How To Overcome Shyness - Mark Bowden

How To Overcome Shyness

News

Oct 26
Shyness
Reading Time: 12 minutes

How To Overcome Shyness

Shyness is always depicted as a cute trait in movies and cartoons, but those who are not shy have no idea how debilitating it can actually be, especially in public situations. Shy people often find it difficult to express their thoughts or feelings, and that can have crippling effects on their social and professional lives. In this article, we take a look at shyness and examine some tips that could help us overcome it.

what is shyness

What Is Shyness?

What exactly is shyness? Even though we are all familiar with the term, many of us do not know how to define it and often confuse it with other feelings or conditions. Most of us are shy from time to time, especially when we’re facing a new situation or we’re in the company of unfamiliar people.

Shyness is the feeling of apprehension or awkwardness some of us feel when we approach or are approached by other people. But here’s the catch. Unlike introverts, who have a grand time being on their own, shy people actively seek the company of others but are too anxious to interact with them. Those of us who are shy often have low self-esteem and fear rejection.

Shy people are often very self-conscious. They are constantly inspecting their own behavior and beat themselves up for every mistake – real or imaginary – they make, which can prevent them from getting to know new people. This, in turn, can increase their perceived shortcomings and ruminative thoughts, aggravating their situation.

Social anxiety is a stronger form of shyness, and social phobia is a crippling form of the same feeling.

What Causes Shyness?

Shyness is characterized by fearing the judgment and reactions of other people. Shy people are highly introspective and they avoid expressing their thoughts or feelings out of fear of provoking negative reactions such as being patronized, criticized, laughed at, humiliated, or rejected. The fear of being judged determines shy people to avoid social situations instead of tackling them head on.

Scientists believe shyness develops the most during the elementary school years. Elementary school pupils face a wide range of socioemotional problems. Because of poor peer relationships, some children might be the victims of social exclusion or victimization. Around this age, some kids start internalizing problems like having a low self-esteem or suffering from anxiety and even depression. During the elementary school years, some children start having academic adjustment problems. Due to a lack of engagement in class or the lack of intrinsic motivation, children might have a poor academic performance. Having a poor academic performance can increase the chances of being ridiculed, which can further aggravate the child’s shyness.

Shyness develops from an early age

Shyness develops from an early age

Even though the teachers and the parents assume children are fully capable of effective social interaction, several studies have proven otherwise. Social skills can be learned, but unlike other essential skills for the future adult such as reading and writing, they are not included in the curriculum. As a result, shy students do not get the opportunity to properly develop their social skills, interact with their peers, and participate in class.

Unfortunately, most teachers’ attempts to make shy children interact are often intimidating and they actually increase the students’ anxiety instead of convincing the children to participate in class.

The origins of shyness are still unclear. However, most scientists agree shyness can come from genetic traits, personal experiences, the environment in which a child grows, or a combination of some or all these factors.

The Prevalence Of Shyness

Most shy people tend to believe that they’re one of the few people afflicted by anxious feelings in social situations. But in reality, about one in two American adults consider themselves shy. However, the prevalence of shyness varies greatly among different cultures around the world. Cultures that value overt confidence perceive shyness as a weakness, and people avoid being associated with the feeling. Other cultures value introspection and listening to others, so shy people belonging to these cultures are not stigmatized but valued.

Western cultures believe shyness plays an important role in the social adjustment of an adult, and associate it to a variety of unwanted behaviors. On the other hand, Eastern cultures value quiet people. They place a higher value on avoiding the same of failure, and some outright promote shyness.

The Benefits Of Shyness

Shyness often leads to planning

Shy people are often great planners

This might come as a surprise, but shyness is not all bad. Shy people are great in certain situations. However, the following traits apply only for those who suffer from mild to moderate shyness.

  • Empathy – Shy people are deeply introspective, so they are familiar with all of the feelings they experience. And since the shy among us know what every feeling looks like, they know how to spot it in other people. This makes shy people great at managing relationships, even though they’re not great at creating new ones. Shy people are empathic listeners, so they can put themselves in the talker shoes and react accordingly, which makes it easier for other people to open up to them.
  • Great Planners – Shy people are self-conscious, so they tend to make plans for every possible situation – even the extremely exaggerated ones. Shy people know how to avoid taking unnecessary risks, how to plan for the unexpected, and how to react quickly if the unexpected happens. Thinking ahead and planning are essential to overcome life’s hurdles, so shy people have the upper hand.
  • Modest – Most shy people are modest, even if they achieve something important. Their modesty is not a skill they train, but it comes naturally out of their tendency to avoid being complemented or making themselves the center of attention. But the good thing is, people appreciate modesty, so shyness can be an advantage.
  • Calm – Shy people are usually calm. They don’t like having public outbursts, so they keep a straight face even though their inner turmoil might reach spectacular levels. But being calm is an advantage in almost every possible situation. And seeing that a person kept their calm in a situation might encourage others to do the same, so your calmness can have a positive effect on those around you.
  • Achievers – Shy people struggle every day to interact with other people and confront new situations, so they’re used to fight for what they want and endure hardship. This makes shy people great achievers. Their planning skills and their mental fortitude allow shy people to focus on the long-term goals instead of immediate rewards, so they tend to achieve their long-term goals.

