Practical Steps to Understand, Identify and Overcome Your Shyness for Personal Growth – pt 1

Think about the root of your shyness. Shyness doesn’t necessarily equate to being introverted or not liking yourself. It simply means that for some reason you get embarrassed when the spotlight hits you.

What’s the root of your shyness? It’s generally the symptom of a larger problem. Here are three possibilities:

  • You have a weak self-image. This happens when we evaluate ourselves and that voice in our heads is negative. It’s tough to stop listening to it, but at the end of the day it’s your voice and you can tell it what to say.
  • You have issues believing complements given to you. Whether or not you think you look good, someone did, and that’s why they told you so. You wouldn’t call them a liar would you? Lift your chin, say “thank you” and accept it. Don’t try to tell the person who paid you a complement that they’re wrong.
  • You are preoccupied with how you come off. This happens when we focus too much on ourselves. Because we spend all day monitoring our actions and making sure we don’t mess up, we assume everyone else is too. We’ll talk about turning the focus on others if this sounds like you.
  • You are labeled as shy by others. Sometimes, when we’re little, we’re shy. Unfortunately, people latch onto that and treat us as such, even when our personalities grow out of it. It’s possible that others have lumped you into this category and you’re trying to accommodate them. The good news? You only have to accommodate yourself.

      Whatever your reason, it’s doable to get over it. They’re all ways of thinking and thinking is the one thing you have control over. Yes!

Accept your shyness.

One of the first step to overcome your shyness is try to accept your shyness and be comfortable with it. The more you will resist it unconsciously or consciously, the longer it will prevail. If you are shy then accept it and embrace it totally. One way it could be done is by saying to yourself repeatedly ‘Yes I am shy and I accept it’.

Figure out your triggers.

Do you become shy in front of new audiences? When learning a new skill? When venturing into a new situation? When surrounded by people you know and admire? When you don’t know anyone somewhere? Try to pinpoint the thoughts that go through your head right before the shyness hits.

  • Odds are not all situations make you shy. You’re okay being around your family, right? How are they that different than the strangers around you? They’re not — you just know them better and what’s more, they know you. It’s not you, it’s just the situations you’re in. This proves that it’s not a global, 100% of-the-time thing. Excellent.

Make a list of situations that make you feel anxious.

Order them so that those things that cause you the least anxiety are first and those that cause you the most anxiety are last. When you put things in concrete terms, it feels like a task you can tackle and tackle successfully.

  • Make them as concrete as possible. “Talking in front of people” may be a trigger, but you can get more specific. Talking in front of those who have more authority than you do? Talking to those you find attractive? The more specific you are, the easier it will be to identify the situation and work through it.

 

Conquer the list.

Once you have a list of 10-15 stressful situations, start working through them, one-by-one (after you read the article, of course). The first few “easier” situations will help build your confidence so that you can continue moving to more difficult situations on your list.

  • Don’t worry if you have to go backwards on the list sometimes; take it at your pace

Conquering Your Mind

Use this shyness as a Cue. Whatever inside you that triggers shyness is because we perceive it as a trigger for shyness. It’s like computer programming when a ‘program’ gets a certain type of interrupt it behaves in the same way we have programmed it to handle interrupts. Similarly our minds can be programmed too. Think a little deeper, we were programmed since our childhood, to react to certain stimuli like staying away from strangers, heights, dangerous animals etc. However for certain stimuli our reactions are default, means we perceive them and react in a way which comes naturally to us (by default) and this reaction could be flawed. For example when people see a lizard some would see it as an ugly reptile, while some would perceive it as a beautiful pet, this could be because of their natural (by default) reaction or response to the stimuli (lizard). In the same way when shy people see people (stimuli) your natural response is shyness. The truth is that you can change this response by re-programming your mind. Some ways this could be done by…

  • Questioning yourself and checking the validity of your reasons, for example.
  • It’s essential that you practice speaking in public to really overcome the problem of shyness. Try to see this shyness as a Cue to push yourself hard and to do the opposite of what you have been doing when you feel shy. When you feel shy in public you probably leave to another quiet place because this has been your default reaction for so long but this time when you feel shy, push yourself and do the opposite I.E talk to people. Yes you will feel extremely uncomfortable and negative but again see these emotions as a trigger to push yourself even harder. More the magnitude of these negative emotions, the harder they will motivate you to push yourself. After trying this for several times you will realize that these negative feelings and emotions were actually your good friends because they motivated you to push yourself even harder.

Place your attention on others.

