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Overcoming Shyness: How to Feel More Confident

“Each time we face a fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.” ~Unknown

I’m 25 years old and I’m currently in Minsk, Belarus, but that’s not where I’m from. In my relatively short life I’ve lived in many cities and countries all around the world, including Amsterdam, Cape Town (South Africa), Prague, Budapest, and Paris, to name a few.

I went to many of these places on my own or because of a new friend or girlfriend I met.

I was only able to make these moves because I overcame my shyness and learned to be confident.

For most of my life I was incredibly shy and introverted and had minimal self-confidence. I didn’t have many friends at school, I wasn’t popular at all, and I got made fun of regularly.

I never understood why, because I’m a nice guy, smart, okay-looking. But whatever the reasons, it conditioned me to believe that there was something wrong with me and that I just didn’t make the grade of a good human being.

This had a big affect on my confidence and it caused me to become even more introverted than I naturally was because it was just easier to pull back into my world than deal with criticism.

Communities like schools, universities, and work places tend to be very “cliquey.” Groups form, and it can be difficult to associate with people from another group, but it’s not impossible.

Once you get a better understanding of social dynamics it becomes a lot easier to make friends and increase your social circles, no matter where in the world you are.

It took me years of trial and error, with countless experiments, books, seminars, and tons of failure and rejection before I overcame my shyness and built my confidence.

The good news is that it doesn’t need to take you nearly half as long to become more confident, both to make new friends and increase your odds of success.

Sometimes people can be quick to judge and label based on stereotypes and perceptions. Not everyone will take the time to reach out to you and get to know you before they label you. This brings me to my first tip:

Overcoming Shyness Tip #1: Talk To Everyone

One of the best ways to overcome shyness is to make it a habit of speaking to everyone.

This sounds like a bit of a catch-22 situation, since you need to have confidence to be able to speak to people, and you need to speak to people to build confidence. The trick is to start small, for example just start saying “hello” or “good morning” to one person every day.

Then when you start feeling more comfortable with this, start speaking to two people every day, and increase the length of your conversations.

Don’t limit yourself to speaking to people you know or “click” with. Talk to everyone in your community, talk to men, women, young, old, whether they seem normal, strange, or crazy—even if it’s just to say hello.

Many people won’t take the initiative to get to know you, so that just means you have to get to know them and give them the chance to get to know you.

You’ll find that the majority of people who you start a conversation with are really friendly. If you remember this, reaching out to someone new won’t seem so scary.

Overcoming Shyness Tip #2: Educate Yourself

Many insecurities, fears, and doubts stem from lack of understanding or lack of knowledge about something. The more you understand and know about a situation, the more comfortable you will be and thus the less power your shyness will have over you.

Let’s take for example the subject of public speaking. This is an activity that terrifies most people half to death, but only because most people don’t have much knowledge about it. If you do some research and investigation, you’ll come to learn that it’s perfectly natural to be terrified of public speaking, and that almost every single person has the same fears and insecurities that you do.

When you take it further and ask yourself why you are so terrified of this, you’ll come to learn that you are scared of being judged, or of being laughed at. From there, you can go and read and learn about people who are good at public speaking—learn their tips and strategies.

This way you are much more prepared because your knowledge on the subject is vast. As a result of this, your confidence will already be much higher than before, which might allow you to attempt public speaking when you join a club like Toastmasters. As you practice more, you will naturally become even more confident.

This rule applies to any area where you feel insecure. Read and research as much about the topic as possible. This will help increase your confidence enough to give the activity a try to see if you might be able to become better at it. And that initial confidence to take action is all you need to get the ball rolling and overcome your shyness.

Overcoming Shyness Tip #3: Practice and Be Persistent

The third and final tip that you need for overcoming shyness is to practice endlessly and never give up. Theory and education will only show you the path to becoming confident, but you still need to actually walk it to gain the full benefits.

The more you practice, the better you’ll become. At anything.

If you want to become better at public speaking, you need to give dozens and dozens of speeches to feel at ease with it.

I used to be super shy when it came to talking to girls, and as a result my relationship with the opposite sex was pretty much non-existent.

I started by reading every book related to dating and talking to strangers that I could get my hands on. After that, I spent close to three years approaching literally hundreds of girls in clubs, bars, and malls. It was the only way to overcome my shyness and become confident at talking to them.

Approaching so many girls, I faced a lot of rejection. At times that was painful and damaging to my ego and self-esteem, but I always kept in mind that it was necessary for improvement. So I kept going.

