Do you ever leave a situation thinking you could have said more than you did? Do you remember that fine guy/babe that you made eye contact with and you really wanted to talk to but you didn’t and the moment passed? Do you also remember that time you were in class during a lecture and you had something you could share with the class but you didn’t because you felt sick in your stomach (fine, it’s probably something you ate)? Now, do you remember when you wanted to approach someone for social/business reasons to ask for the time but you were too hesitant to actually do it?
Everybody is shy to a certain degree; it’s not something that happens to a select group of people. So, why are we shy? Shyness can be as a result of different things for different people, some of them are listed below
- Having a low self-esteem- You think of yourself in a negative way, the voice in your head keeps telling you that you are not good enough. You try to fit in; you try to be like other people who are already their selves so you end up not being anybody.
- Excessive Self-consciousness- You’re too preoccupied about how you come off and what people think of you most especially in social situations. You start thinking everybody is watching you and you question everything you’re doing.
- Labelling- You have been labelled as shy by other people right from when you were a kid, so much that even when you grow up and you’ve grown out of it they still expect you to be a shy kid and you feel you have to live up to that label.
How do you overcome shyness?
I feel I have to say here firstly that ‘There’s nothing wrong with being shy but there is also nothing wrong with being outgoing either’, now let’s get into it
- Acceptance: Accept it for a fact that you’re shy, if you keep resisting it there’s no way for you to work on it. Tell people that you are shy and you will be amazed at how willing they are to help you. Going on a stage and saying you’re shy is actually a great way to relieve you of the tension.
- List the situations that make you feel shy: Are you shy around your family? Are you shy around strangers? Authority? Opposite sex? Classmates? You need to know which situations trigger your shyness. Are you confident singing in a bar filled with strangers but you can’t speak up in class?
- Conquer the above list: You don’t have to rush through it, are you shy around strangers, smile and say hi to a stranger on your way out and on your way back. They’re strangers; chances are that you won’t see them again.
- Stop the comparisons: You might probably never be as expressive as the other guy that works the room, the guy who enters a room and becomes the alpha and that’s fine, you don’t have to be him and comparing yourself with him won’t help you.
- Focus your attention on others: Instead of being self-conscious all the time, focus your attention on other people, what they’re saying and how they behave. When you stop being so self-conscious, you won’t be bothered about how you come off to people.
- Practice speaking clearly to yourself: There’s nothing wrong with practicing the speech you’re about to give in front of the mirror or in the car with yourself before you get down. You can even record it and see how you sound to know where you have to improve or the part you think you need to raise your voice. This will save you from the potential embarrassment of mumbling or having to repeat yourself. Speak from your stomach, enunciate your words so that they can come out clearly.
- Have a good posture: Raise up your chin, sit with a straight back and look at people in the eye when you talk to them, this gives you an air of confidence.
- Visualize the result: Imagine you standing in front of those classmates and giving that speech that ends up in a standing ovation. Imagine talking to that crush of yours and asking them on a date and they say yes. Visualize yourself being confident, that way when you have to do it you would be prepared.
- Find and know your strengths: Just because you can’t sing or dance doesn’t mean you can’t be the life of the party. What about that beat you can make with your mouth that no one knows about because you’re too shy or are you a great listener and you can tell when someone just wants to let off some steam, know your value in every situation.
- Remember you are awesome: Instead of thinking that you didn’t dress well or that your tie didn’t match why not think of how awesome you are. You know something these people don’t know or you have something they don’t, so why don’t you share that awesomeness with them.
- Remember to breathe: When you start feeling anxious, take slow deep breaths, count to ten even, and just breathe till you feel comfortable again. Depending on the environment you could also use a bit of movement, take a walk to the restroom or just move round the room, it helps to shift your state of mind and see things from different perspective.
- Positive affirmation: Words are very important tools, if you tell yourself that you’re shy and cannot talk to that person whose assistance you need, you probably won’t. Tell yourself positive things repeatedly and watch your subconscious believe it and project it. Telling yourself things like, “I’m wonderful, I’m confident” will go a long way.
- Be informed: Are you attending a conference or a workshop or a party? You need to be informed of the latest events. Are all the game of thrones characters dead? Is the economy in recession? Is Rihanna still dating Wizkid? Is Messi now BFF with Ronaldo? You need to stay abreast of current events so you won’t be left out of the conversations and end up looking lost and sulking in a corner. You’re not going there to show your knowledge off, you just need to keep it simple and chip into the conversation intermittently.
- Start a conversation: Remember that story your friends think is funny? That new show on TV? That time you separated two fighting dogs? If you could do that, starting a conversation about it can’t be that hard. When you’re having a conversation, add little details to basic statements especially when you’re answering questions. Instead of answering “yes” to “Do you drink?” say something like “Yeah but only on Sundays”, it keeps the conversation going.
- Look approachable: Don’t go for events looking like your cat has died or looking like you’re angry with the world or be buried in your phone for the whole event, I know you have 1000 twitter followers whose lives depend on your tweets but leaving them for 2 hours won’t hurt them. You know those people you see at events and you want to talk to? How do they look and act? How about those you won’t want to approach? Which group do you belong to? Smile and make eye contact.
- Practice being in an uncomfortable situation: You need to get up in class and make that speech. You need to tell that girl to go a date with you. Tell that guy in account department you like his dimple. Introduce yourself to a new person each day, talk to people you won’t normally be having a conversation with, keep doing this and you’ll realise that it gets easier with time.
- Accept rejection: What if your crush turns you down? That man didn’t want to talk to you? What if you make a mistake in front of your classmates?
Fine, they’ll laugh at you. Remember you’re not alone and that we have all faced rejections, it is part of the learning process. What matters is how you handle it, don’t take it personally, it probably wasn’t your fault. What did you learn from the situation? Did you really lose anything if you learnt from the situation? You have to move on also, no need for the self-pity, get out there and try again and keep trying.
- Record your successes: When you start being able to start conversations with strangers, you’ll be able to see yourself in a different light. You will be more confident in situations you used to be shy. When you get these wins put them down in writing so you can go back to them whenever you’re feeling down.
- Fake it till you make it: This is very important, act like you’re outspoken, act like you’re confident and if you keep at it, you’ll be surprised to see yourself be more confident. You know that confident friend you have? Or that popular TV host? Imagine you were in their shoes, how would they act? Now, act like that till you become that person.