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How to Overcome Shyness?

Updated on January 24, 2017
SakinaNasir53 profile image

Sakina is in her final year of an English Literature BA and has tutored Arab students too. She writes on pets, health, food, and life.

"The Social Disease Called Shyness"

In 1975, Psychology Today published a ground-breaking article by Stanford University psychologist Philip Zimbardo, PhD. It was entitled "The Social Disease Called Shyness." The article revealed what Zimbardo had found in a survey conducted at several American colleges: An astonishing 40 percent of the 800 people surveyed considered themselves to be shy.

In addition to documenting the pervasiveness of shyness, the article presented a surprising portrait of those with the condition.

  • Their mild-mannered exterior conceals roiling turmoil inside.
  • The shy disclosed that they are excessively self-conscious, constantly sizing themselves up negatively, and overwhelmingly preoccupied with what others think of them.
  • While everyone else is meeting and greeting, they are developing plans to manage their public impression (e.g., if I stand at the far end of the room and pretend to be examining the painting on the wall, I'll look like I'm interested in art but won't have to talk to anybody).
  • They are consumed by the misery of the social setting (e.g., I'm having a horrible time at this party because I don't know what to say and everyone seems to be staring at me). All the while their hearts are pounding, their pulses are speeding, and butterflies are swarming in their stomach--physiological symptoms of genuine distress.

The article cataloged the painful consequences of shyness.

  • There are social problems, such as difficulty meeting people and making new friends, which may leave the shy woefully isolated and subject to loneliness and depression.
  • There are cognitive problems; unable to think clearly in the presence of others, the shy tend to freeze up in conversation, confusing others who are trying to respond to them.
  • They can appear snobbish or disinterested in others, when they are in fact just plain nervous. Excessively egocentric, they are relentlessly preoccupied with every aspect of their own appearance and behavior.
  • They live trapped between two fears: being invisible and insignificant to others, and being visible but worthless.

Source: The Cost of Shyness, Psychology Today

What is Shyness?

Shyness is a form of discomfort or awkwardness felt by a person surrounded by people. It can occur while meeting strangers or even in unfamiliar situations. It is thought that shyness may be a characteristic of people with low self-esteem.

According to Dr. Bernardo J. Carducci of the Shyness Research Institute, shyness has three components:

  • Excessive Self-Consciousness – you are overly aware of yourself, particularly in social situations.
  • Excessive Negative Self-Evaluation – you tend to see yourself negatively.
  • Excessive Negative Self-Preoccupation – you tend to pay too much attention to all the things you are doing wrong when you are around other people.

I can Imagine Your Nervousness...

Picture depicting what a shy person feels when people approach her.
Picture depicting what a shy person feels when people approach her. | Source

"Shy people operate as if they have a mirror in front of them all the time."

— Dr. Bernardo J.Carducci

Why do People Feel Shy?

I still remember my high school days. It had always been self-criticism. I felt wrapped up within self pity and shyness. I desperately wanted to express myself, talk to everyone, and have fun. I felt as if I couldn't get rid of the mental barrier (shyness) that I myself had made. It is always a war between "Should I speak?" and "No, you better be quiet. There are others who can talk better." Playing this tug of war, I realized later that I spent my high school years buried in a shell.

In a nutshell, shy people want to be outgoing and friendly, but they can't seem to figure out how to do it.There are many reasons accounting for shyness. Let us have a look at them in detail.

  • Genetics

    Genetics may a cause of shyness. About 15% of babies are born with what is called an "inhibited temperament"—meaning that they react stress-fully to new experiences. They might cower at the sound of a bursting balloon, for instance.

  • Low Self-Esteem

    This is a major reason behind shyness. A person who lacks confidence may end up creating a weak self-image. It is very necessary that your subconscious brain accepts that you are confident and have a great self-image. People like this think negatively about themselves. They feel they are not good enough and compare themselves with others. This is a serious issue as one may be trapped within his/her self.

