Ways to overcome shyness and start being more confident
The heart beating fast in your chest as if echoing your racing thoughts. The sweat coating your palms as you sink in your nails to calm down. The insides squirming, fueled by anxiety. Discover a number of ways to overcome shyness.
Sounds familiar? While in many people’s case this response would accompany them in the worst scenario imaginable, for those who experience shyness it’s often a part of daily life.
Shyness makes it difficult to connect with people. Shyness can make you passive and force you to put up with being disrespected. It can rob you of job opportunities and even put your life in danger when you aren’t confident enough to ask for help.
If it persists into adulthood, you subconsciously build your life around shyness. You might arrive late to a lecture to avoid talking to your peers. You might listen to music everywhere you go not to engage in small talk with shopping assistants. You might pick up new hobbies to compensate for the lack of social life and give up classes you enjoy because you don’t fit in. You might accept a job below your skillset just to avoid the office environment.
You might start seeing yourself as shy and compress your personality to fit this label. You might even start apologising for being shy before people have a chance to notice. You might think it’s just the way you are and there’s nothing you can do.
While some are born with a tendency towards shyness, this proneness might be exacerbated by social experiences such as lack of parental warmth or bullying. Shyness is often a learned behaviour that can be unlearned.
Are you ready to do the work? Below are ways to overcome shyness.
One of the reasons behind shyness is the lack of confidence. Perhaps you fear you won’t get your point across in a conversation. Perhaps you worry about fitting in, not being fun enough or making a fool of yourself.
Perhaps you’re afraid you aren’t good enough. But the key to being good at something is practice. Think of all the things you do daily. You get out of the bed to make yourself breakfast – you’re confident you can do it because you’ve been doing it every day for years. You don’t even think about it.
One way to practice is to engage in simple social interactions. You don’t have to talk to every stranger you see but aim to have a bit of exposure every day. You could make sure you say hello first when you enter a store. You could smile at a stranger as you pass them by. You could ask a flatmate how their day was. Make it your routine and build upon it. Every small improvement counts.
Accept the feeling of embarrassment. If you engage in a relatively new activity over and over, you’re bound to fail at some point.
Do you remember how you learned to ride a bike? You kept falling but didn’t give up until you got it right. While the core of shyness is the fear of being judged and it makes you especially vulnerable to feeling embarrassed, even the most confident people make mistakes and feel ashamed once in a while.
You have to let go of the idea that failure is avoiding embarrassment and employ a growth mindset. You only ever fail if you never try. Accept negative emotions. Tell yourself it’s okay to make mistakes and look stupid sometimes.
Ultimately, people will judge you no matter what you do, no matter how smart or accomplished you are. Tell yourself “It’s okay if I say or do something stupid sometimes because it doesn’t define me”. You can think of your own positive affirmations to practise daily.
For example, “I’m good enough”. The key is to retrain your brain: challenge negative thoughts and develop positive thinking patterns.
Manifest good scenarios.
A mind is a powerful thing. How many times do you imagine yourself struggling in social interactions and then indeed struggle? This kind of negativity sets you up for failure.
Luckily, it also means you can improve by doing the exact opposite thing. If you ever find yourself thinking “what if?”, make sure you end the question with something positive. What if it goes well? What if you get that job? Once you have a bit of practice, you can start envisioning yourself handling a stressful situation well.
If you have an important presentation or a date the next day, imagine yourself succeeding. It will be challenging at first but repetition is the key.
Once you improve your self-confidence, try to go with the flow. While some advise shy people to rehearse what to say and prepare conversation topics, unless it’s a phone call to make an appointment, it can be counterproductive.
While worrying about a situation over and over might make it difficult to improvise, preparing for every human interaction will inhibit your progress in the long run. If you condition yourself to rely on whatever you rehearsed before, new situations will catch you off guard and make you even more nervous.
Your interactions might become more robotic than genuine and you might struggle with expressing your emotions. Instead of memorising what you’re going to say, find activities that will help think on the spot. For example, you could get involved in acting and try improvisation exercises. If going to an acting class is too much, you can always practice at home.
For many shy people taking on another personality is a confidence boost.
Change your perspective on shyness.
It’s not a secret that society views shyness as a negative trait. At times, it seems like shyness is shameful, almost as shameful as being manipulative, arrogant or prejudiced – you name it. Sometimes it feels like shyness makes you a bad person just because you can’t fit in.
But it’s not your job to make people feel comfortable especially when they encounter something they don’t bother to understand. While it’s true that shyness comes with many obstacles you have to face, it’s your fight and nobody else’s.
Accept you’re shy. Accepting and validating your behaviour doesn’t mean you approve of it, on the contrary, understanding it is the first step to a change. Practise self-compassion. Yes, you’re shy. But it’s not everything you are.
Make a list of your good qualities and read it every day after you wake up and before bed. Write down “shy” on a piece of paper and throw it away. Don’t let it define you. If you make progress, reward yourself. If it goes wrong, reward yourself even more.
In a world where society judges us for everything we do, it’s a rebellious act to try to free yourself of the box you were put into. Congratulate yourself on making a conscious effort to improve and loving yourself enough to work towards a better future.
Extra tips and ways to overcome shyness
- Watch TED talks. They’re a great source of motivation and inspiration.
- Search Binaural Beats on youtube. Listening to them daily is said to build your confidence and improve self-esteem.
- Embrace it. Shyness can be attractive. Check out “How to turn anxiety into charisma” on youtube – it might help you see shyness as charming.
- Make a confidence boost playlist. Envision yourself singing the songs or in particular situations that relate to the songs and make you feel empowered.
Depending on your level of shyness, some tips on this list might not resonate with you. However, even doing one thing can make a huge difference. And remember, progress isn’t linear but it’s worth it.
If everything else fails, don’t be ashamed to ask for professional help. Contact My Family Psychologist for a confidential chat.