It’s not easy to overcome shyness but, yes, it is possible if you seriously commit yourself to the goal of change. Shyness is one of those personality traits psychologists believe is largely biologically based, meaning that you’re born with it or with a predisposition to it. But fear not: Even biology can’t prevent you from learning new ways to approach others. Ever known anyone obese who worked hard and lost weight? Well, there’s your answer. Just like a person can make an effort to change a physical trait, a person can make an effort to change a personality trait. See, you can have a tendency to do one thing but choose to do another. In order to un-shy yourself, consider the techniques below and practice un-shying yourself every single day.
Gain insight into your shy behavior. If you are truly committed to un-shying yourself, take inventory of all your shy behaviors. Make a list of a few situations that would make you feel most shy. Next, ask yourself what these situations have in common? Underneath your shyness, are you afraid of something? Let’s take an example and break it down. You’re at a party with a friend and your friend excuses herself and leaves you with a guy you don’t know – but find attractive. If you were to (uncharacteristically) start a conversation with him, how would you feel? What would you be afraid might happen if you started talking? Would you ask yourself what he’s thinking about you? Should you even care what anyone you’ve just met thinks of you?
Stop indulging your shy behaviors and do the opposite. Ask yourself what you’d prefer to do in the situation above (e.g., grab your keys and get the heck out of there) and do the opposite. Facing your anxiety – and not avoiding it – is a necessary step to overcoming shyness. In anxiety-provoking situations, you must force yourself to do the opposite behavior (e.g., start a conversation and engage). Honestly, I don’t want you to care one bit what the new guy at the party thinks of you. What anyone thinks of you only matters once you’ve gotten to know a person and have determined he or she is a quality person worth your investment.
Socialize with outgoing friends and take notes like a secretary. One of the best ways to learn how to do something new is to mimic the actions of someone who excels at the desired behavior. Make arrangements to go out with a friend who is especially outgoing and watch them as they interact with strangers. Watch their body language, listen to the tone of their voice, and take note of how they use humor. Most importantly, take inventory of their mood. Does your friend seem anxious or relaxed? Is your friend enjoying and living in the moment, or trapped inside his or her thoughts? Most outgoing men and women don’t take themselves too seriously and are not too critical of themselves. In fact, saying harsh things to yourself and worrying what others think often come with shyness. Don’t forget that shy people have a tendency to miss out on a lot because they’re too shy to do or say what they want.
Cultivate a new identity as an outgoing person using self-monitoring and praise. Monitor the language you use when you talk about yourself. Catch yourself saying, “I’m really shy,” and change it to, “I used to be really shy.” Your unconscious mind hears the words you say out loud, which reinforces your identity. When you face your fear and do the opposite behavior (say, walking up to a small group of people at work and asking how their weekend was), praise yourself for your efforts. Say to yourself, “Good for you for trying,” or “I’m proud you’re taking action and doing something about your shyness.” It may sound silly, but it works.
If shyness is one of your struggles, please trust that you can un-shy yourself provided that you do the work and sit with the discomfort that comes with change. No one ever said shyness is bad or wrong, but outgoing people often enjoy dating more, have more fun and have less social anxiety than their shy counterparts. Try some of the techniques described above and use trial and error to figure out which techniques are the most effective for you. If you take away only one tidbit from this article, take this: Do the opposite!