How to Stop Being Shy: 9 Guaranteed Ways To Overcome Shyness
Do you struggle with shyness in social situations?
For a shy person, small talk can be agonizing. You become racked with fear thinking of possible ways to answer a simple question about the weather. Some shy folks would rather have a root canal than speak in front of a large crowd or approach a stranger for networking.
Your default move is to keep your distance from others, which people misinterpret as being snobbish. They won’t see the fear you have of not knowing what to say if they start a conversation with you.
If your shyness gets in the way of how you interact with others so that you avoid social situations, it may be that you have a condition called social anxiety. The infographic below shows some facts about social anxiety disorder.
There are different causes of extreme shyness. However, it usually occurs when people have low self-esteem. They become anxious about how others perceive them.
Shyness: A Definition
Extremely shy individuals tend to hold others at a distance. They isolate themselves, doing their best to avoid social interactions.
In order to cope, some who suffer from extreme cases of shyness resort to alcohol. Being intoxicated lessens our inhibitions. For exceedingly shy people, being drunk is the only way they can interact socially without being overcome by their fears of being judged by other people.
A recent study shows how shyness can affect a person’s well-being and the quality of the romantic relationships they have. Some extremely shy persons develop depression and other emotional and mental issues due to isolation. Because human interaction is such an important part of living a happy and fulfilled life, if this activity is neglected, people are likely to have a lower quality of life.
Having extreme shyness is different from introversion and childhood shyness.
Introversion is a type of personality trait. Introverts tend to focus on what they think and feel within themselves rather than on outside stimuli. Although there are many introverts who are also shy, it does not automatically follow that introverts experience extreme shyness or social anxiety.
Childhood shyness, meanwhile, is a phase some children go through where they seem to be shy around strangers. Children usually outgrow this phase, and it is normal for children to go through it.
Extreme shyness really comes along with a fear of being judged by other people, and physical symptoms when having to interact with people. People with extreme shyness may feel their hearts beat faster when they see someone approaching them, or they may start to sweat or turn red in the face. With extreme shyness, you may have physical symptoms along with your emotional and cognitive symptoms.
In this article, we offer suggestions for how to build confidence to stop being shy.
But first, let’s explore the causes of extreme shyness.
Causes of Extreme Shyness
Some of your genes may contribute to how shy you are as a young child or as you grow up. Geneticists have done studies to show which particular genes cause shyness in people. However, the genetic influence on how shy you are is not fixed, meaning that you can change that aspect of yourself. (Typically you cannot change other attributes that you get from your genes.)
We all inherit some traits from our parents, and because shy people tend to marry other shy people, those genetics often surface in their offspring. However, even if their parents are shy, children can still break through this trait and be outgoing.
Prenatal factors and influences
Some medications or treatments that are taken by pregnant women may have an effect on the developing fetus’s character. Additionally, a maternal infection during the prenatal stage—or even the presence of stress, trauma, or exposure to environmental toxins—may influence a baby's brain and lead to changes in their personality. The nature, severity, and timing of the incident would influence the condition or personality trait that the baby ultimately manifests.
The most variable factor that could lead to shyness is probably how parents raise their children and the atmosphere in which the children grow up. Often, you will find a shy child with an outgoing and forceful parent. In fact, parents who are too assertive can overshadow their children to the point that they are unable to develop their own characters or social skills when they are left to their own devices to be social with other people.
A dangerous neighborhood can also be an environment that fosters shyness in a child. In neighborhoods where children don't leave their homes unless there is something they need, they will not develop relationships with people outside of their family. But these outside relationships are important for children to have in order to learn how to deal with issues in life. Some parents keep their children close even if there is no danger present, which limits their children's ability to function in social settings with others.
The amount of warmth that parents exhibit to their children can also impact their levels of shyness. Studies have shown that children who are often praised by their parents and experience warmth have less anxiety and stress and feel less alone than children who do not feel warmth from their parents.
Traumatic social experiences
Some people who are extremely shy may have experienced bullying when they were younger. While other factors may contribute to shyness, one main cause that often leads to shyness is a traumatic experience that perhaps involved ridicule from friends, which made the person withdraw from other people.
A small child may view such a situation as an act of betrayal by friends. This traumatic event probably becomes central to the child's conscious thoughts for the time being, and then slowly occupies their subconscious.
Because the mind tries to get rid of unwanted thoughts, they end up being stored in the subconscious. This can lead someone to act in a certain way, even if they can't exactly pinpoint the reason behind it.
Now that you know what may be causing your extreme shyness, let's look at things that you can do to overcome it.
9 Ways to Overcome Shyness
1. Explore the reasons why you’re shy.
It could be any of the major causes of shyness mentioned above. Pondering the root of your shyness can help you become aware and accept who you truly are. For example, if you are aware of a traumatic event that happened that caused you to be shy, it may be time to get help with overcoming those circumstances and memories. Once you learn to process what happened in the past, you may be able to move on with your life and get over your feelings of shyness.
If you believe it has to do with your upbringing, examine your relationship with your parents now. Are they still domineering? Alternatively, are they shy themselves? Another thing that may have happened in your childhood that affects you as an adult is being labeled as shy by other people. Often, people are shy when they're little, and then grow out of it. Unfortunately, some people latch onto that label and continue to treat others whom they deem as being "shy" with kid gloves, even if their personality has outgrown it. You have to recognize that shyness is something that you can overcome in life. It doesn't have to be a static feature.
Rhod Gilbert, a standup comedian, created a documentary to confront his own shyness. The documentary runs for 60 minutes, and in it Rhod searches for the reasons why he’s shy and tries to find ways to cope with his shyness.
