Can you picture the last time you were in the room full of people chatting and having a gala time while you stood there, drowned in shyness, not really knowing anyone and unsure how to overcome the self-consciousness and awkwardness that came with it?
Perhaps you were looking forward to asking someone out but your lips just couldn’t move. Can you remember the moment?
On the flip side, some people just seem to be so outgoing and always able to start a conversation with strangers naturally.
Call this being shy or being an introvert – but feeling at loss for words can happen to pretty much anyone. Yes, even extroverts find it hard sometimes to strike up an interesting conversation just as a shy person would.
3 Reasons for Shyness
1. Low self-esteem
Lack of self-esteem is one of the most common reasons a person feels shy. If you suffer from lack of self-esteem, you are stuck in this mental jail where you are Mr. Nobody trying to be Mr. Somebody. Your unique skills and qualities don’t even measure up to what’s required to be someone cool or popular. Worse, you keep reinforcing it by being confined with the Mr. Nobody image.
2. Making it all about you
I’d call this border-line narcissism. You’re obsessed with yourself so much so that you forget to bring all your beautiful traits to the table. You are too hung up on how you look, what others may be thinking of you, always fearful people might end up not liking you for who you are. And therefore, you put up a fake image, which, of course since it’s not you, you end up playing the part poorly.
3. Self-fulfilling prophecy
Do you always buy into what your mini-me (that small nagging voice that’s yapping non-stop) is saying? If so, you end up believing it which, most of the times, is not very positive. “Who do you think you are? You’re a shy person and no one is going to like you!”
Fear of not belonging is one of our most common fears. If you listen to your mini-me, you end up being shy because you believe it to be true! It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy because now you must live to the expectations of this belief.
How to Overcome Shyness
Now that we’ve looked at the common reasons of shyness, let’s look at some tips of how to overcome the uncomfortable feeling that comes with being shy:
Focus on your strengths
Too many times, we’re busy finding our own faults. It’s the mind’s favourite pass-time. We have a complete checklist of what’s missing in our lives, of what we’re not. Can you imagine how taxing that is on our own self-esteem?Instead, try this: Find your strengths, no matter how simple they sound, and write them down.
It’s important that you write them because then you can see them on paper as something tangible. It’s not as hard to accept because you’re now looking at your strengths as an observer. That takes the negative resistance away. Find something that you’re good at and practice it more. Spend time building your skills in that area.
Chances are someone else might not be as good at it and you can help them. This boosts self-esteem and you forget to obsessively focus on yourself because now you can focus on others by giving!
Set new goals
Goal-setting is a great way to shift your focus from where you’re stuck to where you want to go. Goals are forward-thinking way of looking at your life.
Really evaluate how you’re doing with your current goals. If you don’t have any goals to fulfil at the moment, it’s time to sit down and give yourself some new, shiny ones to pursue.
Ensure your goals are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. You’ll realize that the more you set goals, the more challenges you place in your life and the more it motivates you to find ways to achieve them and tick them off. This boosts your confidence by eventually building lots of reference points in your past.
Be OK with Rejection
Let’s face it: Everyone goes through rejection in their life. Rejection is a part of life and it’s best to accept it and move on.I know, easier said than done, but in face of rejection, you really have two choices:
A. Keep mulling over it
B. Get over it and move on to something new
Life has movement – it is never static. Life always chooses option B. If you get hung up on why so and so said such and such to you, how could they, well good luck with that internal interrogation. You will find it much harder to overcome shyness, let alone become more confident, if you’re stuck on finding answers that are not in your circle of influence. That means you cannot change that particular incident. It has already happened and the smartest thing to do is to accept it and move on to something better.
Embrace rejection as a part of life and learning process. Personally, I take rejection as an elimination process. If I am faced with rejection, I try again. If I keep facing a brick wall, then I consider the person (or thing or activity) as not worthy of my time and energy. It’s no offence against them – I really don’t have any grudges. In fact I am thankful that I we are on the same page and now I am free to focus my attention on something better and worth my while!
Keep a Success Journal
And by that I mean note down every small win. If you want to overcome your shyness, note down how you engaged in a light conversation with the stranger on the bus on the way home. Usually, you take the seat by the window and immerse yourself into a book on your Kindle, but this time, you took a chance, made eye contact with the person sitting next to you and you had a great conversation about bird-watching.