Even though there are some positive aspects to being shy, we shouldn’t assume this feeling has a positive impact. Shyness limits our opportunities, and it can affect every aspect of our lives, from material success to relationships and mental health.

How To Overcome Shyness

how to overcome shyness

We can overcome shyness

Fortunately, we can overcome shyness. The following tips and tricks are effective. However, you shouldn’t expect any miracles after doing them once. Consistency is key.

1.     Stop Sabotaging Yourself

Unless you are Superman, Spiderman, or any other fictional hero who fights villains for a living, you are your worst enemy, just like the rest of us. We all tend to overthink things and situations, but shy people do it at a semi-professional level. Since shy people are more self-conscious than others, they critique and analyze every detail of their personality and appearance and come up with creative failures. But that’s a mistake. People don’t know us as well as we do. Where we see a failure, they might see something normal. In fact, it’s more likely they won’t notice anything’s amiss unless we tell them.

2.     Be Aware Of Your Strengths

Our brains have a negative bias. We are highly attuned to negative things, and we focus on our weaknesses instead of focusing on our strengths. The negativity bias of our brains is an evolutionary trait that kept our ancestors away from harmful things, but we no longer need it every second of every day of our lives.

One of the worst things we could do is trying to improve our weaknesses. Sure, constantly improving our weaknesses will make us marginally better at them. But most often than not, that’s not really necessary. These perceived weaknesses might only be important to us and us alone.

Let’s put this idea into perspective:

  • Instead of focusing on guarding opposing players and scoring points from the box, should basketball legend Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neil have focused on his free throws?
  • Instead of focusing on dribbling and shooting, should football star Lionel Messi focus on making slide tackles?
Focusing on our strengths can help us overcome shyness

Focusing on our strengths can help us overcome shyness

Well, if professional athletes shouldn’t focus on their weaknesses, why should you?

And it’s not only our negativity bias that convinces us we should be better at everything we do. Improving our weaknesses is something we learn. Most people living in Western civilizations are taught they have to be good at everything from an early age. We might be good at math or physics, but we surely need to be passable painters to graduate. Sure, nobody needs us to paint the “Starry Night” to pass, but no teacher worth his or her profession would pass a student for drawing stickmen.

We grow up thinking we should master everything, and we try to do so as adults, as well. But as you could see in the previous examples, that’s simply a poor mentality. We’re much better off sticking to our strengths.

Being aware of our strengths gives us the possibility to improve them. Does your close circle of friends think you’re funny? Well, that’s definitely a strength. The rest of the world might not know you’re funny because of your shyness, but that’s something we can remedy.

Constantly improving our strengths not only makes our skills better, but it also increases our confidence in said strengths. And once we’re confident enough, we can overcome our shyness and let the world know just how funny, sarcastic, empathic, athletic, friendly, intuitive, or kind we are.

3.     Make Your Fears And Worries Visible

Writing down our fears can help us overcome shyness

Writing down our fears and worries can help us overcome shyness

This one is easier than you would think. Take a sheet of paper and make a list with your fears and worries before going out to dinner or facing new people. Make an accurate list of the things you’re worried would happen and ruin your day or your evening.

After making that list, come up with simple solutions for every situation. Writing down our worries and fears diminishes their value. Once they’re out of our heads and expressed on paper, they don’t seem so terrifying.

And then – and this is a crucial part – think about your favorite positive emotions. There are plenty of emotions to choose from: amusement, hope, pride, joy, satisfaction, altruism, love, happiness, and more. Choose one emotion or a group of them and write it down. Write what you like about them for about five to ten minutes.

Expressive writing of positive emotions is a proven way of lowering our anxiety. In combination with the visible expression of our fears, this exercise should help us get over our shyness and face the world.

Journal writing is also a powerful and effective way to overcome our shyness.

4.     Learn To Relax

The apprehension or fearful feeling shy people have when they’re in an unfamiliar situation is driven by anxiety. So in order to treat out shyness, we should treat our anxiety. The best way to treat anxiety is learning to relax. Here are some examples of relaxation methods we could use:

