Category Archives: Shy Girl’s Manifesto

You Are WAY Too Sensitive. You Feel WAY too much.

You Are WAY Too Sensitive. You Feel WAY too much.

You Are WAY Too Sensitive. You Feel WAY Too much.

SensitiveI’m learning so much about sensitivity lately. The aches of it, I’ve always known, but never really understood. The joys of it, I used to not know there were any, but now I see them in abundance. 

Until I heard Ane Axford of speak at an event two years ago, I’d never even heard of the concept of being a highly sensitive person (“HSP”). Yet Ane’s trained eye seemed to recognize my HSP-ishness almost immediately. 

Now it seems everywhere I go, I meet other self-identified HSPs. HSPs who wear their sensitivity badge proudly. HSPs who defy their own previous expectations as well as others misperceptions. HSPs who attract each other like magnets. HSPs who make me feel proud to be on their hyper-sensational team. 

Ane described what it means to be HSP on my blog a few months ago as follows: 

“High sensitivity is a genetic trait that leads one to have a more highly sensitive nervous system and be more responsive to their environment. They can be emotionally sensitive, have sensory sensitivities, food sensitivities, become more easily overwhelmed and overstimulated as well as underwhelmed and under-stimulated, process information from the environment very deeply, and have a rich inner life.”

I still have so much to learn and explore about being highly sensitive. But the little I’ve gathered in the past few months has helped to make years of my life come into clearer focus.

There’s so much to being highly sensitive that goes beyond what people traditionally think of when it comes to sensitivity. It’s far more than just crying over harsh words or perhaps having a soft voice. It’s deeper, more expansive, and more penetrating than I could have ever pieced together on my own. And while it’s not well understood, it is not a disorder, 15-20% of the population carries this trait.

And as I’ve learned from Ane’s work and the work of other HSP leaders, being highly sensitive is a power. A power that either leads you to thrive, or eats you alive if it’s not cultivated properly. A power that can lead to your greatest life, or derail and swallow you. 

I love how Ane described it in my interview with her

“I find that being highly sensitive is like being an orchid, we do need greenhouse care and when we get it we are exquisitely and uniquely beautiful. We can evolve quickly and powerfully because we don’t have the same limitations. Those limitations are what protect others. So our lack of protection, our increased vulnerability, forces us to be powerful forces of nature or else struggle in silence. I believe that we can all be powerful forces of nature and that we all benefit from the fierce desire to evolve that is in us.”

There are many aspects of my youth/young adulthood that my growing understanding of this identity has helped to explain. Perhaps if you’ve read this far, you can relate to some of these… 

  • Why I don’t like bright lights… 
  • Why I love animals so much…
  • Why I experience sensory overwhelm so easily (i.e.; if there are too many options in front of me, too much ruckus, too many loud noises, too many bright colors, etc)… 
  • Why I only wear clothes that don’t make me feel overly confined and that don’t feel harsh against my skin… 
  • Why people who yell or who have extremely abrasive energies overwhelm me and send me inward… 
  • Why I’ve dealt with endless physical issues, issues you won’t see me writing about anytime soon, that tormented me through much of my life, starting at an extremely young age… (issues that thankfully no longer plague me the way they used to)…
  • Why when I’m not in environments that help me thrive, things can get really really ugly…
  • Why I’m so instantly affected by caffeine and sugar… 
  • Why pregnancy affected me so drastically (perhaps)… 
  • Why nothing soothes me more than nature… 
  • Why I often felt misunderstood when I was younger (being shy and introverted, while simultaneously longing for and loving social interaction, played a role in this; it was a carnival of misunderstood’isms)…
  • Why when people “get” me, they really get me. And when they don’t, they really don’t…
  • Why protecting my emotional wellbeing is a sacred skill I’ve learned to develop…
  • Why protecting other people’s emotional wellbeing, has always carried equal importance to me… 
  • Why my home needs to feel a certain way, like a cozy cul-de-sac at the end of a hectic highway… 
  • Why I married a man who never yells, like literally never (it’s kinda strange ;))…  
  • Why I often feel as though I have a message I need to share, whatever that message may be…

That’s all I’ll say on this for now, more will certainly follow. In the meantime, please check out this video and article by Ane on her upcoming Super Sensitive Power Weekend Retreat. Even if you can’t go to the retreat (how I wish I could…), you’ll learn so much from what she describes, especially if you have an inkling that you yourself may be wonderfully HSP. You can also check out the first chapter of her upcoming book by clicking here

Till then, be your beautifully sensitive self 🙂






Shy Girl’s Manifesto & The New York Times!

