Dear friend, let’s start by reminding you that you’re not alone in this. We all can sense when someone else is shy. As a result, you have probably noticed that you’re not the only one who feels nervous in the company of people.
There’s no magic formula that will change anybody overnight. Nevertheless, take comfort in the fact that timidity can be overcome with some time, patience with ourselves and self-awareness. Let’s take a look at five practical steps believed to be helpful for overcoming timidity:
Step 1: Accept Your Shyness
First of all, accept your shyness. While this might sound somewhat weird, it really is the starting point. We first have to be radical in accepting ourselves because many of our so-called weaknesses are born out of circumstances that we couldn’t have controlled. Events and experiences from our childhood largely influence our psychological makeup because our brains are really pliable at that stage. And most of this happens at a subconscious level. A psychologist would definitely be able to explain all this much better, but the fact is that some of these psychological effects have become so hard-wired in our brains that it will be difficult to change them quickly.
Understand that you cannot afford to blame your parents or anybody for that matter. Raising children is hard and can be emotionally and intellectually draining, often requiring professional sacrifice and serious financial hardship. Realize that your parents and people who have had an effect on you are also products of nature and nurture, products of some circumstances that were beyond their control. In fact, to understand people better, it pays greatly to try to communicate with them with an open mind.
While you can’t change your past, you can still slowly develop the power to control how you respond to events going forward. Start by not being hard on yourself. The truth is that everyone is actually shy in some situations. In fact, the people who seem not to be timid are just used to doing the things they were once afraid of and are now more comfortable. There are lawyers who talk boldly in courts but who weren’t always that assertive. The bottom-line is that we’re human beings and we all need to accept it.
Step 2: Practice Deep Breathing
If someone is shy, this means that they are nervous around others. So, you can practice taking deep breaths to calm yourself down when you’re nervous. There are physiological signs of anxiety, and you need to be conscious of them. When you notice your heart start to race faster than normal, or when you notice a churning feeling in your stomach, this is the time to calm yourself down with some deep breaths.
Take a deep breath in through your nose, expanding your belly. Then, exhale it slowly while counting from one to five. Do this in a way that feels comfortable to you. You can repeat this exercise as many times as you need to until you feel more relaxed.
Step 3: Focus on Your Strengths
Know your strengths and focus on them. Shy people tend to be categorized as introverts even though there is a difference. Perhaps, the reason for categorizing shyness and introversion as one and the same is because timidity can sometimes be developed into an ability to process things inwardly and become more comfortable spending time on your own.
Because they spend more time alone, introverts who channel this alone time productively, end up gradually maturing into voracious readers and learners, good observers, excellent listeners, insightful people, creative thinkers, independent and self-motivated achievers, great writers and so on. With time, as they mature into self-motivated adults, people start to notice and find this independence attractive.
The point is that for every weakness, there is a corresponding strength that can be built from it. For example, hyper-perfectionism which some see as a weakness can be transformed into an ability to do your work more thoroughly and pay attention to important details. That’s how many successful doctors, engineers and specialists in other fields are made.
Step 4: Increase Your Confidence
Armed with the knowledge of your potential strengths, stand tall, keep your head up and speak confidently without imposing yourself on others. Always try to communicate clearly to avoid being misunderstood. Don’t be afraid of healthy conflict as they are sometimes necessary. Also, you must always bear in mind that you don’t know it all and you will be wrong sometimes. Realize that not everyone will like you and accept it, because it’s not a bad thing. When someone doesn’t like you, it’s could for instance, be because you both do not agree on something.
When talking to someone, try to place more attention on them and listen. Don’t feel pressure to do more of the talking. Talk when it feels most natural for you to do so and after you have understood what is being said. Slowly, your attentiveness and ability to really listen will result in more people wanting to be friends with you.
It really helps to increase your confidence when you look yourself in the mirror and realize that the person you see in front of you is all you’ll ever be. Self-acceptance doesn’t prevent self-improvement. In fact, it makes self-improvement easier and smoother. Choosing to accept reality doesn’t mean avoiding attempts at change or improvement. Instead, it forces you to look ahead positively and move forward constructively. From a place of acceptance, you can start to focus on learning and acquiring skills, building your strengths and overcoming your weaknesses.
Step 5: Become More Tolerant
Lastly, avoid talking yourself down. Tolerate yourself more and compare yourself to others less. When you do something stupid, don’t try too hard to justify it. Simply laugh kindly at yourself and remember that it’s human to do stupid things sometimes. Learn from your mistakes without over-personalizing them. Ask yourself what can be done to move in a better direction and retrace your steps. The bottom-line is to learn to quickly stand up and move on when you fall.
When you accept yourself more, you’ll find it easier to tolerate and accept other people as well. When people sense this tolerant attitude in you, they’ll find you agreeable and will want to work with you. Be kind to yourself, keep learning, stay open and stay curious. Remember, action cures fear. So, start doing the easiest of some of those important things that make you nervous or scared.
At first, it might seem difficult to practice these, but with some patience, and self-awareness, it will gradually become second nature. Now, close your eyes, take a deep breath and relax, because you have a life ahead of you to live.