Shyness or social anxiety is known to affect a huge part of the global population. Shyness is defined as noticeable and persistent fear of social, relationship or performance situations. Martin M. Anthony Ph.D., in his book, “Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook: Proven, Step-by-Step Techniques Overcoming Your Fear” observes that although a universal problem, shyness tends to vary in intensity from one individual to another.
While it is normal sometimes to feel shy, extreme cases of social anxiety may prevent a person from developing a relationship, work or even stand before a crowd.
Shyness may keep you from forming a relationship with others, advancing in your education or your career, or carrying on with life’s everyday activities. Everyone experiences social anxiety, shyness or performance anxiety from time to time. If ever you find yourself in a situation of panic and social anxiety, remember that anxiety and fear: are emotions everyone experiences; are time-limited and always decrease over time; and, prepare you for future threats and protect you from danger.
Causes of shyness
Harvard scholar Jerome Kagan and others have found that about 15 to 25 percent of infants in the US are born with a reactive temperament! Meaning they are more likely to become shy in future. Philip Zimbardo and his colleagues at Stanford University have found that teenagers can acquire shyness as a result of labeling by parents and teachers, and rejection from attempted relationships. As such, rejected teens believe themselves to be socially inadequate to form a relationship, later on in life.
The things you go through later on in life could also cause shyness. Divorce; chronic medical problems; and being fired from work can shake your confidence and make you question your self-worth, resulting in fear of relationships and even avoiding people altogether. Zimbardo posts this in his book “Shyness: What It is what to do about it”.
Some of the social situations when shyness is likely to become manifest include: asking someone out on a date; talking to someone in authority; initiating or maintaining a conversation; going to a party; having friends over for dinner; meeting new people; talking on the telephone; expressing a personal opinion; having a job interview; being assertive; and, making eye contact. All these are relationship building situations.
Signs of shyness
Shyness by its very nature is not visible to other people. Most of the time, it is the shy individual who can tell what they are feeling inside. Although feeling anxious and fearful is likely to lead to shyness, persistent avoidance of entering into meaningful relationships can be as a result of lack of social skills, anxiety or negative self-talk.
Shy people by their very nature sometimes battle self-esteem issues and often feel self-unworthy. They lack self-confidence and self-acceptance and are too critical of themselves.
Constant worry about the past and future events that may never materialize is a daily preoccupation of shy people. Because of this, they derive little, or no meaning in their surroundings and relationships, and thus are considered snobbish. Sometimes, shy people have weak, unrealistic demands on themselves and lack helpful, convincing standards of excellence.
Due to their Shy nature, most shy individuals tend to underperform in relationships formation and even in work-related tasks.This is according to Gazipura A., in his book The Solution to Social Anxiety: Break Free From The shyness That Holds You Back.
Effects of shyness
People who suffer from shyness are lonely, have a non-existent social life devoid of relationships, and suffer from low self-confidence. They suffer psychologically and economically including the fact that they are likely to: become prime targets of bullies; get fewer jobs; suffer from lack of recognition of their talents; be rejected by others for appearing snobbish; feel lonely; and, abuse alcohol and drugs in a bid to compensate for their shyness and lack of a meaningful relationships.
The Shyness and Social Anxiety System
Ways to overcome shyness
- Think less, feel more.
If you want to get over your shyness, avoid having too much in your head. According to Gazipura Aziz, getting lost in your thoughts means you are not present to what is happening around you and therefore, may miss out on building a relationship with other people. Even so, many of the things you worry about in the future might never happen.
These thoughts create fear and anxiety and discomfort, even though there is nothing wrong in the present. Revisiting the past or being afraid of failure is a recipe for pain and suffering. Things always work out! They might not work out as you expected but they work out!
- Put your life in order first.
You need to have your life in order before trying to make friends and build a relationship. Norton Beau in her book, Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness: How to Be Confident and More Outgoing, says that taking care of your finances, cleaning and organizing your home will reduce stress, which will translate into more happiness and better ability to socialize and be friendly around people. Doing this also ensures you build a more lasting and fulfilling relationship.
- Choose relationships carefully
It is much better to have fewer but deeper friendships than to engage in toxic relationships that leave you heartbroken, discouraged and shyer. The kind of friend or partner you choose is, therefore, more important than just having any pal, for that matter. Give your time to the people in your life who are responsive, warm, and encouraging.
- Practice social skills.
According to Norton Beau, practicing your social skills will increase your confidence and improve your ability to communicate well. When you are going to meet people, you’ll start getting more comfortable with yourself. Memorizing a few common phrases and practicing them out loud before the mirror can go a long way in giving you confidence while talking to others.
No need to prepare a speech; just talk about trivialities such as the weather. This is a sure way of breaking the ice and starting a conversation that could lead to building a relationship.
- Accept yourself for who you are.
