The rewards for overcoming shyness are enormous! A completely new world will be opened up to you. The good news is that once you have broken through you’ll probably ask yourself, “What was the big deal?” To get there, however, it will take some determination and hard work. But I assure you that the benefits “greatly” outweigh the amount of effort needed to conquer it.
One of the Shyest People I Knew
I was once one of the shyest people I knew. In kindergarten, I sometimes hid underneath wooden fruit crates after the other kids had removed all the balls inside at the start of recess.
During the short time I was in public middle and high school, I often ate lunch alone. I usually left the school grounds during the lunch break. I didn’t want the other students to find out how shy I was. This was not as much the case while I was in the boy’s home (age 15-17) because we all lived together.
During my first two years of college, I was so shy that I was constantly in a state of panic when I ate a meal in the cafeteria, as I sat in class for fear that I might be called on, and when I had to meet with a professor in their office.
What’s amazing about my shyness history is that most people usually have not seen me as being the super shy type. Apparently, according to reports from elementary & middle school teachers to my parents, I was well-liked and fairly popular. I was even elected president of my elementary school during my last year (6th grade in those days). In college, I was often appointed to class leadership roles by the professor or through a vote by my classmates. But as the stakes increased so did my shyness.
When a Fortune 500 company hired me as a management trainee, I was repeatedly put into situations where I had to deal with my shyness. I’ll never forget the first staff meeting where I was required to give a short presentation to a room full of mid to high-level managers! It was one of the most humiliating and agonizing events of my life!
Even when I walked into the entrance hall where people gathered before going into a business meeting I would panic. “How should I act? What should I say if someone approaches me?” I would think to myself.
The requirements for social interaction and public speaking increased with each promotion I got. I eventually became a regional division head and later a national marketing manager responsible for generating 400 million dollars in annual product sales. In order to meet the requirements of these positions, I had to learn about overcoming shyness and the fear of public speaking.
At this point in my life, the idea of overcoming shyness seemed like a distant possibility for me. Even so, I never gave up on my dream to conquer it.
Proper Perspective about Overcoming Shyness
One of the most amazing things I learned during my journey is that many people who I perceived as NOT being shy were in fact very shy themselves. I’ve concluded that shyness is simply a normal human condition. I see it as one of those childhood based fears that we eventually grow out of or learn to control if we choose to do so. Some people choose never to face it or they never find themselves in a situation where they are forced to deal with it. My story is a combination of both.
Another equally amazing thing is the response I would get when I asked people how I did after delivering a speech or attending an important social function. I was always stunned when people would tell me how cool, relaxed, and confident I appeared because inside I felt scared, incompetent, and shy.
So one of the most important lessons to learn for overcoming shyness is that almost everyone is shy or has experienced being shy some time in their lives. I have been astounded many times by people who I knew as being supremely confident and socially skilled to report to me how excruciatingly shy they once were, and in some cases how they still are but that they had learned to control it.
The other important thing to remember about overcoming shyness is that the way people see you is often much different from the way you see yourself. Other people cannot hear the discouraging things that you’re saying to yourself or often even detect your nervousness. Why? Because they are usually more consumed with their own thoughts about how they are being viewed by you!
Shyness Can Be Good
In the dating world, both men and women often see shyness as a point of attraction. There is a fine line, however. If a person does NOT allow their shyness to hold them back from trying, that is attractive. In contrast, if a person DOES allow shyness to hold them back, that is unattractive.
How many times have you heard a movie or rock star say in an interview how shy they are? If you watch closely, you can see how shy these people are when they are giving an acceptance speech at an awards show. I know that there are those who hide it well with aggressive, animated behavior, but if you look past all that you can see it during the moments in between.
The lesson here is that each of these accomplished public figures did not let their shyness block them from going after their dreams! You can do the same regardless of how impossible it seems now.
Courage and Overcoming Shyness
The path to overcoming shyness and becoming assertive is very similar to overcoming fear and gaining courage. You don’t gain either until you have walk toward and through the discomfort and fear. It is between these two points where your internal work of building confidence and courage occurs. To put it simply, you learn by doing! There is no magical formula, or a perfect set of words, that will give you what you need to beat your shyness or gain courage.