For 99% of us, we become shy when we think if we speak up or stand out, we’ll embarrass ourselves. That’s why it’s important to focus on others, placing our (mental) attention elsewhere. When we stop focusing on ourselves, we stop being able to be worried how we come off.

  • The easiest way to do this is to concentrate on compassion. When we’re being compassionate, sympathetic, or even empathetic, we stop being concerned about ourselves and start devoting all our mental resources to understanding others. Remembering that everyone is fighting some sort of battle — big or small (big to them!) — helps us remember everyone deserves our care.
  • If that doesn’t work, imagine a thinking pattern like you imagine other people have. If you’re worried about how you look, you’re assuming everyone else is outwardly focused (hint: they’re actually not). Thinking patterns are contagious; once you start, you won’t be able to stop.

Visualize success.

Close your eyes and visualize a situation where you might be shy. Now, in your mind’s eye, think about being confident. Do this often, and for different situations. This is most effective if you do this daily, especially in the morning. It might feel silly, but athletes use visualization to develop their skills, so why not you?

  • Involve all your senses to make it feel the most real. Think about being happy and comfortable. What do you sound like? What are you doing? That way when the time comes, you’ll be prepared.

Practice good posture.

Standing tall gives the world the impression that you are self-confident and receptive to others. Often we are treated the way we feel — so if you feel open and approachable, your body will emulate that feeling. Body over matter!

  • This will fool your brain, too. Research says that good posture (head held high, shoulders back, and open arms) makes us feel authoritative, confident, and — to top it off — reduces stress. And you didn’t even need more reasons!

Practice speaking clearly to yourself.

This will help avoid the potential embarrassment of needing to repeat what you said due to mumbling or talking too quietly. You gotta get used to hearing your own voice! Loving it, even.

  • Record yourself pretending to have conversations. Sounds ridiculous, sure, but you’ll notice patterns, when and why you drop off, times when you assume you’re speaking loudly but you’re really not, etc. At the beginning you’ll feel like an actor (and do things actors do to get in the moment), but it will become an old habit. Practice makes habits, you know!

Don’t compare yourself to others.

The more you compare yourself to others, the more you will feel that you are not able to measure up and the more intimidated you will feel, which will make you shyer. There is no use to compare yourself to anybody else — but if you do, do it realistically. Everyone else is overwrought with self-assurance problems, too!

  • If you have some super confident and extroverted friends or family members, ask them about this topic. They’ll probably say something, “Oh, yeah, I totally make it a conscious thing to put myself out there” or “I used to be terrible. I really had to work at it.” You’re just on a different phase of the process than they are.

Think about how gosh darn great you are.

Everyone has some special gift or trait to offer to the world. It may sound corny, but it’s true. Think about what you know, what you can do, and what you have accomplished, rather than fixating on how you look, sound, or dress. Keep in mind that everyone, even the “beautiful people,” has something about themselves or their life that they don’t like. There’s no particular reason why your “problem” should make you shy while their “problem” doesn’t make them shy.

  • When you concentrate on this, you’ll realize you have plenty to offer any group or situation. Your resources and skills are needed to improve any issue, conversation, or circumstance. Knowing this, you’ll feel more inclined to speak up.

Identify your social value and strengths.

Just because you’re not the alpha in the room, have the most booming voice, or get the party started doesn’t mean you lack social strengths. Are you a great listener? Do you have an eye for detail? It’s possible it’s something that’s not even occurred to you, so sit back for a second. Are you better at observing than most of those around you? Probably.

  • Your strengths can give you an advantage. If you’re a great listener, you’ll probably be able to see when someone has a problem and needs to vent a little. In this circumstance, they are the one that needs you. There’s nothing threatening about that situation. So ask them what’s up! You noticed they’re steaming at the ears a little bit — can you lend an ear of yours?
  • In every social group, all the roles need to be filled. You have a place even if you don’t see it. None is better than any other — know that your value, whatever it may be, completes the group dynamic.

Don’t get caught up in labels.

For the record, popular people aren’t happy. Extroverts aren’t necessarily popular or happy and shy people aren’t necessarily introverts, unhappy, or cold and aloof. Just as you don’t want to be caught up in labels, don’t tack them onto anyone else either.

  • The popular kids at school are trying super hard, day in and day out, to be popular. They’re trying to conform and fit in and succeeding. Good on them, but it doesn’t mean they’re happy or that it’ll last. Trying to emulate something that isn’t as it seems won’t get you anywhere. You’re better off going to the beat of your own drum — the high school drum ends, the college drum ends, and then what would you be left with? A couple of drumsticks and a funny hat.

 

Enjoying how to combat shyness? Continue reading in Part 2.

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