who are more risk taking and popular at younger ages, are percentage-wise less likely to be socially successful when mature. Britain’s most famous mentalist, talented painter and photographer Derren Brown, emphasizes this latter point in his show “Infamous”, stating that the popular kids in school tend to end up less far in their adult life than “dickbrains” like himself.
4. Coming of age ritual
Another interesting parallel between langurs and humans, is that living in exile is not only a coming-of-age ritual in langurs, but is also part a coming-of-age ritual in traditional human cultures.
5. NOT all men are the same
While a quarter of male langurs never gets a good chance for producing offspring, I believe something similar holds true for human men. While young women engage in and justify casual sex under the premise that ALL men do it too, I believe that a significant portion of men in fact never engage in casual sex. On a chance level, there is a bigger likelihood you know at least a few men that stayed with and married the girl they lost their virginity with, than that you will find a single woman that stayed and married with the guy she lost her virginity with… (Except in cultures where it is taboo to have sex before marriage.)
From a biological perspective, between men there is generally more variation in a number of traits – most obvious is the large variation in height between men, whereas women more or less all hover around a similar height. One psychological trait in which men vary a lot from one another, more so than women vary from one another, is in their “reproductive strategy”. This is more commonly labeled as “sexual history” because it is not a strategy in the sense that it has been thought out beforehand. (Except by players perhaps.)
I believe that in fact, in contrast to the reasoning applied by young women who justify casual sex on the grounds that ALL men do it, only a small subgroup of men engages a lot in casual sex before settling (or never settling at all). This subgroup of men gets to be the casual fling of a lot of women before each of these women settle, or even after these women have already settled with a steady mate.
Another subgroup of men is pretty much the same as the average woman and has a few serious relationships and a number of casual flings before finally settling.
Yet, of most interest to this post is an often neglected large subgroup which consists of often times more sincere, nice, patient, maybe somewhat weird, unpopular or nerdish guys who get only one girl in their whole life: to me they are the human equivalent of the quarter of male langurs that never get to have their own troop. They are often called ‘shy’ by others.
(Excepted a few outliers, I have observed less variation in “reproductive strategies” of women. Of the few women who I know that officially had only one man in their life, it was not because they were not given a chance by men, or that they did they did not have an emotional drive to f*ck more men, but because they had rationally decided to ‘officially commit’ to one man. And even then, all of these had a well hidden prior sexual involvement with men, that only excluded penetration of the hymen, but included masturbation and receiving and giving oral sex, and sometimes anal sex. Often times the majority of their exes were close friends of her, and her final partner did not know of their prior sexual history and was misled into believing he was the only one, and that they just happened to be friends. Having exes around that these ‘hymen virgins’ still had good relationships with, created a perfect opportunity for momentary seduction by an ex and genetic cuckoldry as soon as the relationship with her fixed man would hit a temporary low point.)
6. Being part of the club
Male socializing in humans is very similar to that of langurs. Male socializing and forming of gangs is of course most evident in teenagers that loiter on streets and that go to “challenge” and intimidate other men, especially when there are women present. A nice example is seen in the first series of the comedy tv show “Louie”, episode 9:
Even for men that were never like this or who have passed their teenage years, all men tend to hang together and form “coalitions”, while deep inside only their own reproductive success matters. (In support of the first part of this claim, there are studies which found that a man’s success at work is in large part determined on whether he joins social events with the other men after work.) The hidden selfish agenda behind male friendships is evident in male humor where it is common and often socially acceptable among friends that they put each other down, and try to undermine each other’s confidence through “innocent” humor, “accidentally” revealing something which will make the man less attractive to the opposite sex, or literally bust each others balls as a mere joke (the latter which is easily evidenced on youtube).
Of course, when faced with men that aren’t insiders, putting those outside men down becomes of prime importance while keeping inner struggles for power hidden until the outsider(s) are out of the game, very much similar to the teaming up of selfish langur males intending to overthrow a “king”. (While potentially damaging testicles is common in humans even among friends, with other primates such as chimpanzees, this type of violence is solely reserved for outside males, while inner power struggles are more often fought out in a “sporting way”, according to an implicit set of rules where strength and boldness, rather than ruthless brutality usually determines the outcome. In human martial arts too, we see that sports oriented martial arts focus on stamina, strength and technique in a match with a consenting individual, while military and self-defence oriented martial arts take the approach that the individual to be fought off is an outsider and deserves to be potentially damaged without repair within the bounds of law.)
