Some Tips on
Overcoming Shyness

Vijai P. Sharma, PhD 

Shyness can be identified in children even when they are toddlers. But everyone who is shy as a small child doesn't grow to be a shy adult. Some who were very forthcoming as children become shy as teenagers or as adults. 

In a survey at Stanford University, 40 % of the students admitted to be shy. Researchers then surveyed the general population and found that a startling number of people, 93 % , admitted to be shy at some point in their life. 

More people are afraid of speaking in public than they are of dying! About 15 % of children are born with a predisposition to be shy. These children experience increased heart palpitation and muscle tension when they face a new situation. Consequently they begin to avoid situations which make them uncomfortable. Some begin to withdraw from all situations in which attention may be drawn to them or where some information may be revealed about them. Shyness is related to shame and fear. We fear of being negatively judged by others, failing, stumbling, fumbling, embarrassment, rejection from others, and believe it or not, of imperfection. 

Various reasons that cause or maintain shyness boil down to the big two: 

A. Anxiety and discomfort in coming out of our shell and facing others 

B. Seeking shelter and comfort in taking the back seat. 

A queasy stomach, dry mouth, tremulous hands, "jelly" legs, and rapid heart beat, make it uncomfortable for us when we step out of the "silent" mass and open our mouths. 

By being shy you can avoid all the uncomfortable physical symptoms. It is a safe position to know that you will not be making any mistakes and goofs and no body will notice your funny nose, hair, voice, or whatever it is that you don't like about yourself. 

People who want to change their shy behavior have to really convince themselves that the long-term disadvantages of forthcoming behavior definitely will outweigh the short term benefits of shyness. 

Other people are known to make an extra effort to reach out to and to make things a little easier for a shy person. Without taking a thorough inventory of benefits and losses of shyness, you may have a false notion that you want to give up shyness, but you may really be paying lip service to the idea. So take an honest inventory before you decide to change." 

To change the shy behavior, you need to pay close attention to "shy self talk,"  "shy body," and "shy manners." Shy self-talk consists of what one says, silently, inside one's head to keep one's mouth shut, stay in the back seat and out of the spotlight, such as, "They are not interested in my opinion,"  "It's rude to interrupt the speaker and ask a question,"  "If I just wait, somebody else might ask my question,"  What is the point of starting a conversation with him, I hardly ever see him."  "If I pretend I am not look at them, I don't have to greet them." 

Shy talk justifies our shy behavior to protect us from that tension we experienced during personal encounters.  Change that self-talk to:  "I have a right to express my opinion,"  "I need to ask my question to the speaker, I am sure others in the audience will be interested in the answer,"  "People like to be greeted and talked to," and so on. 

To change the shy body into an open, forthcoming, and communicative body, stand straight in front of a full length mirror, feet apart, hands on hips, or hanging comfortably by your side, lift your chin, look right in your eyes, assume a self confident and assertive facial expression, smile, speak to an imaginary audience, and occasionally laugh, until you feel very comfortable with the way you look, sound, and talk. (Bolt your door before you do this otherwise your family may begin to worry about your "strange" behavior.)  Repeat this exercise many times to change the shy body. 

To change the "shy manners, " look at other people look into their eyes, and smile when you talk k to them. Speak a little louder than you already do.  Accept compliments graciously.  When you go to a class, lecture, or a meeting, take the front seat, Say "No" politely with a "Sorry! No thank You!" when you feel you really should decline something . Saying "Not something that you really don't want to do may cause a minute or two of discomfort than days and weeks of resentment later, if you resentfully accept to do something. 

If you fear rejection, take it upon yourself to master the experience of rejection itself by resolving, "I want to practice receiving ten rejections every day, so I can be master of tolerating rejections. I will ask favors of people for the heck of it." 

A date-shy person, stood in front of a restaurant to ask girls to come in for a cup of coffee. The first girl he asked, she said, "Okay." Just be careful what you ask for because you might get it! 

Return to Self Help 

Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 


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