Louis-Philippe Rivard describes himself as a world-class shy person. A humorous writer for nearly 30 years, he has worked with many animators and comedians such as Lise Dion, Michel Barrette, Peter MacLeod, Marc Dupré, Véronique Cloutier and Patrice L’Écuyer. With his book The Revenge of the Shy, he wants to help others come out of their shell.

Louis-Philippe Rivard has been shy and introverted since early childhood. He believes he has a good background of 49 years of experience in shyness, hence his legitimacy to write Revenge of the Shy, to help others not miss out on their lives because of shyness.

He always had difficulty imposing his presence, a legacy of his mother “who invented embarrassment when [his] father did not know the definition”, he writes. His oldest memory of shyness dates back to kindergarten. He wasn’t comfortable playing with the other kids, and in his spare time, when the Legos and Hot Wheels were crowded, he always found himself alone at the pottery station with pots and pans. clay. “I wanted to play Lego or cars, but I didn’t dare. I was making clay ashtrays when my mom didn’t smoke, I must have made her about 20 ashtrays! recalls Louis-Philippe Rivard in an interview.

To avoid playing dodgeball, he hid in the schoolyard. He avoided, as much as possible, oral presentations, teamwork, and any uncomfortable situation. He spent his high school at the library. “It’s a perfect place for a shy person, you don’t talk to anyone and there’s a great silence there. I was able to read all the psychology books and understand my shyness. Besides, there are sometimes advantages to being shy, he believes. “You can spend hours observing, analyzing and listening to others, which is a nice quality. You also have to be able to have self-mockery, because laughing at yourself helps. »

Like many shy people, his embarrassment is a mixture of fear of not being up to it and of being judged by others. “We are afraid of what other people think of us, afraid of disappointing them. We think we’re irrelevant, not smart enough, we start overthinking and end up saying nothing or it’s too late and we constantly miss opportunities. And he insists on this point.

Thanks to decisive encounters and a lot of self-mockery, Louis-Philippe Rivard was able to overcome his embarrassment. “I was lucky because a lot of people helped me in the early years of my professional life. I was unable to speak in brainstorms when I had so many ideas,” he recalls. Author Paco Lebel took him under his wing. “I sent him, in writing, ideas and texts. He saw that it was worth it, so he helped me, little by little, to gain self-confidence. »

It was comedian Peter MacLeod, with whom he worked on the radio, who introduced him to his wife Josée Boudreault. A decisive encounter in his life. “I didn’t dare look at her at first, she was talking loudly, laughing loudly, I was very intimidated! She was the first to kiss me, I would never have dared! If she hadn’t, I think I would still be wondering if I dare kiss her or not! he laughs.

He learned a lot from Josée Boudreault, with whom he lectures. “She’s a real extrovert, she wants to dance, she dances, she sings first at karaoke, she talks with everyone. Thanks to her, I like to be with people, I enjoy dinners surrounded by friends, even with new people. Josée is still a real inspiration today, despite her stroke which left her aphasic. Even though she struggles to speak, she keeps going and she makes people laugh. »

Although he has made a lot of progress, Louis-Philippe Rivard still considers himself shy. “In a marriage, when an extrovert thinks to save me by dragging me across the dance floor, before I followed him, now I’m able to say no, I don’t want to, I’m fine with myself,” says -he.

“I know we are not alone, we shy ones. You have to, little by little, make the effort to reach out to others, shake yourself up and express your desires, because otherwise you miss out on your life. »

The fear of others is certainly the most widespread fear. Stage fright, shyness, social phobia, blushing, we have all experienced one of these fears at some point in our lives. In The New Fear of Others, French authors and psychiatrists Christophe André, Patrick Légeron and Antoine Pelissolo help us understand the mechanisms of social fears and the means to overcome them. Interview with Antoine Pelissolo, psychiatrist and head of department at CHU Henri-Mondor in Créteil, France.

The big difference between shyness and social anxiety is that shyness is not pathological in itself, it is a character trait, a behavior that is very widespread since nearly half of the population consider themselves shy or have been shy at some point. A shy person will worry before a new meeting or before speaking in public, but it will be temporary. Social anxiety is the fear of negative self-judgement. We tend to devalue ourselves, so we have an aggravation of fear each time, which prevents us from acting. Social anxiety can be more or less disabling and creates suffering. We are constantly afraid of giving a bad image of ourselves, we think that others only notice our faults, so we imagine the worst scenarios, we question ourselves, we exaggerate, and we are paralyzed by anxiety. It is estimated that around 5 to 7% of the population suffers from pathological social anxiety that corresponds to criteria of severity and disability.

We see children around 5 or 6 years old who are already more than shy. We observe that there is an embarrassment that paralyzes them on a daily basis, they will give up seeing friends, going to birthday parties. It can also manifest in adolescence. This does not mean that all children will have an anxiety problem during their lifetime. In some cases, it will subside or even disappear, but in other cases, it can last for years or decades. You have to be able to spot anxiety at a young age and parents can make it easier by encouraging their children, gently without rushing them, to reach out to others. If the parents themselves are in social withdrawal, do not have many friends, do not go out or tend to discredit their children, it can be more serious.

They are more annoying. There has always been a part of the population that has had difficulty with communication, but today, with technology, we have multiplied the means of communication, we have a lot more exchanges and people who are not very comfortable suffer more, on a daily basis.

It creates a screen (it is the case to say it) with the other, which seems protective. We saw this during the pandemic, as many people had less real contact and were hidden behind their screens and masks. These artificial and distant relationships, it protects in the moment, but it does not help to feel more at ease. We are more vulnerable, because we have lost the habit of contact and we have to relearn how to live in reality, which is difficult, but necessary. There are people for whom it is very convenient to create new links through the internet, but you have to go beyond that.

It often starts early in life, there can be consequences for studies, school, university, the fear of taking exams, of having to be in a group, of speaking in public. Many anxious people restrict themselves in their lives. It can be a hindrance to personal and professional development. People give up a promotion because they know they will have to lead a team, speak in public and in meetings.

Yes, but not much compared to the extent of social anxiety in our society. It’s good that some are talking about it. There were recently Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles, but it’s still taboo. One of the main reasons for social anxiety is the fact that we know that they suffer from it, because it is experienced as a taboo. In our society, there is an omnipresent need for performance and an image of perfection. The cult of the image with social networks is difficult for those who suffer from anxiety and social phobia. We must be able to show that we have moments of fragility and sensitivity, we must be more open, be less judgmental, because we sometimes tend to make fun of people who blush. It only takes a remark once and you can be marked for life or almost by a scene of blushing. It’s very common to blush, but as soon as you refuse to blush, because it’s perceived as a sign of weakness, it can become an obsession for some people. The fear of blushing in public is called ereutophobia, which can be a source of disability.

By action. We try little by little to remove all the avoidances that we can do on a daily basis. The problem is that we are not always aware of it. It can be the fear of asking a question, of looking people in the eye, of expressing an opinion. Exposure to the gaze of others helps reduce fear. Little by little, we will gain self-confidence, we will lose our apprehensive reflexes, which will improve our quality of life. We will meet more people, make friends, go out more, be more comfortable socially. The goal is not to become extroverted, but to gain freedom of choice and action. For that, you have to get out of your comfort zone, in stages, slowly, but over time. The most effective is psychotherapy. You have to expose yourself to the gaze of others, with kindness, and learn to change the image you have of yourself.