Do you consider yourself shy? Worry not, because this trait affects many people, and even outwardly self-confident people can become surprisingly shy in unfamiliar or challenging situations.
Keep in mind shyness is actually a protective mechanism, keeping responses and actions in check until an individual feels more comfortable. While shyness can be great in select circumstances, it can also hold individuals back from sharing the very aspects of themselves that would make them a wonderful partner. Shyness may also inhibit your behavior in either asking someone desirable for a date or in feeling comfortable once you go out together.
Many people are unaware that by learning and practicing a set of behavioral exercises, shyness can be “unlearned” and replaced with more open behavior.
The psychologist Albert Ellis, certainly one of the most dynamic and engaging figures of the 20th Century, knew about shyness first-hand: it affected him during his teenage years. Rather than undergo lengthy psychoanalysis to find the “root causes” of his shyness, he decided to cure himself. He sat on a park bench in Bronx Botanical Gardens, and spoke to every person who sat on the bench near him with the goal of overcoming his fear of talking with women and asking them out on a date. His strategy was to push himself to do something he felt uncomfortable to get comfortable at doing it.
At first, his nervousness was obvious, reflected in hesitating speech and tense “body-language”. But after multiple failed attempts at conversation, he became noticeably more relaxed because he had proved to himself that nothing awful or disastrous happened as a result of his talking with women he didn’t know. The exposure to the feared event – and evidence it didn’t have terrible consequences – got him over his previous fear.
Decades later, Ellis revolutionized the world of psychology by turning the learning process on its head-namely by stating that behavior can influence thoughts. And his technique of overcoming shyness can be used to make yourself a more dynamic and sociable person too.
1. Channel your inner Albert Ellis: Try this exercise out in your school lunchroom, office, bus, or even a public park. Sit in a spot with traffic where people will be readily walking by and attempt to strike up a superficial conversation with them. Remember, you’re not trying to bond with people, only exchanging a few remarks on a neutral topic like the weather, the surroundings, or something interesting in local news. The more people you talk to, the more comfortable you’ll likely become.
Inwardly, observe and take note of your body language and voice. Your posture, eye contact, and hand gestures are important. Try to not be rigid, collapsed, or stand-offish – or to stare at the ground or into space.
2. “Role-play” the Shyness Away: Another excellent technique for overcoming shyness is to pretend like you’re someone else with a strong physical presence. Guys, that could be a Spartan hero from the movie “300”-girls, perhaps a famous Russian ballerina. “Channel” their physicality when speaking to correct any negatives you learned about yourself in the first exercise.
3. Decide on an Alter-ego: Although designed by psychologists, this seems closer to a theatrical performance-many famous actors have invented an “alter ego” who is anything but shy, and you can too.
Let that alter ego take the form of an actor like George Clooney, John Wayne, Jessica Alba, Lady Gaga, or another favorite. Don’t try to look, sound, or dress like them-just interact as if you were them. After awhile, you will likely no longer need the alter ego to interact with others in a genuine but confident manner.
4. Rehearse the Grand Entrance: Rehearsing an “entrance” in front of a full-length home mirror can help train your body to move with confidence. If it’s helpful, pretend to be your favorite celebrity or famous business person about to enter into a room filled with die-hard supporters.
Now open the door, stand up tall, and walk towards the mirror, finally turning so your full body and face can be seen. Look right into your own eyes and smile. Repeat this at least five times, although ten would be better. It needs to feel routine-so you are likely to enter into this pattern at a time you are entering into a situation or environment where inner shyness might hold you back. The physicality of self-confidence is the goal here-as Dr, Ellis predicted, your actions will change your thoughts. It is virtually impossible to feel shy if you “act” outgoing.
Shyness can affect anyone, no matter what their outward appearance resembles. Using the proper self-directed imagery and rehearsing these simple exercises will be an excellent first step to overcoming it. Your date might also be shy, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if you both put shyness behind you to connect on a deeper level.
About Dr. Stuart Fischer
Stuart Fischer, M.D. has developed his unique approach to weight loss featured at The Park Avenue Diet Center after decades of experience in internal medicine, emergency medicine and nutrition. As an author and educator, Dr. Fischer is sought by the media as a resource specializing in providing clear explanations of complex medical information.
Now, in his 30th year as a practicing physician, Dr. Fischer has been a featured guest on numerous television, radio and Internet shows, including The Early Show, FOX and Friends, Inside Edition, CNN American Morning, Good Day New York, CBS2’s Healthwatch, The Montel Williams Show and WebMD. For five years, he served as the host of Vital Signs, the popular weekly series on New York’s WEVD-FM, in which he answered call-in questions for thousands of listeners.
A graduate of Yale University, Dr. Fischer completed his residency in internal medicine at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y. and served as an attending physician in the emergency room of Cabrini Medical Center in Manhattan for four years. He also worked with the late Dr. Robert Atkins as the associate medical director of The Atkins Center. For more information on Dr. Fischer, please go to: www.parkavenuediet.com.