  • Limited Comfort Zone

    Shy people may be social and have friends, but they tend to do the same things over and over again with the same small circle of people, rather than exposing themselves to new social situations. This is where you miss out all the fun. We feel "safe" in our comfort zone and are scared to venture out new things. Why? Just because there is fear. Fear of trying new things, speaking your heart out, talking to the bunch of people there, expressing yourself and handling different situations. This fear is like a barrier that stops you from doing what you want to.

Accept the fact that you are good enough, until then you will be stuck up having low self-esteem. Without self-esteem, you will never overcome your shyness. You are beautiful and unique.

REMEMBER THAT!

Seriously, it Hurts Being so Shy...

This picture depicts the shyness felt by a person which stops her from talking to fellow beings.
This picture depicts the shyness felt by a person which stops her from talking to fellow beings. | Source

The Barrier of Fear Felt by a Shy Person...

A shy person feels that something is stopping him/her from talking to others. It is a barrier (shyness) that causes this.
A shy person feels that something is stopping him/her from talking to others. It is a barrier (shyness) that causes this. | Source

"Shyness is nice, and

Shyness can stop you

From doing all the things in life

You'd like to"

— Morrissey

5 Simple Ways to Overcome Shyness

Shyness isn't a bad thing. Everyone becomes shy at some point of time or another. But the shyness which hinders your day-to-day activities and makes feel burdened isn't a good thing either. It is so frustrating sometimes. It is like a vicious cycle, if you know what I mean. For example: You want to do something but your inner voice says no. It is your own voice controlling your actions. You listen to it, it grows its control over you. Don't let your inner voice control you negatively. Fight it, you have to. Otherwise it becomes more and more difficult.

By the time you realize, you have already done so much to worsen your shyness. You shouldn't do that. Learn to let go your fears. There is nothing to be afraid of. Learn to take small steps to lessen your shyness. There is no magic or medicine to cure shyness. But with these simple techniques, it can be reduced to a great extent. Just put in your best effort and believe in yourself.

One of the Best Videos Depicting the Feelings of a Shy Person.

"You gain strength, experience and confidence through every experience where you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you cannot do."

-Eleanor Roosevelt

1. Focus on Your Talent

All of us are special in some way or other. Everyone has unique personalities. Shy people tend to believe they don't have anything "good" in them. This is wrong. Learn to focus on your talents. Indulge in one if you don't think you have one.

  • Can you draw well? Is your voice breath-taking? Are you excellent in sports? Whatever be your talent, focus on it. By doing so you are putting your negative energy to good use.
  • If you do not have a talent (possibly), try to indulge in your favorite activity. Do you love reading? Join a book club. Love surfing? Your wave is waiting! By nurturing your hobby/favorite activity, it may eventually develop into a talent.
  • By pursuing your talent, you will gather confidence and happiness. Gradually, this will help in lessening your shyness.

No one can teach you a talent. Discover it within.

Focusing on a talent helps in getting rid of negative energy present in shy people.  Confidence, happiness and positive energy are gained while doing so.
Focusing on a talent helps in getting rid of negative energy present in shy people. Confidence, happiness and positive energy are gained while doing so. | Source

2. Focus on Your Good Qualities

All of us are blessed with many qualities. Both good and bad. But we should always try to focus on our good qualities. The problem with shy people (including myself) is that they tend to focus on their bad qualities. They always make an exaggerated negative version of themselves in their minds; which doesn't even exist! They also think a lot, wasting a lot of energy in self criticism. Instead they should try to focus on their good qualities. How?

  • Are you a good listener? Appreciate yourself for that. Do you give sound advice to your family and friends? Try to advice yourself in the same manner.
  • Ask your family and friends to make a list about your good qualities. Read the list, think about it and visualize yourself positively.
  • Read the list everyday. Make it a point to stand in front of the mirror, smile at yourself and repeat any one good quality that you have. Yeah, I know it sounds silly but it isn't.
  • Doing this repeatedly will trick your brain into thinking good about yourself. It will also help build confidence and will lessen your anxiety.

You are you. Don't listen to your negative inner voice.