No matter how “irrelevant”, that’s a win and is definitely going into your Success Journal!
Become aware of the real you
Who are you really? What is it that you love? What are your aspirations in life? How are you contributing and growing? What are your unique traits? What turns you off? What turns you on?
These are the questions you must ask yourself and re-evaluate your answers every few months. Becoming aware is 95% of the journey. Once you’re aware of your best qualities, your fears and your quirks, it becomes very easy to now set an agenda about what you want to do next and how. Awareness is the first step, and a massive one.
Experiment with different situations and notice how you react to them. Don’t attach a lot of meaning to it – just observe how this person (you) is reacting to something. Keep changing perspectives and look at the how this person could have reacted to the situation differently.
Create a new ritual: Look at the real you in the mirror and acknowledge the beautiful person looking back at you. Because there is just one of you, so you might as well want to flaunt it!
Give up perfectionism
Some people have this compulsiveness to do everything perfectly or else why start it. Perfectionism and excellence sound like the same things but are vastly different. Excellence helps you focus on your goals – it motivates you. Perfectionism stagnates your growth.
You don’t have to be perfect at not being shy. You just have to start somewhere. Little habits go a long way. If you step out of your comfort zone every once in a while consistently, you will realize it’s not that hard at all. Whereas if you are stuck in the illusion of achieving perfection, you will shudder at taking the next step because it may not come out as perfect.
Perfectionists often aim to go into it with an expectation of achieving 100%. Not that this is a bad thing, but if they don’t see it happening at a 100%, they quit. It’s all or nothing for them. If you’re dealing with a behavioural trait such as shyness, it’s clear that this strategy won’t get you far.
You can overcome shyness bit by bit, by building reference points, by conditioning your subconscious mind to see the positive results at each step on the way to confidence and self-esteem.
Be instantly likable
People who are instantly likable can get rid of their shyness swiftly. Think of a popular student you had in your class in high school – did you think they were shy? No way. Quite the opposite!
It makes perfect sense then to become likable in order to overcome shyness. Now, before you try this strategy, please know that I do not mean you’re not liked already. At this very moment, you can count on the people who truly love you. They think you’re great the way you are. You don’t need fixing.
So you really can choose to remain shy if that works for you, or turn things around if you are not happy with that aspect of your life.
When I say instantly likable, I mean having an immediate positive impact on others, a great first impression, being charismatic. “Mirroring” can help you with this. Mirroring is an NLP technique that simply means you mirror the body language and gestures of the person with whom you’re conversing. So if someone is standing across you with their head slightly tilted, you will do the same by tilting your head to your left (as in a mirror).
Mirror their subtle gestures, listen when they talk, maintain eye contact, smile and be interested! Voila – you’ve got a recipe of being charismatic. You won’t realize when people will start wanting to talk with you. Consistent application of mirroring will make people crave your company which will in turn help you get off the fence of shyness once and for all.
Don’t be interesting, be interested
What were you thinking the last time someone spoke to you? If you’re like most people, you must be thinking of how you’re going to respond to this person the moment you get the window of pause.
In fact, you’re so uncomfortable with silence that you’d take the first chance and interrupt. That’s called trying to be interesting. But guess what? No one gives a damn if you’re interesting. Yes, really, they don’t.
If you want to be charismatic, always remember the rule of 3:
– People love talking;
– people love talking about them;
– people love people who are interested in them.
So really, it’s all about them. At least in the beginning. If you want to influence anyone, make sure you’re first being a great listener. Be interested instead. Be OK with silence (because many times, they are still thinking as they pause) and wait. Then wait some more. Maintain eye contact and show them you’re really curious to know their story.
Once you do this, you’ll start noticing something new: People will want to be with you. They will come to you for advice (if that’s what you want), they will listen to what you’ve got to say and they will be interested in you. See how this comes back full circle?
The best thing, it always works because you’re being genuinely interested and authentic.
Shyness is not permanent or hard-wired in you. It can be stopped. Start applying the above skills and record how you go. Make a note of small wins. Be consistent at application – and then rinse and repeat what works best. If you take it as one of life’s learning experiences, you can change things at your will.
Have you faced an awkward moment of shyness? How did you tackle it? Share with us in the comments!
Image by visualpanic.