An extrovert and an introvert walk into a bar. The extrovert orders a drink. The introvert hides in a quiet corner and never hears the rest of the joke.
Here’s the thing about being shy: it’s a part of who you are. You can’t change the core of your personality. You can’t hope to wake up as someone else. There’s no reason to hope for it either – shy or not, you’re a worthwhile person and accepting yourself needs to come before anything else.
But if you let your shyness control you, you will miss out on valuable experiences. You’ll let exciting new acquaintances fizzle out, you’ll watch job or travel opportunities pass you by. Being too shy can leave you plagued with regrets.
So here’s what you need to do when you feel that shyness is standing in your way.
- Take a Good Hard Look at Yourself
Shy people often feel like the whole world is staring at them, looking for flaws. This is absolutely not true – people generally focus inwards, and judging you is the last thing on their minds.
Still, if you can’t stop thinking about how you’re being perceived, you can take inventory.
Are you dressed appropriately for the situation? Whether you’re attending a professional event, a date or other social gathering, or just going out by yourself, you should take a bit of time to figure out how other people will dress. Once you find the right outfit, you will feel less like an outsider. But don’t forget to go for clothes that feel comfortable and flatter your best features.
What about your body language? If possible, cut back on fidgeting, and try to maintain eye contact. But even if that’s too difficult to be worth it, try to keep your chin up. Make sure your body language is as relaxed as possible. Wide, open gestures can be helpful. Don’t cross your arms, your legs, and try not to appear bored or impatient.
Dressing well and using the right body language are both social skills you develop over time. Don’t worry about getting it perfect, just do your best.
However, you should make absolutely sure your grooming and hygiene are in order. Do you look neat? Have you showered? This is incredibly important when it comes to building up your confidence.
See: 5 Confidence Hacks
- Assess the Situation, But Don’t Let Your Imagination Take Over
What’s the worst thing that can happen? Treat this question with caution.
For many people, shyness comes from a disproportionate fear of a negative social outcome.
What if the servers at a restaurant are rude to you when you order? What if you want to ask someone out on a date and they’re not interested? What if they make this rejection public? What if your boss doesn’t think you deserve that raise? What if you ask someone how their day was and they burst into tears?
It can be a good idea to consider the ways an interaction could go wrong. Maybe you’re a defensive pessimist , or you’re on your way to becoming one. This is a useful strategy for dealing with high-pressure situations. When you consider every negative outcome, you’ll find it easier to deal with any arising problems. You’ll be fully prepared for every possibility.
But when it comes to shyness, make sure your worst-case-scenarios are based on reality. Making a list is a good idea, and you can even ask a friend to look it over and tell you whether you’re being realistic.
Once you’ve made sure that you have a clear picture of the ways an interaction can play out, you will probably find that the rewards far outweigh the risks.
See our other post: Fear is the Mind Killer
- Make Sure Your Energy Levels Are High
Feeling tired can make you shy and awkward even if you normally find it fairly easy to talk to others.
Social interaction requires brainpower. To keep a conversation going, you have to pay attention to the person - or group - that you’re talking to. You’ve got to absorb a tidal wave of new information, and then respond in a timely manner. You also probably shouldn’t yawn in anyone’s face.
So make sure your brain is functioning as well as possible.
If you know you are going to have to interact with someone you want to impress, make sure you’re not sleep-deprived. Grabbing a cup of coffee can be a great help too. You don’t need alcohol or other mood-altering substances to relax in a social situation, you just need to be mentally alert.
Physical tiredness can be a hindrance as well. It makes you irritable, and it has an impact on your body language. Slouching can make you come across as unfriendly.
Hence, you should consider taking a well-timed nap. You can also try some light exercise. Working out is a great confidence-booster for a lot of people!
- Develop Immunity by Exposure
Here’s the most effective but least popular piece of advice you can get: “Practice makes perfect.”
This is definitely true when it comes to social interactions. The more you talk to people, the easier it will become to strike up conversations.
For one thing, you’ll simply have more things to talk about if you expand your social network and if you try out some new hobbies or travel destinations.
For another, practice will let you accurately predict the way that social interactions will go, so you won’t keep freaking out about unrealistic scenarios.
Sometimes the worst outcome will happen after all. You may get rejected, or commit some kind of social blunder. You might come across someone who will cause a scene. It will be unpleasant, but once it’s done, you’ll find that nothing significant has changed in your life. Trying again will be easier after that.
Don’t be embarrassed to take things slow. For some, even making a phone call can be a challenge.
But if you keep track of your progress, you’ll be surprised by the rate your improvement. Some types of interactions will become routine. You won’t even remember that they used to be difficult for you.
Other social situations might always give you that jolt of nervousness. You might blush, or feel tongue-tied for a moment, and you might feel your adrenalin spike. But once you learn how to master your shyness, nothing will stop you from getting what you want.
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