7. The coolest of the gang
Dominance is in part established through engaging in risk taking games that have absolutely no survival value other than to establish hierarchy, whether in langurs or in humans. This is most obvious in the later teens and early twenties, but continues even after that when men are single, and at times it is even evident when they have a fixed partner (although being in a fixed relationship generally tends to lead to lower testosterone and reduces risk taking).
8. Timid kids, successful adults
The most interesting to our story however, is that shy boys or men, langur or human, can in fact change their “shy character”, because this “timid character trait” is primarily a social status thing, and NOT really a fixed given, just as it was for Bandar.
At first sight, it may seem that age has something to do with changes in ‘character’ and risk taking, and in a sense this isn’t entirely wrong. When growing older, there are phases when men take more risks than they did before because of testosterone. At certain ages (infancy and adolescence) evolutionary it made sense to be subordinate to prevent being killed, while after maturing it might be more beneficial to try and become the dominant member of the hierarchy.
Some phases of change are genetically “pre-programmed”, such as the period from the late teens to the early twenties. I believe this is merely a testing period, just like young male deer have mock fights with one another as a practice for when they grow mature. Therefore, after adolescence, change is still very much possible, as the main driving force is not the age itself, but distancing oneself from the established social hierarchy, working your way up another hierarchy, and then using that one to get back into your old social circle to gain a new socially accepted hierarchical position. This often naturally happens during the teens where everyone is surrounded by peers who are all distancing themselves from established norms, and trying to establish a new social position as well as maintain it. Some people skip this phase during the teenage years, yet as adults they become far more successful in changing their social status then those who seemed to be good at early on, but then stagnated.
Regardless, the message is: if you are planning to change from someone who is considered shy to someone who is not, then get away from family, prior friends and prior acquaintances for a while, because they will not feel comfortable with your changes and will stop you from getting there. Get away, work on yourself, work your way up together with others in the same situation trying to work their way up, and test and gradually expanding your comfort zone. Only after this learning phase away from those who want to prevent you from working your way up, you will be able to get out of that low status where you are no longer labeled by new acquaintances as “shy”, and where you can return to old acquaintances and your behavior and new found experiences will be able to drive you to adjust their view, even though they will stubbornly try to hold on to their old labels. Expect anyone to go in denial of pushing you down the hierarchy and in denial of trying to keep you there: that’s the first line of defense, together with sarcastic comments to make you doubt yourself and your ability to change, as well as a comments that are aimed to further solidify the low social status assigned to you, which you are finally starting to resist and trying to shake off.
This drive for change is often motivated by circumstances because rationalized internal motivation alone is usually not strong enough to abandon the comfort zone. The same held true for Bandar, when he was left with no choice (other than being killed) but to leave the troop he grew up in, despite his inexperience in fending for himself. When given no choice, it is easier to face the unknown, abandon the old you’ve grown accustomed to. So if you want to motivate change in yourself, find something that makes you feel you have NO CHOICE, and that you HAVE to change the way people view you. For men, sexual frustration, sexual dissatisfaction or sexual curiosity can be a huge driving force for such change, but you need to be careful with it. It is a very effective tool, but if you don’t take your time to learn how to handle this sexual driving force skillfully, are impatient, and don’t believe in your ability for growth and change, you may end up cutting yourself and getting angry or depressed.
TIMIDITY IS NOT WHO YOU ARE – it is merely a strategy for survival into adulthood
This is NOT just a hypothetical theory purely based on the monkey’s story! In fact, Britain’s most famous player, Richard Laruina was shy, bullied, and an outcast until his early twenties, yet he went on to become very successful with women as well as in his career as a seduction coach. He only managed to turn his “timid character” around when doing just those things described in the previous paragraph (abandoning the social groups he was in and moving elsewhere), and which parallels the driving force behind the changes also seen in the life of the male langur Bandar in the documentary “a Monkey’s Story”, as well as in traditional societies such as with the Australian aboriginals.