Stop thinking negatively. Shy people tend to criticize themselves harshly. They should learn to focus on their good qualities.
Stop thinking negatively. Shy people tend to criticize themselves harshly. They should learn to focus on their good qualities. | Source

3. Learn to Love Yourself

Life is short. Why waste it in criticizing yourself? What will you get by judging yourself harshly? Don't hurt yourself mentally. It won't do you any good. Try to love yourself. What should be done?

  • Appreciate yourself.
  • Think about the times when you helped people. People will always remember that.
  • Think about the times when you made people smile. You made someone happy!
  • Repeat these lines to yourself; "I'm beautiful." I'm unique." "I'm strong."
  • Stop judging yourself.
  • Do things which make you happy.
  • Never compare yourself with others.
  • Keep smiling to relieve tension and ease your anxiety.

Life is beautiful, and so are you! Love yourself!

Shy people should learn to love themselves. They are so prone to self-criticism that they forget to appreciate themselves in the long run.
Shy people should learn to love themselves. They are so prone to self-criticism that they forget to appreciate themselves in the long run. | Source

4. Do Not Copy Others

Shy people underestimate themselves. Sometimes they think their original self isn't worthy enough to show others. So, they tend to imitate/copy others, thinking they would "fit in". This is not the right way. Copying others will lead to more anxiety. Why?

  • By copying others you feel you made a good choice. You just have to "act" like them. No! You are wrong.
  • Living a fake identity is all the more stressful. You push your "background self" way more deeper inside yourself.
  • This is harmful. It will lead to more anxiety because of your facade. Your inner self is struggling to show itself, yearning for it's release. But you are covering it more by pretending to be someone you are not.
  • Do not accept to do things you don't like. Say No. Don't force yourself to do things just to fit in. What's there to lose even if you don't fit in?
  • Bring out your own amazing personality with confidence. Do not worry about what people will think of you.

"Be yourself. An original is always worth more than a copy."

Shy people shouldn't try to copy others. They also have amazing personalities but they fail to see that. Shy people should stay how they are and show the world their original selves.
Shy people shouldn't try to copy others. They also have amazing personalities but they fail to see that. Shy people should stay how they are and show the world their original selves. | Source

5. Help People When they are Stressed

This may sound strange. You may ask, "Why should I be helping others when I'm the one who needs help?" Helping others when they are stressed, in trouble or anxious can help you to identify yourself with them. In turn, it helps to release your own anxiety. How?

  • When you see a stressed person, you feel their anxiety because you are prone to anxiety yourself.
  • You want them not to feel anxious as you know what a terrible feeling it is.
  • You will ask them if they need any help (to which they will surely answer with a yes). You decide to help them.
  • After you have helped them, you see them smiling; their anxiety has gone. You are smiling yourself as you made this effort.
  • This makes you feel accomplished. You see your worth. It makes you feel good about yourself. Relieving one's anxiety thus will help in releasing your own too.
  • You will notice you are not shy while helping people who are distressed.
  • Continue helping such people, you are also helping yourself by this.

Trust me, this works 100%. When I helped people who were in trouble, it felt really good. It helped in releasing my own fears and anxieties. People will look up to you. Whenever they will be in need, they will approach you and also become friends with you. You can now talk freely to the people you had helped. Slowly, you will feel that you can talk to anybody. You will also realize that talking to people isn't such a scary thing anymore...

"We rise by lifting others." - Robert G. Ingersoll

Shy people should try helping others when they are distressed. This serves as a medium to relieve their own anxiety and helps in forming friendships.
Shy people should try helping others when they are distressed. This serves as a medium to relieve their own anxiety and helps in forming friendships. | Source

You realize that you made new friends!

Picturing depicting how a shy person let go of her shyness and made new friends. She can talk to them comfortably.
Picturing depicting how a shy person let go of her shyness and made new friends. She can talk to them comfortably. | Source

A beautiful demonstration on reducing shyness.

Let's Recall

In conclusion, I would just like to give a brief summary of everything that I have covered. I would also like to add a few more points.