Shy Girl’s Manifesto & The New York Times!

Shy Girl's Manifesto and The New York Times

Shy Girl's Manifesto and The New York Times

A few months ago I got an email from a writer for The New York Times. She said she was writing an article on shyness and wanted to interview me.  

The New York Times?? Really?

I wrote back something along the {more professionally drafted} lines of ‘sure thing’ and attempted to hide the emotional jumping jacks and somersaulting endorphins buzzing through me. 

We scheduled our call for a few days later. Turns out she had read something I wrote online about shyness and liked my unique spin on it. She said she was writing an article about “accomplished people who ‘surprisingly’ self-identify as shy.”

We had a great call and talked for nearly 45 minutes. I channeled my inner warrior and put my shyness on a spiritual shelf. 

She mentioned she was interviewing an astronaut, best selling authors and the like. So I filed this little incident away into my “if only I make the cut” folder. Weeks and months went by and I more or less forgot all about it. 

Then I got a call last week that it was finally getting printed and not only was I being included but so was my website. Hey Universe, you’ve got something, I think it’s my back. 

Here’s the article:

The inner critic in me would love to edit my quotes to more accurately state certain things. But my inner critic will have to shove it because I was quoted in The New York Times on a topic I care deeply about; forest, I see you through the distracting trees. 

If I were to write my own follow up to this piece it would focus solely on the importance of reframing the way shy people feel about themselves, as well as the way the world responds to shyness. 

I truly believe that where you withdraw in one area, you expand in another. When you only focus on the negative aspects of shyness (or anything for that matter…) you miss out on all of the positive growth it’s created in other areas of your life and on all the beauty it possesses by its very nature. 

To me it’s no surprise that many successful people self-identify as shy. Success in no way excludes the shy. I’m not saying it’s easy, shy people definitely have big battles to fight, but the successful ones are the ones who’ve allowed their strengths to take the main stage (hello, Chris Rock), strengths likely heightened by their shyness. 

Word Association. Now when I hear the word “shy”, the first word that comes to mind is “beautiful.” Not “broken”, not “insecure”, not “poor thing”. Just beautiful. 

Today most people are completely surprised when I tell them I self-identify as shy. I always have and always will. However, once I accepted who I am, all of me, including all the times where my shyness and anxiety held me back mercilessly, that’s when I stopped feeling and being held back by it. 

By making my “shyness” my friend instead of my enemy I was finally able to see all of the special gifts it has given me and better understand how it has – and has not – shaped the person I am today. 

What Being Shy Does Not Mean… 

Being shy does not mean someone is weak. I have always been quite strong as are many “shy” people I know. Shyness may disguise strength, but it’s always there. Shy people are often the ones to surprise people with the magnitude and depth of their strength. They don’t flash it around, but it’s there when they need it.

Being shy does not mean you don’t have a voice. Everyone has a unique voice. Shy people may not always be able to use it exactly when they want to, but it’s there, waiting patiently to find its place and comfort zone. 

Being shy does not mean you’re a social recluse. Personally, I have a ton of friends. I may meet and bond with them differently than someone who knows nothing of shyness but that likely has more to do with being introverted than shy

Being shy does not mean you lack choice in who you surrounded yourself with. Quite the contrary, I’ve always very selectively chosen the people I want in my life and weeded out those whose energies stifle me and send me uncomfortably inward. If anything my shyness has helped me to form an abundance of deep, loving, and supportive relationships.

Being shy does not mean you can’t accomplish lofty goals. Shy people can, do and have moved mountains, from artists to actresses, to lawyers, to doctors, to writers, to scientists, to athletes. To name a few… Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Tom Hanks, Lucille Ball, Bob Dylan, Carrie Underwood, Cher, David Letterman, Ella Fitzgerald, Elvis Presley, Lady Gaga, J.K. Rawling. This list could go on and on! Again, when you withdraw in one area, you expand in another. I’d go so far as to say that being shy could be the very reason you find success! 

