How To Overcome Shyness: a practical guide

According to the American Psychological Association, shyness is defined as the tendency to feel awkward, tense, anxious or worried especially when around unfamiliar people or in social settings. Those individuals that experience shyness may (in addition to psychological symptoms) experience physical reactions to social situations such as a rapid heart rate, upset stomach, sweating and blushing. These symptoms, in conjunction with worrying about how others may perceive them, often leads to a tendency to avoid or withdraw from social interactions.

Shyness can prevent individuals like yourself from realizing their full potential in life. In fact, being shy can prevent you from forming new and lasting friendships, being at ease during social events and situations, and even getting that promotion or raise at work.

How to overcome shyness and social anxiety

Overcoming shyness is just another means of self-improvement, and the fact that you’re shy is nothing to be ashamed of. It is an altogether common feeling and one which can be improved by utilizing the strategies in this guide.

Shyness and social anxiety, also called social phobia, is something that may need continuous work and effort to overcome. And while mindset is important in overcoming shyness, our actions are equally as important, if not more so.

One way how to overcome social anxiety and shyness is to try to go out to more social events. It sounds counterintuitive and will be uncomfortable. But by going out more and meeting more new people, your “flight or fight” response will begin to damper as your body and mind realize there is nothing to be worried about or to fear. Meeting new people and engaging socially may also help to improve your self-confidence and establish new and valued relationships with others.

When it comes to overcoming shyness, every individual is unique, and there isn’t a “paint by numbers” guide that will work for everyone. As such, you may need to experiment to find those strategies that seem to help for YOU. However, don’t discount a strategy just because it is uncomfortable. Getting outside of your “box” will be uncomfortable, and it might not be easy, but that is how we grow as individuals.

Without further delay, if you feel that the American Psychology Association’s definition perfectly describes who you are and how you feel in social settings, then you may want to try some of these tips to figure out how to overcome shyness.

Your How-To Guide to Overcoming Shyness

Find a Good Teacher or Coach

The right teacher, coach, or therapist will help you learn proven and valuable coping mechanisms to show you how to overcome shyness when meeting new people, at work or in other social situations. Your teacher, coach, or therapist will not only give you techniques and strategies to help you overcome your shyness, but they will also give you support and accountability throughout the process.

Try Teaching Something that you are an Expert in

Teaching something that you have a lot of experience it can give you a sense of self-confidence and a boost of esteem while also participating in a social activity.

Try picking a skill that you are great at and offer to teach that skill to some of your friends and family. If you really want to go out on a limb, try teaching that skill to a small classroom of people. In teaching people a new skill, you will not only be taking the focus off of yourself and putting it onto your students, but you will also be teaching someone something new and useful to incorporate into their lives.

Praise Yourself Often

It may sound silly, but giving yourself a pat on the back or self-affirmations is a simple easy and effective way to boost your confidence. It’s important to take time at the end of your day to recognize all of the good things you have done and give yourself praise for doing them — especially if those things were particularly difficult for you to do because of your shyness. In praising yourself, you are opening yourself up to receive positive energy.

Never Talk Down to Yourself

Being shy isn’t anything to be ashamed of. And feeling down or directing negative thoughts, emotions or even names at yourself opens up the door for negative energy, depression, reduced self-esteem and more. Instead, use constructive criticism when self-analysis is needed and use “failed” opportunities or situations that didn’t go as planned as an opportunity to reflect and learn.

Expose Yourself to Different Experiences and Social Situations

Many therapists advise that when you take baby steps to slowly expose yourself to the things that you fear, some of that fear will subside. Even though social anxiety may never fully go away, in exposing yourself to the things that you fear, it can become manageable. In order to partake in Exposure Therapy, it’s advised to go into a new social situation every day where you might feel a little shy. Spend some time chatting with someone, then move on to someone else. In doing this for a short period of time every day, the shyness will slowly start to go away. If you are unable to do this on your own, then a professional therapist can help guide you through exercises similar to Exposure Therapy.

Do not Put a Label on Yourself

Negative self-labeling will reinforce shyness and make it a permanent part of your personality. It is okay, however, to identify conditions and skills you are lacking in so that you can figure out what you need to work on. Try not to become your shyness. Instead, identify it for what it is, but do not let your shyness become who you are as a person. Use positive self-talk such as, “I am working hard to boost my self-confidence,” to help you focus on the positive traits you are cultivating.

Keep a Journal or Confide in Someone you Trust

It’s never healthy to keep all of your feelings to yourself. Shyness can cause increased amounts of stress in your life. By writing down all of your experiences and feelings into a journal, or confiding in someone you trust, you can verbalize and acknowledge those feelings in a positive way.

Go Slow  – it’s not a race

Change doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, the best kinds of change happen slowly over time. Enjoy the process and be grateful that the change that is happening within you. Know that your confidence will slowly increase as you expose yourself to more social situations and experiences. Likewise, set realistic expectations for yourself that you can achieve over the course of days, weeks, months, and even years. As you get better at handling simple social situations, feel free to add on more challenging ones as time goes on.

Create a Support Network or go to a Support Group

Be open to telling your friends and family that you are working on your shyness. In telling your friends and family what you are working on, you are giving yourself accountability. Also, your friends and family will be there to support your efforts so that you won’t be going it alone. Having or working with a support group will greatly improve your odds that you will succeed in handling and overcoming your shyness.

Don’t Focus on what Others Think of You

Focus on yourself and also put the focus on other people. When you focus on yourself, you will be putting your energy into your own self-care and self-improvement. And when you focus on other people instead of worrying what they think about you, you will be taking some pressure off of yourself. Instead of being judgmental to others, remember that everyone is human and can feel shy, nervous, and insecure.

Write Down Your Goals and Why They are Important to You

When you write down what you want to do about your shyness, you are taking an important first step towards working on it. No goal is too big or too small for you to achieve. Knowing what your goals are will also help you to narrow down your focus. Instead of worrying about situations, you will be able to tackle them one at a time because you created a list from which to check them off.

When you make a list of your goals, they become real and tangible, not just ideas floating around in your head. By combining those goals with why they are important to you, you give them meaning and value which can be a motivational factor towards hitting them.

Take Care of your Health

Make sure to exercise regularly, get plenty of rest, and eat a balanced and healthy diet. When you take care of yourself, you set yourself up for success. Proper diet, sleep, and exercise will make you stronger physically, emotionally, and mentally so that you can confidently tackle each one of your shyness goals.

Practice Breathing Exercises

Stress from shyness and social situations can be controlled and alleviated from meditation and breathing exercises that help you to slow down and control your breath. Whenever you feel nervous and anxious, take a moment to focus on your breathing to help stop shallow breathing and eliminate tension.

Closing Thoughts

No matter which activity you choose to do, know that shyness takes time, patience, and hard work to overcome. Never feel ashamed of reaching out for help from friends, family, or a licensed therapist when you need it. Shyness is something that you are trying to overcome. It is not who you are as a person. Do not ever let shyness define you.

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