Do you feel awkward and embarrassed around other people?
Do you find yourself retreating to the kitchen at parties?
Do you dread getting into conversation with people you don’t know?
Feeling shy can be an endearing trait. But it can also be a stumbling block to developing new relationships, and can leave you feeling uncomfortable and distant from people.
It is important to distinguish between shyness and social anxiety disorder. While some people who are shy do suffer from social anxiety disorder that is not the case for all people who are shy. It is also true that not everyone who suffers from social anxiety disorder is shy. ( https://socialanxietyinstitute.org/shyness-or-social-anxiety-disorder.) However, there are some overlaps.
Shyness is something I suffered from as a teenager and know how debilitating it can be. It is often a consequence of low self-esteem or low self-image (and certainly was in my case). While shyness is a trait of personality, low self-image is learned behaviour and can be overcome. By working on your self-image you can manage and even overcome your shyness to the point where situations that made you very uncomfortable, become safe and even enjoyable.
Try some or all of the following to help develop self-esteem:
- Consider where your low self-image comes from? Has it anything to do with the way you were spoken to as a child? Things that were said to us by significant others or even school peers can affect the way we view ourselves and the world for the rest of or lives if we let them. But by identifying negative messages you were told when you were younger and re-framing them now as an adult, you can start to change the way you feel about yourself.
- Don’t put too much emphasis on being shy. If you keep telling yourself and other people that you are shy, you will be! Instead, simply recognise that it has been a part of your life, but that now you are gaining confidence and becoming more out-going day-by-day. Changing the way you think about yourself will change the way you feel and subsequently how you behave.
- Be gentle on yourself. You don’t need to put yourself in intolerable situations. Just because everyone else finds something fun to do, doesn’t mean you have to make yourself do it too. But at the same time, if “No” is your default answer, then start to consider before you answer. Could it be a “Maybe?” Or even a “Yes” where previously you wouldn’t have even considered it? You might surprise yourself and even enjoy it!
- Gently push and expand your circle of what feels ‘safe’ for you. For example, if talking to strangers at parties is really scary, try talking with people who seem less intimidating, like your neighbours, or colleagues at work. When that feels safe, push yourself a bit more. Gradually build up what you feel able to do and expand your comfort zone. That is where the magic happens as you find a whole new world opening up for you.
- When you are talking to someone, give the other person your full attention. It takes the focus away from you, and helps to build rapport. Try to maintain eye contact and gently nod occasionally to show you are engaged with what the other person is saying. Listening with your full attention is key to developing healthy relationships, and helps you feel less self-conscious.
- Keep a record of the steps you have taken each day to improve your self-esteem. Then, spend a few minutes every week reviewing your achievements. Allow yourself to be encouraged by the progress you have made. You will be amazed at what you can do when you put your mind to it. Then set yourself some new targets, to push forward a little more.
I hope you find this helpful.
I offer a one-to-one 6-week programme entitled “Overcoming Shyness and Social Anxiety”. In it, you will:
– identify how shyness and social anxiety holds you back
– identify the changes you would like to make
– learn how to shift negative thought patterns
– become more confident in social situations
– learn how to develop relationships that are meaningful and real.
If you would like to know more about this, get in touch to discuss.
I look forward to hearing from you.