What Being Shy Has Done for Me…

Made Me See Deeper. Into people, into animals, into energies, into all that goes unsaid. 

Made Me Focus on What’s Truly Important. I found that when things didn’t really matter to me, like speaking in class, my shyness took over. It tormented me. I very much enjoyed just listening in class, zero desire to speak. When I was forced to, all my shy symptoms came flooding in. Voice changing, hands shaking, heart pounding, you name it. But when something really mattered to me, things that set me on fire, my shyness took a back seat and my voice came through. Why not focus on the things that set you on fire?

Made me learn to listen, deeply, intently and with purpose. When you’re not speaking, you are certainly listening. And so you start to hear more than just the words, you hear what lies beneath them, an invaluable skill. 

Made Me Refine My Voice and Choose My Words. Words matter. Every. Single. One. I don’t insult or speak down to people. I don’t belittle. I don’t name call. Shyness has given me respect for words and how we use them. I avoid people who freely and haphazardly use harsh words in their dealings with or about others. And I avoid words like “overcome” and “get over it” when it comes to shyness or anything that is an integral part of who someone is.  

Made Me a Writer. I always say I think with my hands. What I could never express comfortably with my voice, I learned to expressly freely with my hands. My hands have always felt boundary free. I wouldn’t change that for anything – ever.  

Made Me Appreciate Silence, Softness, Nature. Things that say so much without saying a word. Those are the things that rejuvenate me.  

My shyness may not have derived from the best place, but it has deepened my soul and my experiences. All of the times (many) when it’s cursed me with its anxiety and insecurity has given my life an edge. And as Danielle LaPorte often says, who would we be without our edges? 

I believe that we are all here to elevate our souls in some way. Every time I lost and found and then lost my voice again, I learned something new and changed my path a bit to reflect the growth that always comes with pain. If I only ever fought against this growth, instead of embracing it, I’d stay stagnant instead of elevating.

And so I don’t try to “overcome” my shyness, I embrace it, and learn from it, and grow and expand with & because of it.

love letter for shy people final

My love note to all shy people… 

You have a voice, 
It’s inside of you and will patiently wait until you’re ready to use it. 
You are not weak, 
Your strength lies deep within and you’ll use it when you need to. 
You are not stupid, 
You are wise and wisdom sometimes needs no words at all. 
You are not overly sensitive, 
You are emotionally brilliant and the world values that more and more each day. 
You are not broken, 
You are beautiful. 

Love your shyness and it will love you back. 

So, are you shy? If you’ve read this far, you likely have a shy side. What’s one positive way it’s impacted your life? By acknowledging it, you’ll expand your outlook on shyness.



{Shy Girl’s Manifesto} Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts

{Shy Girl’s Manifesto} Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts

Susan Cain: The power of introverts - TED Talk

This post is part of the Shy Girl’s Manifesto series. To receive our free Shy Girl’s Manifesto e-book, enter your email here

As you may know, at Gentle Living we have quite the soft spot for the shy and introverted. So when my lovely friend Donna of Greenearth Travel sent me this TED Talk, I had to share it with you.

In this video Susan Cain talks about how introverts are constantly given messages that they need to be extroverted and how our most important institutions and schools are designed for extroverts. 

“Societies have always favored the man of action over the man of contemplation”. As she so beautifully articulates in her speech this is a great misfortune as introverts have unique strengths that should be cultivated.

I just received a copy of Susan Cain’s new book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking and I can’t wait to dig into it.

Please enjoy this video, may it give you courage to “speak softly”. 

Click here or on the video below.

Susan Cain: The power of introverts

{Shy Girl’s Manifesto} Teenage Years, Finding Strength

{Shy Girl’s Manifesto} Teenage Years, Finding Strength

Shy Girl's Manifesto: Teenage Years, Finding Strength

Shy girl eyes
This post is part of the Shy Girl’s Manifesto series. To receive our free Shy Girl’s Manifesto e-book, enter your email here.  