  • Shyness can by felt by anyone at any point of time.
  • But if it hinders your daily activities, changes your personality, makes you fearful then it isn't a good thing.
  • It is curable, but the person who is shy has to cure it himself/herself.
  • Learn to focus outside of yourself.
  • Focus on your talents, good qualities and build confidence.
  • Learn to love yourself and never copy others.
  • Help other distressed people, which will in return relieve your anxiety.
  • Learn to mingle with people, observe others and talk to them on a daily basis.
  • Surround yourself with people who put you at ease.
  • Be with people who bring out the best in you and push you forward (in a good way). I know how it is like to meet such people who change your life for good.
  • Even if you stammer, feel anxious or say something stupid, do not fret. Laugh over it. It's okay to make mistakes. Do not think much about it.
  • Walk with your head high.
  • Never listen to negativity, even if people criticize or misjudge you; take it positively.
  • If someone rejects your friendship or help, do not worry. It is their mistake.
  • Keep working on the techniques mentioned. If you let your fear build again; you will have to start again from level zero.
  • If you live your life in fear, you will never do the things you want to do...
  • Lastly, keep smiling. They say "Laughter is the Best Medicine."

Let's take the shyness poll...

When do you feel the most shy?

See results

© 2016 Sakina Nasir

Feel free to give a feedback...

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    • SakinaNasir53 profile image
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      Sakina Nasir 9 months ago from Kuwait

      Wow simplehappylife! :)

      Thanks for the beautiful comment and for sharing your experience with me. I believe that each bad thing makes us stronger, wiser and mature in the long run. You are so right about spirituality too. I am glad to hear that you could overcome your shyness.

      I could say the exact same thing about myself too:

      "While, I am naturally awkward inside (and maybe that still has to do with my childhood conditioning), I have learned to love, appreciate, and embrace my odd quirkiness. When once I was painfully shy, now I talk to everyone as if I already know them."

      Thanks for reading. :) I appreciate your feedback.

    • simplehappylife profile image

      sannwi 9 months ago

      I loved this Sakina :)

      I battled low self-esteem most of my younger life. I had a lot of negative people (especially immediate family members) verbally abuse me and say awful negative things to me. Since this was all through my childhood, I started to believe them (awful that people would do that to a young developing child, I can't imagine). Anyhoo, it took a lot of adult years to break-through all of that and find myself. While, I am naturally awkward inside (and maybe that still has to do with my childhood conditioning), I have learned to love, appreciate, and embrace my odd quirkiness. When once I was painfully shy, now I talk to everyone as if I already know them.

      I think it also has a lot to do with keeping my spirituality always in the forefront of my mind. I look at myself as a citizen of the Universe, and so are they. We're all imperfect humans trying to struggle through this thing called life. My hurts, hopes, loves, and dreams may look different than others, but ultimately, we are all the same. Regardless to what belief we follow or don't follow, we all come from the same place. We are all made of stardust. Remembering this allows me to live from a place of universal love and sense of "brotherhood", no matter what people look like, where they are from, or what they have been through. We are all connected.

      Finding your personal religion can do wonders, I truly believe it can save us from ourselves :)

    • SakinaNasir53 profile image
      Author

      Sakina Nasir 9 months ago from Kuwait

      Hi Natalie! :) Thanks for the warm compliments. I agree that anxiety is a major reason for shyness. Also, when we always think of being judged by others, we remain trapped within that thought and never do anything "fun". I just recall my high school days, which were three years back, only to think of them wasted. Minimal friends, awkwardness and anxiety. Gosh! It was a horrible time. Thankfully, I have learned to overcome my fears. I am still shy, but I can freely talk to people now.

    • profile image

      Natalie 9 months ago

      Sakina,

      What a well written and comprehensive article! If I may add a note (I'm also extremely shy) - there's a huge contribution of anxiety to be shy. I think it's similar to General Anxiety Disorder where one just feels anxious almost all the time though can't put their finger on why. The research found that actually it has a lot to do with fears of being evaluated and negatively judged by others. Since any time we come into contact with others this could happen we are either in the middle of it, ruminating on it happening in the past or fearing it happening in the future. I also think shyness has a lot to do with external influences. As children we are given messages about who we are and what we are like. When those messages aren't so positive we internalize the idea that there is something wrong with us and everyone can see it. Thanks for the article! It really clarified a lot.

