If you struggle with shyness, read on for a whole bunch of top tips and resources to help you be more mighty in your personal and professional life.
Before we get started though, let’s clarify a couple of things. First of all, what is shyness?
WHAT IS SHYNESS?
According to the American Psychological Association, shyness is:
“The tendency to feel awkward, worried or tense during social encounters, especially with unfamiliar people. Severely shy people may have physical symptoms like blushing, sweating, a pounding heart or upset stomach; negative feelings about themselves; worries about how others view them; and a tendency to withdraw from social interactions.”
IS SHYNESS THE SAME AS INTROVERSION?
No! It’s not the same thing, although many shy people are also introverted.
According to the APA, introversion is
“Orientation toward the internal private world of one’s self and one’s inner thoughts and feelings, rather than toward the outer world of people and things. Introversion is a broad personality trait and, like extraversion, exists on a continuum of attitudes and behaviors. Introverts are relatively more withdrawn, retiring, reserved, quiet, and deliberate; they may tend to mute or guard expression of positive affect, adopt more skeptical views or positions, and prefer to work independently.”
Essentially, people who are introverts find being in social situations drains their energy. Whereas shyness, is about having fears and worries and insecurities about being in certain social situations.
It’s perfectly possibly to be a shy extravert – like me! I like being around lots of other people, but I find it tricky when I feel like people are looking at me, or I’m on the spot in some way.
WHAT IS SOCIAL ANXIETY?
Social anxiety is a more intense form of shyness. According to the APA, social anxiety is,
“Fear of social situations in which embarrassment may occur (e.g., making conversation, meeting strangers, dating) or there is a risk of being negatively evaluated by others (e.g., seen as stupid, weak, or anxious). Social anxiety involves apprehensiveness about one’s social status, role, and behaviour.”
If symptoms such as trouble sleeping, shaking, sweating etc get really serious, I recommend going to see your doctor.
LET’S TALK ABOUT SHYNESS…
Before we get onto some super practical tips, here’s a little bit about me, Nadia Finer, the founder of Shy and Mighty.
I know what it’s like to struggle with shyness. Sounding like a little kid, has made me very self-conscious. It’s made me want to hide away and avoid being seen.
I find it difficult to speak up in meetings or in big groups of people. I find networking incredibly daunting. Appearing on stage makes me nervous and being photographed or videoed or recorded makes me feel super awkward! Showing up for my business is a constant challenge and I find it hard to promote and market my work. Visibility? Eeek! Oh, and I’m not a big fan of phoning new people, in case they judge how I sound. I remember when I first met my husband, he couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t speak to him on the phone!
As you can imagine, over the years, all these hang ups have held me back personally and professionally.
We shy people struggle with being seen because we feel self-conscious, uncomfortable and awkward. We worry about being judged, about not being good enough, of doing something silly. We worry about all the things. Because we tend not to push ourselves forward or shout above the noise, we are often overlooked, and under-estimated. It’s so annoying!
I spent a lot of time reflecting. How do I overcome my shyness? How do I build my self-confidence and self-belief? How do I push past all these insecurities?
It struck me, that I had a choice. I could spend the rest of my life hiding, or I could try to conquer some of my fears and push myself forwards step by step. And you know what; it worked. Since I made that decision to be more mighty, I’ve achieved some pretty big things.
Rather than hide behind my insecurities, I’ve figured out how embrace my little voice, push past my fears and tap into my hidden strengths – and become, not only a successful entrepreneur, author, podcaster and international speaker, but possibly the least likely boxer ever to step foot into the ring!
I’m not a confident or loud person. And I’m not sure I ever will be. But, I’ve discovered that being yourself is the only way to succeed in life. And that the only person who can get in the way of your success is YOU.
The biggest, saddest thing of all is if your shyness keeps you hidden away and you don’t share your talents and gifts with the world. If you let your fears hold you back. Then your impact shrinks. And so does your life. And nobody gets to benefit from your brilliance. And that, frankly, makes me want to cry. And I’m an ugly crier, so, let’s not do that!
And that’s why I’m not here to lecture you, boss you around, shout at you, patronise you or force you to do things that you’re uncomfortable with. I know that you need gentle support and encouragement to coax you out of the shadows and help you reach your goals, step by step.
The world needs a mixture of personalities, perspectives and skills to function. If shy people don’t speak up, and are under-represented in society, the only voices we hear are the loud ones. Imagine a world with only confident, shouty people. Nobody would be heard. Nothing would get done!