We all know high school is brutal. Teenagers can be merciless. High school for a shy person is clearly no exception and we are usually the ones who take the brunt of the abuse. Like an animal, high school students seem to be adept at smelling fear. Show that you’re timid and you’re easy prey for the unruly. 

My most awkward period was junior high. I had braces, wore glasses, didn’t know how to manage my crazy hair, and was nothing but skin and bones. Everyone in my junior high seemed light years ahead of me in maturity and life experience. I had friends but always felt very awkward and meek. I couldn’t have been further from “cool” but all in all people didn’t bother me too much.         

By high school I had gotten rid of my braces and glasses and was starting to leave my ugly duckling phase. Becoming mildly attractive proved advantageous. Boys started to find my quiet demeanor alluring and I didn’t have problems making friends.  

As I continued through high school my insecurities started to become overshadowed by anger. I was growing a tougher exterior. I still had the same shy fears and anxieties but my newfound toughness disguised them. I felt small inside but on the outside you might not have known it. My shyness had grown a rougher edge, at least temporarily.     

I was lucky that I was never bullied much but I was very acutely aware of others who were. I knew I had dodged the bullet but every awkward insecure voiceless teased and tortured soul was inside of me.  

It was about this time that I learned just how strong seemingly meek souls could be. Despite feeling so small for most of my life, I grew extremely brave when others needed me to, stupidly brave. For a variety of reasons, bullies didn’t scare me much, they infuriated me. I’m sure I didn’t always do enough, there were definitely situations I stayed out of, but I interjected myself on behalf of others as much as I could, sometimes when I shouldn’t have.

Standing up for others started to become an ongoing pattern. I enjoyed being strong for others (animals included) where I was weak for myself. It was like a switch would flip and I’d transform from soft spoken shy girl Liz into super Liz. There were situations in my life where I simply couldn’t stand up for myself, I was voiceless, always wishing someone would say the words for me. But standing up for others came naturally to me. It was instinctual, primal, a fury almost. And it would get me in trouble in more than a few instances…   

To this day bullying in any form is one of my biggest pet peeves, as it is for many of course. My older brother and I didn’t get along growing up (we’re close now) but he was a fellow insecure introvert, far more awkward than I was. And he was bullied mercilessly. Seeing what he went through broke my heart.  

This drive to protect others taught me something. It taught me that I wasn’t as weak as I always felt. In some ways I felt like two totally different people. On the one hand I wanted to hide under the covers from life and pray that the world wouldn’t notice my shy sensitive self. On the other hand, I was a lioness willing to risk her mental and physical wellbeing to protect someone I felt was being hurt either emotionally or physically.

It also taught me how important it is to ALWAYS stand up for the voiceless, they are the ones who need us the most. My devotion to animals grew from this understanding.   

It took me years to even acknowledge this source of strength within me. Now I try to never forget it. And now of course I channel it more constructively than I did as a teenager. 

The moral of this story? Shy people may appear to be weak and are often soft spoken, but never underestimate them. There is a fierceness in shy people. Wherever people have a weakness, a well of strength emerges. Each person’s strengths may be different. If you’re shy recognize your strengths and you’ll start to live a little fiercer everyday.

Are you shy or introverted with a fierce side?  Does it surprise you?  Does it surprise others?  


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{Shy Girl’s Manifesto} Shyness as a Child

{Shy Girl’s Manifesto} Shyness as a Child

Shyness as a Child

Shy child; Shy + Sensitive = Beautiful

This post is part of the Shy Girl’s Manifesto series. To receive our free Shy Girl’s Manifesto e-book, enter your email address here.  

It’s easy to paint the picture of the shy little girl. 

I was that girl.  Not with people I was very comfortable with, but with just about everyone else. 

I remember being in kindergarten at the beginning of the school year and not wanting to speak.  It was as simple as that.  All the other children were playing together and I just didn’t want to speak, I couldn’t.

My teacher kept asking me questions and trying to get me to talk.  I stared back up at her but didn’t form any words.  She started to get agitated, she thought I was being disrespectful.  I felt her agitation but simply couldn’t speak.  It’s hard to explain what that feels like.  Words simply aren’t an option.  They’re just not there.  All that’s there is discomfort. 

