Shyness differs from introversion—while introverts typically only want to engage in minimal social interaction, shy people often fear interaction. According to experts at the Shyness Research Institute, shyness involves three key components—heightened self-consciousness (especially in social contexts), negative self-evaluation, and a preoccupation with the idea of doing things wrong in front of others. Consider these eight tips if your shyness stops you from pursuing opportunities, making connections, or thoroughly enjoying your life. While you may always be a shy person at heart, there are ways to present this from impeding happiness.
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#1. Understand the roots of your shyness
Give some serious thought to exactly why you are shy and to how this shyness developed; Many people feel that their shyness has roots in childhood, when they may have conformed to a “quiet kid” label in their family of origin or suppressed the livelier side of their personality in response to bullying at school. In the former case, realizing that your shyness was imposed upon you can help you grow beyond a merely convenient label for others. In the latter case, visiting a therapist to discuss your bullying experiences can enable you to reject the negative evaluations you received and see that these comments had much more to do with the bullies than they had to do with you.
#2. Show up early
Shy people often opt to go to social events late, hoping this will allow them to blend in and attract less attention. However, studies show that shy people need longer to “warm up” to social situations than the average person, so it makes more sense to show up early. Doing so will allow you to get used to your surroundings and make conversation while there are only a few people around, increasing your comfort levels before the bulk of guests arrives.
#3. Challenge the assumptions underlying your self-consciousness
The excessive self-consciousness associated with shyness often comes from believing that others are always watching and judging you. However, think about your inner life—are you constantly observing and evaluating everyone you see? Even people who aren’t shy tend to focus more on their thoughts, feelings, and needs than on scrutinizing others. Try to accept that your intense self-awareness is misleading you into thinking that people are disproportionately focused on you and your flaws.
#4. Simulate confidence
If you’re extremely shy, avoiding social situations like large parties or conferences can be tempting. However, it is only by entering these situations that you can find ways to deal with your shyness more effectively. Try acting confident even when you’re anxious—speak clearly, stand with your head held high, make eye contact even if you don’t want to, and practice a confident-sounding greeting. You may find that you get surprisingly positive results, helping you to understand that you can engage people and elicit warm responses. Your “fake” confidence will gradually become real with time and practice.
#5. Keep a notebook that boosts self-esteem
By keeping a notebook exclusively for that purpose, you can encourage yourself to focus on your positive traits and past successes. You don’t have to write screeds of self-congratulatory ramblings—the main idea is to connect with the things that make you feel good about being you, which will help you see why others might feel good. About you as well! You might try writing a weekly list of ten things you’re proud of having done or make a note of meaningful compliments you can remember receiving.
#6. Practice mindfulness exercises
When you’re struggling with shyness, your mind can dwell too much on past regrets and fears about the future. Practicing mindfulness exercises help your mind to turn its focus to the present, promoting the enjoyment of current experiences and reducing anxiety. Even just spending 5-10 minutes each day concentrating on your breathing in a comfortable and relaxing place can start to change structures in your brain that deal with stress. Let passing thoughts drift, and focus only on slow, deep breaths.
#7. Try affirmations
Affirmations are positive statements that help to rewrite negative beliefs. An affirmation for overcoming shyness might be “I am confident, and I’m ready to have a great time tonight” or “I am a fun, loving person and others appreciate my presence.” You can say affirmations into the mirror, write them down, or recite them before leaving the house, but they should be repeated at least 3-4 times in succession.
#8. Choose to make yourself vulnerable
Since shyness is intimately connected with the fear of judgment from others, deliberately making yourself vulnerable can help you become more comfortable showing the “real” you. While you might be unable to make yourself vulnerable in large groups or new situations at first, even just sharing more about yourself with acquaintances or letting yourself speak more freely with friends gives you some valuable practice. In truth, people often prize vulnerability and sincerity in others over a polished or flawless persona, so your willingness to be genuine will likely lead to deeper connections that foster more self-confidence.