The point is not that you have to turn into a player, but that a “timid character” is not you, no matter how many times your uncles, aunts, teachers, parents, siblings, friends, and acquaintances tried to convince you of that by repeating it like a mantra within audible distance or straight in your face, and shaming you for it. Instead, a “timid”, a “shy”, or “socially anxious” so called “character trait” is in fact a hierarchical position assigned to you, which you unfortunately have gotten at an age too early to be able to realize what was going on, and without having the power or knowledge to do something about it. It is a social position which you’ve grown accustomed to, and which in part you are living up to and making part of your identity only to avoid social punishment. Because lower social positions tends to stick around long, they gets labeled as a trait, as something inherently “you”, while in fact they can be changed.
If you consider yourself as a timid or shy person, or as one who maybe even has social phobia, then remember: this isn’t “you”. This is what people made you believe is you. They messed with your mind. This is not part of who you are. This isn’t fixed. Yes, it’s hard to change, but only because you need to change other people’s wrong perceptions about your motivations and abilities. You don’t need to change yourself. Shyness is not you. It doesn’t define you. It doesn’t reflect anything about who you truly are. This is only your social position, and it has been with you so long that it seems like it is something that is part of you, but it isn’t. You just need to change your social position. But this sort of change is hard, because people are resistant to anyone trying to effect changes in social structures, as they fear this will affect their own position. It is hard, just like it is hard for poor people to become rich. Hard, but possible. Once you manage to change your social position, you will naturally come to change what you have learned to think of as “your character”. Because it is not your character you are changing: it is your social hierarchy, and when you’re all the way down there, especially as a man, your brain is punishing you for that and you start behaving accordingly and feeling bad about yourself.
Get out of it, and your brain will reward you, and your whole nature will seem like it changed. You will feel more free, and will make remarks and jokes nobody would accept of someone lower in hierarchy than themselves. You will naturally feel like saying and doing things everybody in your old circle will give you a condescending look for (trying to keep you in that low position), but which they would easily tolerate of someone else. You will need support for change, and you can only find it in those who are trying to do the same, or those who you have recently met and have a different perception of you than those who knew you when you were younger and in a different phase of life. But even the guys going through the same together with you will try to push you down, as men all have their own agenda, just like each member in the langur gang. And women, as semi-monogamous creatures looking for a caretaker, might want to test you and see if you will stick around: they will also try to lower your status, to see if they can use you for their own long-term goals.
But remember: in your new circle your position is not yet fixed; remember with any new girl you are not yet hers unless she has proven herself worthy and you have decided you want to put your time in her (not because she’s your only shot), so don’t fall back on your old safe habits. Push back when others push you to where they want you to be. Push even when they don’t push. Test your boundaries. Be like a langur in exile. In fact, this more dominant nature that people say isn’t the real you, is inside of you, is part of you, is you – just as much as it is present inside anyone else, whether they manage to free it or not! And that shyness? That’s inside of others just as much as you thought it is something inside of you specifically. They’re afraid of ending up there. They’re afraid of losing their throne, ending up in exile, or just dying inside.
If they have to chose between themselves and someone else ending up lowest, even when it is a friend or family, do you think they will really voluntarily put themselves in the lowest position just for the sake of others? Of course not. And neither should you give up your right to a happier life, the right to feel comfortable to say your say, your right to a better position, for what? Just because you are already used to your lowly position anyhow? Because you are afraid to cause troubles for other who think the troubles they cause you are justified and are your own doing?
Your mind is the biggest obstacle – don’t let anyone feed it the wrong ideas
That that social position assigned to you is who you are, that it is your true self is a shit lie everyone in your world is telling you, including yourself, and it only works as long as you believe it! If you stay in that “safe” world of yours, even with the strongest willpower, it’s hard not too believe that lie. Therefore it’s absolutely necessary to step out of that world of yours for a while in order to allow your inner self to grow into even a fraction of its potential.
I doubt you enjoy feeling like you’re all the way at the bottom of the social hierarchy if you are a man. If this is true, then try to see what it feels like being a bit higher up and try to find a hierarchical position you think you will end up liking most and regretting least. Work on it. It’s possible.