    • SakinaNasir53 profile image
      Author

      Sakina Nasir 9 months ago from Kuwait

      @Haider

      I am happy that you could identify with my hub. Thank you :) I agree completely. Shyness becomes a hurdle when it destroys your personality. You know when you get that feeling of being trapped within yourself. After dealing with it, I can now look back and just feel sad that why I was the way I had been before. Thankfully, I was able to battle it and have improved a lot. Thank you for reading and appreciating. :)

    • Haider Mama profile image

      Haider 9 months ago from Melbourne

      I may miss it, but correct me if I'm wrong. Shyness is a disease that grows over time. There are many things that contribute to making a person shy. For example, family environment and overall situation of your life can greatly add to your shyness and vice versa. Shyness silently destroys the confidence and self-esteem of a victim.

      As an introvert and shy person, I fully understand every word of this hub and I appreciate you for this instructive hub.

      Keep up the good work!

      Thank you.

    • SakinaNasir53 profile image
      Author

      Sakina Nasir 12 months ago from Kuwait

      Thank you so much for your appreciation jemuelO. It means a lot to me. I can understand the difficulty faced by shy people as I was one myself. I am glad you think I am a help to them. ☺

    • jemuelO profile image

      Jemuel 12 months ago from Cebu, Philippines

      It seems like I am talking to a psychologist when I read your hub. Such a great job for putting up all these information, you are truly helping shy folks out there!

    • SakinaNasir53 profile image
      Author

      Sakina Nasir 13 months ago from Kuwait

      You are most welcome! Thanks for taking out your valuable time to read my hub and for your appreciation. ☺

    • Ben716 profile image

      Alianess Benny Njuguna 13 months ago from Kenya

      Thank you for the hub. There are several things I have learned. Wonderfully explained

    • SakinaNasir53 profile image
      Author

      Sakina Nasir 13 months ago from Kuwait

      Thank you so much Ashish! ☺

    • Ashish Dadgaa profile image

      Ashi 13 months ago

      @ Sakina,

      You are welcome, my dear friend :)

      Ohh really? Were you a victim of this problem? I don't think you were a shy girl. You seem very confident and strong girl.

      Anyways, it's a good thing that you shared your secret with everyone.

      Pleaser always share your secrets in the same way :)

      Regards,

      Ashish

    • SakinaNasir53 profile image
      Author

      Sakina Nasir 13 months ago from Kuwait

      Thank you so much Ashish for your encouraging comments. ☺

      Shyness is a problem suffered by many people. The sad part is that many are clueless. They don't know how to get rid of it. I have been through that phase, it's like you are trapped within yourself. It's pretty disturbing...

      Nevertheless it can be cured...I just hope people get benefit from my hub. ☺

    • Ashish Dadgaa profile image

      Ashi 13 months ago

      Dr. Sakina :)

      This is again blockbuster hit of the hub. I am really impressed to see your knowledge in Clinical Psychology. You have beautifully penned down each and every problem with a detailed solution.

      I got to learn something new today :)

      This is really knowledgeable and effective hub for any individual.

      Blessings.

      Regards,

      Ashish

    • SakinaNasir53 profile image
      Author

      Sakina Nasir 14 months ago from Kuwait

      Thank you Hussain ☺

    • profile image

      Hussain 14 months ago

      Amazing.

    • SakinaNasir53 profile image
      Author

      Sakina Nasir 14 months ago from Kuwait

      Thank you so much Hamza, Maryam and Hatim for your encouragement. ☺

    • profile image

      hatim. 14 months ago

      attractive and vry helpful for those who are shy in nature.

    • profile image

      Maryam 14 months ago

      Well written article! It will help me in overcoming my shyness

    • profile image

      Hamza 14 months ago

      Amazingly written...easily understandable and excellent contents...it will b definitely very helpful for many people.. Best of luck.. Keep writing such a beautiful and helpful articles