HOW TO OVERCOME SHYNESS
Shyness is not a problem per se. You don’t need fixing. Or changing. But if you’re frustrated with yourself for holding yourself back, and you don’t feel able to share your ideas, stand up for your opinions, or achieve your goals… then, I can help you overcome your shyness … well, the aspects of shyness that are holding you back, so that you can confidently get on with doing what you do best, have a voice, deal with obstacles flung in your path and achieve big brilliant things
Right. Let’s get to work!
SHYCOLOGY STRATEGIES TO HELP YOU BE MORE MIGHTY
1. THINK OF YOUR PEOPLE
Our worst worries and fears occur when we are focused inward—on ourselves. When we are concerned only with how we feel… it’s easy to get stuck in a bog of doubts and insecurities. Try shifting your focus on to the reason you want to achieve the thing you’re doing. Do you want to help other people in some way? Change something? Make some kind of impact? When we are connected to a purpose, there is less room for worry, because frankly, what you’re doing is way more important than some butterflies in your tummy.
2. BE NICE TO YO’ SELF
Instead of giving yourself a hard time and constantly pointing out all your flaws and failings. What if you were actually nice to yourself? It’s a pretty radical idea, isn’t it! Let’s put a stop to negative self-talk once and for all, because it sucks. If you’re being awful to yourself, and putting yourself down and beating yourself up for the things you struggle with, how can you expect good things to happen? Let’s start now. With one thing you like about yourself. You don’t need to say stuff out loud if you don’t want to, I mean, I’m not completely insane, ha ha! Start with saying it in your head, or even writing stuff down in a journal or on your phone, whatever feels good.
3. SEE YOUR SHYNESS AS A GIFT
As a shy person it’s easy to think of the things we find tricky. I have a loooong list! But what if we stop focusing on the things we struggle with and choose to see our shyness as a gift. (Bear with me here!) Instead, I want you to think carefully about your shy-super-powers. Shy people have many positive skills. We are often self-aware, creative, thoughtful, empathetic and kind. When people around us won’t stop talking, shy people tend to listen more than they talk, observe and think deeply, forming deep, long lasting connections. What about you? What are you good at? Grab a pen and paper and list down all the things you’re good at. Actually, do it… don’t just think about it. Go make a cup of tea. And start writing!
4. PIMP YOUR POSTURE
When you feel shy, your shoulders hunch. Your head drops. You shrink. Literally. When you hold yourself in a more confident way, the way you feel about yourself and the way people feel towards you will change. Straighten your back. Put your shoulders back. And pretend there’s a cord coming down from the sky stretching your spine out. And if you want to go full on power pose, you could even try standing with your legs a bit further apart and your hands on your hips! (Roaring is optional.)
5. DRESS TO IMPRESS (YOURSELF)
Researchers have found that the clothes we wear really do have an effect on our self-esteem. If you like your look, you’ll feel a lot more confident than if you shlump around in dirty sweats. I’m not a power suit kind of a girl, but I do like to look sharp, even in athleisure! You deserve to feel good in your clothes, so take care to choose things that bring you joy. Whether it’s a nice soft sweater, or a nice scarf, or your favourite knickers, wear something you really like, every day.
6. CONCENTRATE ON THE JOB
I don’t like people watching me. I get all clumsy and shy. But, when we worry about other people looking at us, or judging us, we are not focusing on the work we are doing. If you’re in a boxing match, lifting heavy objects, or operating big machines, you definitely don’t want to be worrying about what other people think of you! The same goes for any important task. Instead of wasting energy on worrying about the opinions of others, be mindful of the thing you’re doing. Breathe. Relax. And shift your focus back to the thing you’re doing, so you can do the best you can do.
7. REFRAME YOUR FEAR
You may have “learned” that the butterfly-sensation in your tummy before you do something big, like give a presentation, or go for a job interview, is fear. It’s your body’s way of telling you that a lion might be coming; and preparing you to either do a runner or kick the lion’s butt. Your brain is trying to keep you safe, so it pumps adrenaline through your body so that you won’t just roll over and get eaten. Your brain is trying to keep you safe. However, the chances are, you’re not facing off against a lion (not this week, anyway), which means there’s no actual danger, and your brain is kinda being a drama queen, getting you all freaked out, for nothing. If the feelings you have stop you from doing exciting things, and keep you holed up on the sofa, then they’re not serving you. When you feel these feelings, and your tummy is all jumbly, the first thing to do is to recognize that you’re ok, and there’s no lions around. Then, try reframing the feelings to excitement and say something to yourself along the lines of – Wow! I’m feeling so excited about this!” (Although you might want to go for something a lot less cheesy.)