And so she yelled at me and sent me to sit in the corner.  Who knows if she really yelled in a way that I would consider yelling now, but in my child’s mind she yelled and it was traumatic.  And so I wanted to speak even less.  

I don’t have many memories from that age, but I’ve never forgotten that one.  It was traumatic for me, from my child mind’s perception.  It stayed with me for life.

Shy child, shy + sensitive = beautiful

I so remember being that shy little girl.  Wanting to cling to people who made me feel safe and avoid all others.  I wish I could go back to her and tell her that she’s understood.  That’s she beautiful and she doesn’t need to talk if she doesn’t want to.  That she’s perfect just the way she is and she can do things on her own time.  But also explain to her, gently, that she doesn’t need to be so scared, that she’ll be loved and protected, unconditionally.  

Some people grow out of being that shy scared child and for some it stays with them for life, no matter how much they’ve grown, adjusted, and learned to adapt.  I’m not that same little girl anymore but she still lives within me.  I spent most of my life resenting her and the ways she’s held me back.  The more I resented her, the more my insecurities controlled my life. 

I see now that I should have been loving her all along, that’s all she ever really wanted to begin with.

Were you ever misunderstood by a teacher because you were shy? 

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{Shy Girl’s Manifesto} Shy Versus Introverted, the Basics

{Shy Girl’s Manifesto} Shy Versus Introverted, the Basics

Shy Versus Introverted, the Basics

Source: Uploaded by user via Liz on Pinterest

Quote on being shy

Being shy and being introverted are not the same. 

However, they often overlap. I happen to be a bit of both.

Being shy means your fears hold you back from social situations you’d like to engage in. You long to join the group, to speak up in class, to be a part of the fun, but you’re scared to.

An introvert on the other hand, doesn’t always want to join the group. They’re happy to stay by themselves. They’d often rather work all day quietly than run around town socializing. Too much social interaction drains an introvert, they need time to emotionally recover and recharge.

Extroverts quite literally live their lives out loud. They think best when they can speak issues out loud to others. They thrive off of being around other people. The very social interactions that drain an introvert, energize an extrovert. While introverts love to sit alone and think, extroverts would rather talk to strangers.

An introverted person is not necessarily shy. They may have no fears of social interaction at all, they simply choose not to always participate in it.

A shy person is not necessarily an introvert. They may long for endless social interaction. An extrovert in waiting could be lurking under the shy camouflage.

Fitting Into a Category… 

I struggled throughout much of my life with where I fall within these definitions. I spent much of my life absolutely 100% shy. My fears, my shyness, held me back endlessly.

I do long for social interaction, but in limited quantities. While I love socializing, after I do I always need a long recovery. No matter how much I may have enjoyed myself at the time, socializing wipes me out. I used to wonder what was wrong with me, why I needed to “recover” after too much engagement. After learning more about what it means to be an introvert I realized that this need for recovery wasn’t because I was weak or fragile, it’s simply my hardwiring.

Understanding the shyness I battled throughout my life, how it developed, how it affected me, and how it actually brings me strength, has helped me to embrace it. Now I long to help others do the same. 

Shyness is a feeling in one’s soul. It’s the nerves we live with, our ability to speak clearly when we need to, the fluttering in our hearts, the resentfulness we feel when we don’t express ourselves the way we wanted to, the consistency with which these nerves plague our days. It affects the way we approach the world, the people in it, the professions we choose, the events we go to, the friends we have, the things that make us feel happy and at peace. It’s sometimes obvious to everyone around us and sometimes it’s only something we can feel for ourselves, deep in our souls.

What does seem to be universal is the detrimental way in which our world addresses shyness.  “Get over it” seem to be the three words most associated with it.

It’s those three words that I resented more than anything growing up as a shy girl.  My shyness now walks with me as a friend, instead of the enemy it used to be, and “getting over it” had nothing to do with this change.

In the next Shy Girl’s Manifesto post I’ll talk about how shyness showed up in my childhood.

Are you shy or introverted (or a little of both)?










Top photo courtesy of miamispecialk.