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Tips for the shy and anti-social (artists)

It’s no secret that artistic people are often shy, down to earth, quiet, admitting themselves they are “super boring”. With a personality like this, you get an outlet in your art, you are sensitive, not prone to super-social qualities. Kate Bush had to smoke pot the first couple of years, Justin Timberlake has anxiety attacks, Björn Skifs (famous in Sweden and you might know “hooked on a feeling”) has to throw up in a bucket before going onstage and Lady Gaga had to do drugs to cope the first few yrs (publicly talking about it in “Dope”). And personally, if I never had to interact with people, I might be just fine.

We talked about this in Music and Business school, and I admitted to one of my songwriting partners: “I am friggin super-shy!” getting the answer: “You hide it well”. And we do. Because we know we have this handicap, we are consious of it and work on it, maybe more than the “normal” shy people do. So here are my top tips, which I have figured out through 2 yrs of extensive therapy and my own experience, applicable to artists and even just ordinary shy people with normal fears;

We all have them:
Believe it or not, because people won’t normally tell you, we’re all pretty neurotic, more or less. As herd animals, we all want to fit in, one way or another. And we worry about not fitting in.

Push yourself just right:
Should you go to that meeting/show/party? Yes. But you don’t have to push yourself further than you want to. Promise yourself to stay an hour, realize that it’s not your duty to entertain (a conversation is between two or more people, so everyone has to make an effort!) and know that just being yourself is enough. The more you let the real you through (not the one nervous to entertain and say something smart) the more you’ll actually see you have to contribute to the conversation. I tell this to my singing students afraid to raise their voice too; “Just give me the notes you are sure of strongly, the rest will come”.

You are more than you know;
Most people would just love to hear you sing/see you paint/act and has no knowledge of all the things you critisize yourself for, you’re probably pretty awesome and way too self critical. Self critisism does make you move forward, but remember to play once in a while and realize your worst is probs pretty brilliant.

You can’t make everyone love you:
Super important, also something I tell my students. In an audience of 100, there are gonna be 5 people who will want to see you fail. And that doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong. If all 100 like you, you have no personality. But who do you get the most energy from? The 95 who are just curious and would love to see what you do, or the 5 who dislike you? Way too many sensitive people get their energy from those 5 and it’s devastating. Why are you so quick to believe those few negative people? It’s not about being unsensitive and not empathic if you don’t, quite the opposite. What kind of empath ignores 95 positive outlooks and sucks up the few negative ones? Who are you even doing any kind of favour? Even if you are more familiar with the negative ones, or ESPECIALLY if you are more familiar with them. You don’t have the distance from them, the ability to look at it from the outside, to know they are doing something bad, for themselves and for you.

You are enough;So we keep wanting to make people happy, forgetting that we, too, are people. You have the right to your own opinion, your own actions, and if someone doesn’t accept it, tough cookie. If you can’t find anything you agree with in their critisism, how the hell are you gonna change? How will you even know how? Again, it’s not a lack of empathy. It’s tuning it in profoundly and trusting your own ability to show it. If you can’t find the flaw, you have just as much right to claim “being right” as the other party, no matter. “This makes no sense, I can’t agree to this”. It’s not ego. It’s not being selfish. It’s showing all human beings, including yourself, equal respect.

Two steps forward, one step back, it’s a pretty normal process;
I’m not feeling to good about myself this month and it’s OK! I’ve had better months, been better at what I feel functioning and contributing as a human being. The difference from my supershy self, just three yrs ago (I wanted to go underground when I failed to speak to the 9-year-olds at work) is that I am aware. It’s probs not permanent, and I can probs do something about it. When invited to the end-of-season dinner at Ekehagen, I felt stressed, bad about myself and didn’t want to go. Hang on, that’s precisely when I need to go. To get the break from the stress and see that it’s not so bad. And it wasn’t. I was half quiet, but it wasn’t the end of the world. And the food was good, and that means a lot to me 😉

You can’t feel like you’ve failed, not until you’ve failed to push, just a little. The awkwardness may return, but your ability to deal with it changes. The most important thing to remember really is: “I’ll push as far as I can go and respect myself when I can’t go further (or applaude myself when I do!)” And honestly, a lot of the time you notice your “anti-social” skills more than others. Most people I’ve ever revealed it to, feeling better or no, all say the same thing: “Well, I didn’t notice, you hide it well, we should probably all go to therapy and help ourselves then!” 😉




About lillabohmen

Swedish lovechild of Kate Bush, Tori Amos and PJ Harvey. 2 albums and 2 EP:s, all available at Spotify, Itunes, and physically. A blog about music, being a female musician in a male dominated business and the occasional feminist/veggie rant. Check out my homepage: for news, bits and bobs and bio, and buy-o of my music. Never lose that creative spark!

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