2. Identify the triggers.
Is it speaking in front of people that gets you running for cover? Is it asking someone out? By identifying the triggers for your shyness, you can plan ahead and create a course of action for when you're placed in those situations. You can practice what you would do if faced with your triggers and work to overcome them.
Some triggers, like public speaking, are common. However, some triggers are very specific to the individual person. These triggers may be tough to identify, but you can get professional help to figure out what they are for you. These may be something as small as a smell, a specific location, or even a certain song. Personal triggers are those that either consciously or unconsciously remind you of a bad memory. People who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often experience triggers from their surrounding environments.
Chances are, you aren't shy in every situation in your life. You're probably okay when you are around your close friends or family, right? Being able to recognize that these people are not so much different than strangers is key. The only thing is, you know these people better. This will help you realize that it is your situation that makes you shy—it isn't a problem with you. Identifying your personal triggers can take time, but it’s important to do so. Then you can take the necessary steps to overcome them.
3. List down social situations where you feel most anxious, and then conquer them one by one.
Think of these things as your “shyness bucket list.” Participate in small talk with strangers or work up the nerve to ask someone out. The more you avoid social situations, the more your anxiety will fester. Act confidently and tell yourself that you have every reason to feel as confident as you can act.
Join a club or a sports team that gets you out in the community and engaging with other people. This will help you meet new people who share your same interests. Also, by practicing new activities, you will be conquering a fear of the unknown, which often comes along with extreme shyness.
It is ok if you have to skip around your list a bit while you are doing the things on it. Just do whatever you feel comfortable doing—as long as you're pushing yourself.
4. Arm yourself with information.
If you are going to a party on the weekend and dread the small talk, use the time leading up to the occasion to look up info about current topics. It could be the latest viral video, an issue in the government, or a worldwide event. Research the topic and get the gist of it. This way, you will have an arsenal of things to talk about with people whenever one of those moments of silence hits. If you know what is going on in the world, you can be ready to talk about something with the other person that they likely know something about as well.
Doing this will also help boost your confidence in social situations. If you already don't feel confident, it will likely get a lot worse if everyone is talking about a current event that you are unfamiliar with. Make sure that you are up to date with what is going on in the world so you can either engage with people who are talking or enlighten someone who isn't in the know.
5. Make eye contact.
Get out of your shell by making eye contact. When you make eye contact, you are demonstrating your confidence and making a connection with the other person. If you suffer from eye contact anxiety, this can also be interfering with your everyday social interactions. Having the ability to maintain eye contact is a critical aspect of any social interaction. People who are able to look other people in the eye are seen as friendly and nurturing. But many people who are either shy or socially anxious have trouble with this aspect of communication.
Looking someone in the eye while you're talking to them can be uncomfortable if you haven't practiced doing so, or if you don't like being in the spotlight.
Immediately follow eye contact with Tip #6 to get the full effect. Other tips for getting out of your comfort zone are found in this post:
Most shy people are mislabeled as being standoffish. Give strangers a friendly smile and see them reciprocate—it will probably improve both your day and theirs.
Smiling is a nice way to acknowledge another person, and a great way to start a conversation with anyone. You're showing that you are welcoming, friendly, and willing to engage in conversation.
It is often said that humans are social creatures. Everyone is looking for some kind of interaction with other people. You're not disturbing them—you are actually making their day better by smiling and talking to someone else.
See tips on how to fake a smile to get started. Natural smiles will come as you get more comfortable.
7. Keep a record of your successes.
Keep track of your successes overcoming shyness in a journal, and keep it for future reference. List your triggers in your journal along with any successes that you are able to accomplish.
Being able to watch your progress is a great way to stay motivated and keep going. You will be amazed at your progress, which will help you believe that overcoming shyness is definitely possible.
The timeline for making progress with your shyness may be short or it may be long—it is different for everyone. You just have to believe that you will succeed with this goal if you stick with it.
8. Give yourself a reward for every success.
If you’ve just started the habit of becoming more confident, rewarding yourself for every successful outcome ensures that the habit sticks. This will help teach your brain that whatever you are doing that is challenging is a good thing, and you will get something out of it in addition to the satisfaction of knowing you conquered a fear.
Re-watch your favorite movie that you've seen 100 times, or have a little bit of dessert after dinner. Whatever you find to be truly rewarding, allow yourself that indulgence after you have a success—even if it is a small one.
9. Be kind to yourself.
Shyness does not get vanquished overnight. What’s important is that you’re working to make things better for yourself, regardless of your pace. If it seems to be taking a long time, that is certainly okay, because at least you're making progress. Not only are you constantly working toward your goal, you are also being self-aware enough to realize how well you're doing, which is an important trait to have.
Don't beat yourself up if you find this process to be slow. That will only delay your success and possibly tempt you to stop your efforts. Use it as motivation to keep going.
The animated short below is a parody of the well-known story of Frankenstein’s monster, and is for anyone who has ever experienced shyness. In this video, Dr. Frankenstein’s newly created monster is extremely shy, to the point that it can’t frighten anyone. Watch to see what happens.
In this post we’ve discussed shyness, its debilitating effects, its possible causes, and some tips on how to stop being shy. Try at least a couple of these suggestions for a week and see the difference they make in your life.
It is my hope that you find the tips provided here valuable in helping you grow into a more confident person. Habits that help you build more confidence can be found here.
Earlier, we also discussed recording your successes in a journal. If you are interested to start the awesome habit of journal writing, head over to this post for some meaningful writing prompts.
Lastly, we’d love to hear about your own journey toward overcoming shyness. Feel free to share your experience in the comments below.