Human interaction is the lynchpin of life, so it goes without saying that shyness, as well as severe social anxiety, can be extremely difficult to live with. It can affect every area of your life, from hampering your performance at work or university, to completely sabotaging your enjoyment of social engagements - or making you avoid them altogether. It can keep you from meeting new people, grabbing opportunities, or simply having fun. In short, it's something that can really hold you back from living a fulfilling life.
Fortunately, you're not resigned to a life of shying away. Many people have successfully overcome their shyness, enough to face the world head on. You can too!
Everyone's shyness has a root cause. It can stem from a number of things, such as a poor self-image and a fear of coming across badly, to enduring negative social interactions in the past. Then of course there are those who are naturally very introverted, and have simply accepted that they're shy, without ever trying to prove themselves any different. But shyness is something you can overcome. Here's how.
Tackling your shyness
1. Focus on reality, not irrational fears: Fear is the basis of most people's shyness, and more often than not that fear isn't rooted in reality. Simple social interactions can feel like you're setting yourself up to be humiliated, disliked, or judged. Ask yourself how many people you've immediately disliked or judged after a simple, normal exchange. None? Most people are the same as you.
2. Let yourself be vulnerable: In order to prove to yourself that your fear is unfounded, you need to make yourself be vulnerable to it. Socialise more. Say yes to every invitation that you'd usually turn down. Meet new people. It may be terrifying, but rest assured: if you're feeling uncomfortable, you're doing it right - and it'll only get easier in time.
3. Every day confidence boosts: As well as pushing yourself into new territory, be sure to implement small, easier changes in your everyday life too. Ask a stranger if you can pet their dog. Have a mundane chat at the supermarket checkout. Or pay someone a sincere compliment. With each positive interaction you have, your confidence will grow, and your shyness will begin to fade away.
4. Leave past experiences in the past: If you've experienced negative social interactions before, then it doesn't mean they're going to happen again. Even if it was likely, you can't shy away from a social life because of them. People experience conflict, disagreements, embarrassment, and social faux pas every single day. But people move on from them, because it's all part of being human. The important thing is that you take something positive from these events, and don't let them define you.
5. Shift focus: Many shy people fear embarrassing themselves, and so often focus on every aspect of their behaviour during social interactions. If that's the case with you, shift your focus to the person you're talking to and what they're saying instead. The more engaged you are in the interaction, the less you'll be watching yourself - making the connection more natural, and a lot less intimidating.
6. Promote a better self-image: Poor confidence will often result in shyness. If you're lacking in confidence, then reaffirm to yourself all the things that make you wonderful with this simple exercise: Write a list of all your qualities (think of compliments you've been paid in the past too), and read it back first thing in the morning and last thing at night. The sooner you view yourself as a fantastic person with lots to offer, the more confident and less shy you'll feel.
7. Be kind to yourself: No one chooses to be shy or suffer from social anxiety, and it can be a huge obstacle to face. Never chastise yourself when you fail to overcome personal challenges, or you risk driving your confidence down even further. Instead, praise yourself for even the smallest victories on your journey to becoming less shy - small steps can cover great distances.
A shy-free life
The wonderful thing about gaining confidence is that it snowballs: the more you have, the more you'll gain, and the less shy you'll feel. Don't let shyness keep you on the sidelines. Start taking positive steps to combating your shyness and put yourself in pole position to live the life you want.