The process for overcoming shyness and gaining courage is the same. You must go toward and through what you fear! Once you’ve done it, then you get the confidence and the courage – NOT the other way around. Each time you succeed, you’ll gain a bit more confidence and courage. And succeeding does NOT mean that you will NOT be afraid, awkward, or clumsy as you move through each fearful situation. You will emerge from it elated and invigorated, however!
With each success in moving toward and through fearful situations, you will gain a bit more confidence and courage and you lose a bit more fear, awkwardness, and clumsiness. This is the process for overcoming shyness.
Repeated Exposure is Key to Overcoming Shyness
So how do you get there? How do you overcome shyness and gain courage? You do it through repeated exposure to the situations that you fear. Don’t let that word fear get to you. Fear is a NORMAL human response to the unknown and to situations where you have no experience. That’s all it is. No more. It’s not a character weakness or a psychological problem. It’s just plain old fear.
Once you go toward and through your fear and feel the exhilaration, you are going to want to do it again, and again! The first time is the hardest. The fear is at its strongest just before the first time. After all, you’ve probably been thinking about it for years and certainly during the days, hours, or minutes before the live event. But once you’ve gone toward and through your shyness and your fears you’ll probably say to yourself as I did, “What was I so worried about?” The key to overcoming shyness is to expose yourself to situations where you are normally shy and fearful.
A great strategy for overcoming shyness is to start small and build up to bigger and more difficult situations. For example, start by going to small social functions that are of less importance to you. In other words, go through the awkward learning stage in these environments until you gain some confidence. Then go to those social events that are more challenging and of greater importance to you.
If you want to meet a life-partner but you are shy about approaching people who you find attractive, start with those who you would just like to get to know as a friend. Then after you gain some confidence go after those people who really excite you.
The same strategy works particularly well for public speaking. Start with small audiences that will have little or no impact on your career. Then work your way up to larger and more important audiences.
Public Speaking and Overcoming Shyness
Public speaking training is the best way to accelerate your progress. Overcoming shyness is a wonderful unexpected benefit to learning public speaking. In fact, I believe that shyness and the fear of public speaking are directly related.
I’ve had a considerable amount of training and experience in public speaking. I’ve taken two (2) Dale Carnegie courses in effective speaking, I’ve belonged to Toastmasters for many years, I’ve attended several college classes and seminars on public speaking, and I’ve delivered countless speeches. Why did I do all this training? I did it to conquer my debilitating shyness and fear of public speaking.
To give you an example of how severe my problem was, I started and quit my first Dale Carnegie course three (3) times before I finally completed it. But when I graduated, I received several awards and was asked to be an assistant to the instructor for future classes.
As I progressed through my first Dale Carnegie course, I was amazed and extremely pleased with the changes that were happening to me in regard to overcoming shyness. I found myself speaking up in front of groups of people in social situations where I would have NEVER spoken a word before. I started giving my opinion in business meetings and in college classes that I attended at night. I would not have done either of these things before I started my public speaking training. These new skills were particularly useful in expanding my social life. I found that I was much more willing to approach women and strike up a conversation. As my public speaking skills improved further, it wasn’t long before I found myself with more social activities and dates than I ever thought possible!
The Dale Carnegie course, which charges a considerable fee, is brilliant! It takes you through a variety of public speaking situations guided by well-trained, encouraging, and enthusiastic instructors. One of the great things about attending these classes is that you’ll get to know a whole room of people who feel exactly the same way as you do. I highly recommend it.
Toastmasters is a non-profit organization, which charges a very small fee for membership and dues. It has more than 280,000 members in 13,500 clubs in 116 countries (2012). Each club follows the guidelines of Toastmasters, but they operate and conduct meetings on their own. The club membership is composed of like-minded people who want to hone their communication and leadership skills. Meetings are well organized and productive. The atmosphere is supportive, encouraging, and fun! I highly recommend it.