According to Gazipura Aziz learning to accept yourself for who you are is a sure way of overcoming shyness. As he says, self-confidence equals self-acceptance. Learn to be your biggest supporter, best friend, and biggest fan. Self-acceptance unleashes your inner confidence and enables you to encourage yourself in the process of overcoming shyness and becoming more confident. Do this to overcome your shyness and build a more fulfilling relationship.
- Get your mind off yourself.
In social situations, people are too busy thinking about themselves to be focussed on you. Get your mind off your appearance and how you think other people perceive you. The less you think about your appearance, the less self-conscious, and the less anxious you will feel.
This will free you of your shyness and enable you to start conversations that are likely to lead to more fulfilling relationships. However, if you are not ready to talk to anyone, concentrate on the surroundings to keep yourself busy and distracted.
- Redefine your self-worth and self-esteem.
You cannot overcome shyness if you are not confident in whom you are. Learn to look at yourself highly. Know that you have value, worth and something to offer to work situations and relationships. Get rid of weak, unrealistic demands on yourself and replace them with supportive, realistic standards of excellence. Pursue your new standards and you will find your career and relationship more fulfilling.
- Try new things even if they make you anxious
You do not have to lock yourself in a box. Trying new things such as joining a club, a sports team, or an improvement class can go a long way in building your self-confidence. Pick up a new project, take on a difficult task at work, or learn a new skill.
Part of overcoming shyness and building relationships is developing confidence in several areas of your life! Do not allow the fear of failure, humiliation, anxiety, and rejection get in your way!
- Make yourself vulnerable
As a shy person, you are more inclined to build a defensive wall around you, mainly because of the fear of being judged. Social anxiety and shyness is the positive outcome of this. To overcome it, make yourself vulnerable; remove the protective walls you have built around your emotions. The more you do it, the closer you feel to other people and the more pleasure and meaning you get out of the relationships you start.
- Avoid bullies and teasers
There are always a few people who act cruel or sarcastic, some who just have no sense of what’s appropriate and some who don’t care whom they hurt. These are bullies and teasers who always want to bring you down. Learn to keep a healthy distance from these people to avoid the resurgence of shyness and to build a better relationship.
- Avoid the label
Even if you know it, don’t label yourself as shy. Instead, define yourself as a unique individual, with the ability to start and build a working relationship. Do not accept other people’s labels either. Calling yourself shy is a self-fulfilling prophecy that only aggravates your shyness!
- Do what scares you
Unleash confidence by changing how you feel about things that scare you. Don’t avoid what scares you; instead, confront your fears! Avoiding something you fear could turn into a phobia. Going against your fear will free you to do what you want in life.
Act without being scared. You need to realize that fear is a natural part of being human and everyone feels it! The difference is how much you focus on it! Focusing on what scares you only gives it more power over you! Confront it and you’re good to go!
- Display positive body language
Non-verbal cues communicate much more than the words you say. Learn to make eye contact, lean forward and have an open and friendly posture when talking to someone. Walk with your head held high, project your voice clearly and efficiently, shake hands firmly, give hugs, and stay in proximity to others to overcome shyness and build a lasting relationship.
- Take a deep breath
When you start to feel anxious, take a slow, deep breath. Simple as it looks, it is a particular anxiety-reducing skill that is likely to ensure you overcome shyness and build a more fulfilling relationship. Practicing it daily when you are not particularly anxious will enable you to do it more automatically when you need it.
- Just engage
Participating in small talk with strangers at bars, stores, sporting events, and the gym is the beginning of getting rid of your shyness. Attracted to an individual romantically? Approach them! Don’t wait, simply talk to them. Ask them to dance or out on dates.
Life is too short. Who cares if you are rejected? It’s hardly ever that serious! So, go ahead and build that relationship you so desperately need. One rejection does not mean the entire population rejects you! Keep that in mind!
- Recognize your value in conversations
By nature, you might not be an outgoing or talkative person, but you’re a great listener! Learn to recognize the enormous value you bring to the conversation. Many people welcome the opportunity to have someone listening to them without interrupting. That is a quality you can build on to overcome your shyness, become good at holding down conversations, and improve your relationships.
- Identify your strengths and build on them
Make a list of all your positive qualities with the help of a relative or friend and read or recite them when you are alone and feeling insecure. Let it remind you how much you have to offer. You will be surprised how easy it is to circumvent your shyness and build a lasting relationship.
What’s the difference between shyness and introversion?
Although shy people are mostly introverts, not all introverts are shy. Introverts prefer solitude, but they don’t necessarily have a problem interacting with others. Indeed, some shy people are extroverts. They crave the company of other people but don’t know how to go about it without feeling awkward and rejected.
However, it is not bad to be an introvert. Susan Cain in her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”, says that introverts like to listen more than speak and read more than party. They are innovative and creative but dislike self-promotion; and, favor working on their own over teams. Although they are labeled quiet, they have made many significant contributions to society; talk about the invention of the personal computer. So, are you shy or an introvert?
To overcome shyness, be so wrapped up in whatever tasks you carry out. You’ll surprise yourself when you realize you’re fearless! Use bliss as your guide!
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