8. MAKE EYE CONTACT
I spend way too much time looking at the ground. I love shoes, but honestly, not that much! And yes, I am less likely to step in dog poo, but I’m a lot more likely to walk into a lamppost or a car. Challenge yourself to look up occasionally, make eye contact and if you’re feeling particularly daring, smile! When you walk down the street, or the corridor try it. Challenge yourself to make eye contact with at least one person every day. (I did it just now actually, and it was nice) I honestly think the world will be a better place! And also, you’re less likely to get run over.
9. DON’T BE A “CAN’T”
When faced with something scary or difficult, I’ve noticed that my initial reaction is to say to myself, and even out loud, that “I can’t do that.” I automatically assume I’m going to fall on my bum, or my face. And because I don’t fancy a face full of blood and broken teeth, I don’t bother trying. The funny thing is though, when I do have a go, I usually surprise myself. Turns out I’m a lot more splendid than I thought I was. If you find yourself saying “I can’t” the first step is to notice it and pull yourself up. Have a word with yourself. And try saying instead. “I’m going to have a go.” And then get the hell on with it!
10. SAY YES
I used to avoid putting myself forward for things. The same people would volunteer time and time again and I would sit back and let them. When you lean out and allow people with louder voices to take charge, you’re missing out on opportunities and your voice is missing from the conversation. There’s no easy solution or magical cure here. But, the more you do it, the easier it gets. So, I challenge you to have a go this week. Say yes to something, even something tiny. If you don’t feel comfortable saying yes in front of a group of people, send an email, or a text message, or have a quiet word after the meeting. Don’t live your life in the background, regretting that you’re not involved… allowing other people to speak for you. Remember, you have a valuable contribution to make to the world!
11. GET PREPPED
If you’re heading out into a daunting situation, like a networking event, or a conference, or even a party, make sure you do your homework. Spend some time researching the latest news and trends, or interesting facts, so that when you talk to new people you’ve got something to say! You don’t want to sound like a robot, regurgitating facts, obviously… but feeling confident you know what you’re on about is going to help ease your nerves.
12. FIND A FELLOW SHY PERSON
40% of the population sees themselves as shy. That’s loads! So, when you’re in room of people, you’re not the only one who feels shy. Instead of worrying about how awkward you feel, look for other people on their own who are also struggling. They’ll be so glad when you smile at them, or even go over and chat to them.
13. STRETCH YOUR BOUNDARIES
When was the last time you did something new? It’s really easy to let fear and lack of confidence keep you small. Spending a lot of time in the same place, with the same people, doing the same stuff, can make it harder for us to venture out. Don’t let your comfort zone shrink to the size of a hula hoop. The only way to keep pushing your boundaries, is to push your boundaries. (I’m so wise!) Trying new things, facing a little bit of fear, keeps you moving forwards. What could you try? Sit in a different spot in your favourite café? Or go to a new café? Walk a different path? Go to see a film on your own? Or take a trip? Keep expanding your life. You can come back to the sofa afterwards, you just don’t want to get stuck there forever!
14. UNLEASH THE BEAST
I never thought I was a strong person. Because I’m quiet and shy. But under my soft and fluffy exterior. I’m a beast. Surprise! And how do I know this? Well… I took up boxing. Since the day I wandered into a gym, filled with testosterone and a very dubious smell. I’ve learned lots of new skills. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I have made lots of new friends. I carry myself differently. When I enter the ring, I become a more powerful, braver version of myself. And like me, I’m sure that you too have strength within you. Just don’t wait 37 years to find it!
What could you try that will make you feel powerful? Perhaps you could do a boxercise workout? Or lift some weights? Do some press ups? Or go to a karate class with a friend? I bet you’re a lot stronger than you thought you were!
15. GET INSPIRED, QUIETLY
Surround yourself with people who inspire you to create a quieter version of success.
That’s why I created the Shy and Mighty podcast, to provide quiet-but-powerful words of support and encouragement, plus inspiration from lots of lovely guests who prove that shy can be mighty.
16. GET HELP!
If you’re struggling to find your way out of the shadows and overcome the aspects of your shyness that are holding you back, know that you don’t need to do it alone. I wouldn’t go into a fight without my coach in my corner. No way! Trying to do everything on your own doesn’t make you stronger. Instead, gather people who are going to help you on your journey; whether that’s a coach like me, your best mate, your mum, a teacher or even the dog. (If you’d like to chat to me about Shy and Mighty Mentoring, click here!)
17. TAKE BABY STEPS
Change doesn’t happen overnight. In one big whoosh. It’s slow. I get that you might want to see results super fast, but we’re more interested in change that lasts. Take tiny steps every day, and those changes will build. If you were going to write a book for example, you wouldn’t expect to get it done in a day (or it would be completely terrible). Instead, you’d aim to write, say 500 words a day. The key is to keep on going. Day by day, bit by bit. The difference between successful people and people who fail. Is often that they just kept going.
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