If you participate in the programs provided by one or both of these organizations, I guarantee that your dream of overcoming shyness will become a reality a lot quicker.
Internal Work for Overcoming Shyness
A crucial aspect to overcoming shyness is learning how to control your thoughts and having a positive self-image. Much of the work needed to make progress in these areas will happen on its own as you struggle through the challenges of moving toward and through the things that you are afraid to do.
As you face these challenges, you will discover for yourself what thoughts will help you succeed. As you accumulate more successes, your thought patterns, confidence, and self-image will become more refined and stronger.
You can speed up your progress in these areas by creating thought and visualization scripts that inspire and lead you to the outcome you want. I call them scripts because they are planned behaviors that you carefully design in advance. And like the script of a movie, television show, or a play it is intended to be an exact representation of what you want to happen when it counts! And if you think about it, isn’t this a crucial factor in overcoming shyness?
The basis of a thought script can be anything that is meaningful and inspiring to you. It might be a performance, comparative, or a goal script. The key is to create scripts that arouse passions that will propel you pass your internal roadblocks!
Here are some examples.
Performance Script for Overcoming Shyness:
WRONG: “I will not be shy and I will not be anxious about handling situations that may arise this party.”
RIGHT: “I am confident and I can handle any situation that arises at this party.”
Comparative Script for Overcoming Shyness:
“I am surely as intelligent and capable as so and so (famous person, friend, or acquaintance), and if they can perform confidently at social functions I certainly can!”
Goal Script for Overcoming Shyness:
“I will move toward whatever I fear tonight (this week/month/year, at this event), conquer my shyness, train myself how to be confident, and become the person that I desire.”
Once you come up with a few scripts, replay them in your mind until they become a part of you. Then learn to get yourself into the habit of focusing your thoughts on them when you’re approaching an opportunity for overcoming shyness.
Visualizations are movie scripts that you create in your mind that show you performing in the way that you want. Visualization is a proven technique that has been utilized by leading athletes for years. You can use the same methods to improve your game! Here’s how it works. Practice the outcome that you want in your mind until you create your perfect performance. Once you have a detailed script, replay it in your mind until it becomes a part of you. Then just before the live event, focus your mind on the script and you will know exactly what to do to succeed!
Here are some examples of some visualization scripts for overcoming shyness. You’ll need to add the detail so that every scene from beginning to end is included.
“You visualize yourself calmly walking up to the podium at an important business meeting, confidently delivering your speech, and receiving a positive response. You also see yourself confidently prepared to handle any unexpected situation that may arise.”
“You visualize yourself calmly entering a party, confidently greeting everyone you meet, and receiving a warm response. You also see yourself confidently prepared to handle any situation that may arise.
“You visualize yourself calmly walking over to a woman/man who you find extremely attractive, confidently saying what you had planned, and receiving a warm reaction. You also see yourself confidently prepared to deal with whatever the outcome is without being affected.”
If you have any issues in your life that are having a negative influence on your self-image, you’ll need to address these to make advanced progress in overcoming shyness. If this applies to you, start by getting some good books that deal with your particular issue and/or seek the guidance and support of a trusted family member, friend, or counselor.
Your New World After Overcoming Shyness
If you make the commitment to overcoming shyness, one day you will look back with amazement at all the progress that you’ve made and all the wonderful things that you’ve been able to do. You will also have a deep respect for yourself as you reflect on what your life would have been if you had allowed yourself to remain imprisoned by your shyness.
If you could only see yourself unchained by shyness, you would see a socially confident, engaging, and expressive person with as many friends, dates, and social engagements as you want. You have the key to unlocking the chains within you right now! You’ve always known this. It doesn’t take much effort to find the key, but it takes a lot of courage to unlock the chains. But once you do you will never be the same.
To learn more about overcoming shyness and other related issues, check out the recommended books page on this site. Look under the topic category headings, “Self Image, Overcoming Shyness, Confidence, Courage” and “Relationship Skills, Social Skills, Friendship Skills.”