  • Mindfulness Meditation – Most people believe that using mindfulness meditation as a relaxation technique is nothing but wishful thinking, but the latest updates in the medical and scientific world disagree. Multiple studies have shown that mindfulness meditation is an effective way to relax the mind and lower our anxiety levels.
  • Spending Time Outdoors – Spending time outdoors has multiple benefits. A study presented in 2010 showed that people who spend time in nature are usually happier and more relaxed. Spending time in green open spaces seems to be an effective way of relaxing the mind.
  • Laugh – Laughing makes us feel good and significantly lower our anxiety levels. Laughing out loud before a stressful situation might lower our chances of feeling shy.
  • Listen To Music – Music can lower our heart rate and blood pressure, and it can also alleviate our anxiety. And the best thing about listening to music is that it doesn’t even matter which type of music we like. We can benefit from everything music has to offer whether we listen to heavy metal or classical symphonies, as long as we really enjoy them.
  • Exercise Working out your stress is not as difficult as it seems. If we exercise consistently, including a 10-minute training routine to our daily schedule can act as an anxiety relief. And we don’t have to go to the gym to tap into this benefit. Even a moderate exercise such as walking at a brisk pace or running slowly can lower our anxiety levels.

5.     Improve Your Self-Image

Shy people often have a weak self-image. Because they are introspective and very self-aware, shy people will often see flaws where there are none, and beat themselves up over every detail, no matter how small. Fortunately, there are several simple tricks we can use to improve our self-image.

  • Improve Your Posture – As humans, we tend to assess other people at a first glance, so the way we walk, stand, and sit can communicate a lot of information about us. Moreover, standing tall instead of hunching not only communicates confidence but also increases it. We should be aware of our posture and constantly improve it until we make a habit of standing straight. Exercising can also be beneficial for our posture.
  • Be Fit – We tend to perceive fit people more positively than we do others. Scientists believe humans do this because we are wired to search for potential mates. Physical fitness is appreciated in most cultures, so being fit can improve the way other people see us. In addition, being fit increases our self-confidence and improves our self-image.
  • Scent – Even though our sense of smell is not as strong as that of other mammals, we rely on it for many purposes. Our sense of smell affects our taste, mood, work performance, and even our self-image. If we like the way we smell, we become more confident, so we’re more likely to improve how other people perceive us.
  • Grooming Habits – Grooming changes the way people perceive us, but it can also change how we perceive ourselves. Small changes such as shaving, painting our nails, and doing our hair can improve our confidence and self-image. Since most of us know how much time one has to spend on grooming habits, we tend to see groomed people in a more positive light. But like everything else we do, grooming should also be done in moderation.
  • Clothes That Fit – We judge people by their appearances, so how we dress say a lot about ourselves. A lot of people place more value on what clothes they wear than on how the clothes fit them, and that is usually a mistake. It doesn’t really matter what brand we’re wearing if the clothes do not fit us properly. Dressing nicely will make us stand out in a crowd, even if we’re not wearing designer clothes. Knowing our clothes fit well boosts our confidence and improves our self-image.

One of the great things about improving our self-image is that it also improves our self-confidence. Being more confident can alleviate our shyness.

6.     Make Eye Contact And Speak Slowly

eye contact helps us overcome shyness

Making and maintaining eye contact can help us overcome our shyness

Shy people are not comfortable when talking to unknown people, so they are misunderstood more often than those who are not shy. Shyness forces us to talk quickly and sometimes quietly, so many of those around us don’t really hear or understand what we’re saying. Now, advising a shy person to make eye contact and speak slowly is easy, but putting it in practice might be more difficult. Well, nobody said it was easy, but at least we can improve these aspects. Here’s how.

  • Eye Contact – Most of us interact with many people each day, even if we might not be aware of it. We interact with the cashier at our local supermarket, with the bus driver or fellow commuters on our way to work, with people living in the same apartment building, and so on. We might not think much of these small interactions, but our brains surely do. Our brains perceive eye contact as a powerful social stimulus. We use eye contact to communicate emotions and social intentions, and eye contact can even affect our attractiveness evaluation. If we want to improve our ability of making eye contact, we have to make our daily small interactions matter. We should start small. Instead of averting our eyes when someone passes us on the street, we should make eye contact and hold it for one or two seconds. Instead of watching our groceries, we should make eye contact with other people standing in line or with the cashier as we pay. These daily interactions increase our ability to make and maintain eye contact when it really matters.
  • Speaking Slowly – Speaking slowly improves our communication skills. When we speak slowly, people can understand what we’re saying and they can react accordingly. Moreover, speaking slowly can also convey confidence and authority, and that can improve our self-confidence and how others perceive us. However, we should be careful not to speak too slowly to avoid boring those around us. If we want to improve our communication skills, we should practice them as often as possible.

Overcome Shyness With The Help Of Hypnosis

Hypnoses can be a valuable tool for treating shyness and anxiety disorders. Guided hypnotherapy can reduce our anxiety and shyness, and it can prevent us from feeling apprehensive or awkward when we’re facing an unfamiliar situation or when we encounter new people.

Hypnosis balances the autonomic nervous system and reduces the body’s response to stress. The stress reduction helps the mind control our emotions, so we can face every situation with a new mindset.

You can find out more about hypnosis and learn how it can help you overcome shyness by downloading my digital hypnosis session available here.