Are you shy? Do you wish you weren’t? Well, get in line darlin’. Turns out a lot of people are stuck on that wagon. Everybody else, I’m not sure you’ll care about today’s post. Come back tomorrow if that’s you.
One topic that keeps being suggested to me again and again is shyness. Others call it bashfulness, diffidence, reticence, introversion, reserve, or timidity. A rose by any other name…
If I were to sum up what shyness was to me, it would be that feeling of apprehension, lack of comfort, or awkwardness experienced when a person is in proximity to, approaching, or being approached by other people, especially in new situations or with unfamiliar people.
Okay, I’m not that smart. I got that from Wiki.
I am very familiar with what shyness is though, and so is anybody who is or has been shy. We don’t need an encyclopedia to figure that one out. I was shy for the better part of my life, and the real definition of shyness for me would be having a general want to interact with people, but then some horrible hesitation keeps me from ever doing so.
I think there is a difference between those who are shy, and those who are just quiet. From what I’ve experienced (and I’d love all of your opinions on this), quiet people are content being quiet people. Shy people are generally not. Shy people wish they could somehow overcome their awkwardness. They wish they could laugh and talk confidently with those that surround them. They’d love if they could just swallow some magic pill and immediately transform into extroverts.
I’ve had many readers send me emails asking me to write about overcoming shyness. It was only four or five years ago that I was really able to overcome my own shyness, and I’m not an expert in it by any means. I only have my own experiences to share with you, but maybe they can help you if you’ve been wanting to bust out from under that introverted rock you’ve been living under.
I really believe the first thing you need to do is the first thing I always do when I’m trying to overcome something. Figure out what the underlying root of your problem is. Almost always you’ll find your shyness to be rooted in a deeper fear of rejection. This could have been caused by a bad childhood environment, taunting and teasing at school, or any other number of things. When you ask yourself honestly, “why am I afraid to talk to people,” you’ll probably answer with something like “I’m afraid I’ll sound dumb” or “I’m afraid they won’t like me”. If you answer along these lines, you have a fear of rejection. Don’t feel bad about that. Most of us do.
Personally, I think it’s much easier to overcome the root than the symptom, which is why figuring out the root is so important.
So, after you’ve figured that out, you’ll really need to dedicate yourself to the idea that you’re not shy (crazy talk, I know). Label yourself as an extrovert, if that’s what you want to be. Look in the mirror and say things like, “who would have thought that everybody loves what I have to say,” or “I can’t believe I used to be shy. It’s so nice that I’m not anymore.” I believe these types of statements help change our instinctive thinking, which is the only way you’ll be able to overcome your shyness. Any time the thought I’m shy enters your mind, immediately replace it with the thought, I’m not shy. It really feels silly when you first do this. Then, one day, you realize that you believe it.
I think it’s also important to remember that almost everyone in the world suffers from this fear of rejection. One way that most people feel less rejected is to have happy, kind, energetic extroverts care about them and talk to them. So, force yourself to be that person. Start with the checker in the checkout line. Ask her how she’s doing. Ask her if she enjoys her job. Ask her something personal. It will be scary at first, but with time, I bet it will become something you love to do. There are people everywhere that you can practice with. Just remember that you’ll never be comfortable talking to people if you don’t actually talk to people. When I was trying to get over my shyness, I used to force myself to do this. It was always so weird and awkward for me. Now, I drive the people I’m with crazy because I won’t shut up. Talking to people is fun.
And when you do talk to people, share what you are. Stop focusing on all the things that you aren’t. Stop focusing on all of the physical features that you think people won’t like about you. Stop focusing on your inabilities or lack of talent. Instead, focus on those physical features that you know people already love about you. Focus on your abilities and the talents that you do have. You have been blessed with all of the above, and that makes you worth getting to know in my book.
And, for the love of Pete, smile at people everywhere you go. Don’t just give them one of those half-smirk/head nod things. Raise your eyebrows, show those teeth, and chuckle while you smile. Next time you’re at the store, give a full-hearted smile to at least three complete strangers. You’ll be amazed at what this does for them and for you.
More than anything, you’re going to have to get comfortable with the phrase “fake it till you make it”. You’re going to have to learn to pretend that you’re not shy until you actually aren’t. You’re going to have to make-believe that you have no fear and no hesitancy when approached or surrounded by other people. You’re going to have to suck it up and go for it, even though it seems impossible or transparent.
You will not be able to overcome the fear of rejection until you realize that you won’t be rejected. You won’t realize that you won’t be rejected until you aren’t. You won’t have the chance not to be until you get out there and test the proverbial waters.
It won’t be easy the first time. It won’t even be easy the fiftieth time. But, if this formula works for you the way it worked for me, there will come a day when it all clicks for you. There will come a day when you go to a party or a social gathering, and you realize that you’re no longer shy. That day was one of the more awesome days of my life, and it’s only gotten better since.
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing
PS. where do you fall on the shyness spectrum? If you are shy, why do think you’re shy? If you aren’t shy, why do you think you’re not? And if you’ve also overcome it, please leave a comment and tell us the tricks that worked best for you.
PPS. Do you really want a boost in the right direction? Send me a video of you dancing for our next montage. It could be the very catalyst the good doctor ordered.