What is the problem with being shy?

Well, there is nothing inherently wrong with having a shy demeanor, especially if you are introverted. Actually, it is perfectly okay to cherish your time alone and take some time to warm up to new people and situations. However, when shyness makes you excessively uncomfortable in social situations and prevents you from interacting with others as you would like to, then there may be a problem.

For example, if you get excessively self-conscious and awkward whenever you step into a room full of people and tend to see yourself negatively around others, something is wrong. Similarly, if you always feel your heart thumping whenever you want to approach someone for even a simple hello and you usually end up being too shy to do so, then there is indeed a problem.

That anxiety you feel in the pit of your stomach when you are in social situations is holding you back and is actually not good for your emotional health and overall well-being. You need to do something about it, get out of your shell and feel more comfortable in your own skin. Here are some practical things you can do right now to get over being shy and live your life to the fullest.

1. Stop labeling yourself as shy.

When you label yourself as shy, you sub-consciously tell your mind to act accordingly and psychologically feel more inclined to live up to those expectation. Just stop it with all the labeling and negative self-talk. It does not help you.

2. Recognize that the world is not focused on you.

That means you don’t have to be excessively sensitive about what you are doing. You are not on the center stage so quit with the pre-occupation with self and perfectionism. Focusing too much on yourself and what you are doing (or not doing) well puts too much pressure on you and creates unnecessary anxiety. Just stop it. People are too preoccupied with their own issues to pay much attention to your every move, unless of course you are a mega famous, celebrity superstar.

3. Love yourself for who you are.

Understand not all social situations are suitable for everyone. We all have our own unique qualities and unique ways of expressing ourselves. Your uniqueness is where your advantage lies. For example, if you are naturally quiet and prefer to spend time alone, you may find you listen better than most people and notice things that others don’t in conversations. So, love yourself for who you are enough to not try to fit in and please everyone all the time. It is exhausting and not much fun to be anything but yourself. Besides, if everyone was the same the world would be a pretty boring place.

4. Engage in activities you enjoy more often.

Go fishing, read a book or play your guitar if that is what makes you happy. Just do what you love more often. When you do what you love, it boosts your self esteem and ego. It helps you better identify with yourself, highlights your strengths and gives you the confidence you need to break out of your shell. You may not be the most popular person for doing what you love, but you might not even want to be popular at all. At the end of the day being popular will not make you happy, but doing what you truly love will.

5. Focus on other people as opposed to yourself.

Instead of focusing your attention on your own awkwardness or nervousness in social situations, focus on other people and what they are saying. For example, think about what it is that is interesting about the person you are interacting with. Prompt them to talk more about themselves and be genuinely interested in what they have to say. People generally want to be heard and understood. They will appreciate your keenness to listen and hear what they have to say. Focusing on others as opposed to yourself can help you become more assertive and comfortable in virtually all social interactions.

6. Take deep breaths to release anxiety.

If you feel anxious right before or during social interactions, calm yourself down by taking deep breaths preferably with your eyes closed. For example, make three counts for in and three counts for out. Anxiety is a form of blocked energy that needs to be released. Inhale and exhale slowly to release the anxiety. Empty all thought in the process and then get back to your social interaction.

7. Visualize yourself as confident.

Sit back somewhere comfortable, play some relaxing music, close your eyes and visualize yourself in different situations as you would like to be. Get all your senses involved and affirm yourself as confident and happy. When you visualize and tell yourself repeatedly that you are confident, capable and beautiful, you shape your own perception of yourself and begin to establish positive thought patterns. Positive thought patterns activate your unconscious mind and prod you to act accordingly. Soon enough you will begin to manifest behavior that gives evidence to this new ‘fact.’

8. Accept and prepare for the possibility of rejection.

Rejection is a normal part of life. Everyone gets rejected at one point or another. The question that should be on your mind, therefore, should not be if you will be rejected, but how you will handle rejection when it comes. Prepare yourself beforehand to minimize the risk and effect of rejection. For example, learn conversation skills, rehearse what you are going to say and remain awake to the possibility that you can still be rejected. If you are actually rejected, don’t take it personally. Rejection happens to the best of us. Take it as part of the learning process. Find a lesson in the situation and move on.

9. Face uncomfortable situations square in the face.

Don’t run away from uncomfortable social situations. You are better than that. When you run from uncomfortable situation because you feel shy, you are only confirming and reinforcing your shyness. Face the situation square in the face. Every time you face your fear, you gain strength, courage and confidence in the doing. And the more you experience uncomfortable situations, the more you realize they are not as terrible as you might have thought. You realize that you can handle them and you may even begin to enjoy them. You develop a thick skin and develope ways to cope with different social situations.

10. Record your successes and review setbacks.

As you gain more experience and grow more confident in social situations, you’ll notice you have many wins and setbacks. It helps to review both, paying more focus on your social success. Don’t whip yourself for the not so stellar social performances. Instead, learn from the setbacks and build on your success. Nobody is perfect. We all get better and more confident with practice and persistence. Remember failure is part of the learning process; It is not a judgment on your character and or your abilities.