That’s exactly what you need to do to overcome your shyness: take action, practice, and don’t give up until you get the results you were aiming for. You will face setbacks, failures, and rejections, but ultimately those are all necessary to build more confidence.

I know what it’s like to be shy and have little or no confidence, and I know for a fact that you can turn that around.

Photo by saitowitz

Avatar of Dirk de Bruin

About Dirk de Bruin

Diggy is a confident young man who is his own boss, travels the world, and has fantastic friends and relationships. He enjoys teaching people how to be confident If you'd like to download a guide with the 7 Mistakes of Shy People, subscribe to Diggy's Flawless Confidence newsletter (It's FREE).

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  • Paige Tomkinson

    Hi Dirk,
    I, too, am a recovering introvert. Your article was wonderful, for explaining what it’s like to live with terrible shyness, and on providing ways to overcome it.
    When I was a small child, I was so painfully shy that at restaurants, I would whisper my order to the wait staff. It got better, slowly, and not by much, as I got older.
    For me, the thing that really helped me to start overcoming my introvertedness was participating in theatre in high school. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but something about standing in front of a mass of people in the audience really boosted my confidence. I also found that, unlike the majority of people, I love public speaking.
    Being on a stage, the audience is transformed from a huge group of people to something else, maybe a “faceless” community of human beings who are pulling for you.
    I am not sure why, but even to this day it is easier for me to be in front of a very large group, or inside that group, than interacting with small groups of people.
    It is particularly painful if I don’t know anyone in the group, or only one or two people. I would like to try out your suggestions for overcoming shyness in that type of situation! Feeling as I do, it makes parties, working environments, even walking into some businesses, etc, very difficult for me. It can even strike if I am with a group of family members.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences and your path to overcoming what we know can be a disabling condition!

  • Shy

    #1 and #3 are absurd, if you can do that you are not shy!

  • Jelani

    This read has similar tones like the book The Alchemist. On your journey there will be many ups and downs, but the lessons learned on the way will help you reach your destination

  • elaine

    i am feeling like i should say hello to the old man i passed by this morning when he is walking a dog

  • Guest

    Thanks so much for posting this article! I’m actually a naturally outgoing person, except in situations I’m uncomfortable in and then I tend to worry so much about being confident that I become kind of quiet and some might say introverted. It was great to read this article and be able to relate so well!

  • http://www.facebook.com/rach.loosemore Rach Loosemore

    Paige, there’s no such thing as a recovering Introvert. Introverts are born that way, shyness is a learned habit. There’s nothing wrong with Introversion, it simply means you gain strength and energy from solitude rather than from social contact as Extroverts do. See Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts. From what you’ve said, I’d say you’re a shy Extrovert.

  • Monika Starzyk

    The best way I know: is to focus as much as you can on the outside: people you interact with (where they’re coming from, what they need, what can I do for them, do I hear them?), audience: (what can I give them, what can I do for them, why are they here), on the task: what is here to be done. Redirecting your attention fully from yourself by participating fully outside.

  • FlawlessConfidence.com

    Yes, theater is definitely a GREAT way to improve your confidence. Attending Toastmasters meetings is another good way to work on your confidence.

    As for your problems with smaller groups, especially when you don’t know anyone, I’d suggest learning how to make small talk because I sense that you feel shy because you’re afraid of awkward silence. There are some good books out there which can help you (e.g. read some books by Leil Lowndes). However, small talk is something you learn the best by practicing so keep that in mind and just practice whenever you can. Good luck Paige!

    -Nathaniel

  • FlawlessConfidence.com

    It’s a good lesson Elaine! Next time you’re (hopefully) going to say hello. Remember that it’s better to regret something you did than to regret something you didn’t do.

    -Nathaniel

  • FlawlessConfidence.com

    Yes, it can work if you constantly think about what other people think about you. Thinking about their needs etc. can help you stop thinking “What they think about me?” and focus on “How can I help them?”. Thanks for your comment Monika!

    -Nathaniel

  • FlawlessConfidence.com

    I read this book and I don’t agree with it. A few years ago I would call myself an introvert (a VERY hardcore introvert). I really didn’t need to meet people. Today I can’t say that – I need to meet with people (almost) every single day. Was I born an introvert or an extrovert?

    I gain energy from both solitude (when I need it) but I also gain energy from socializing with people. Yes, there are people who need more socializing and people who need more solitude but it’s detrimental to use simple labels like introvert/extrovert because they are too simplified. There are very few true introverts and extroverts, most of us are in the middle.

    -Nathaniel

  • FlawlessConfidence.com

    Embrace awkwardness! If you feel uncomfortable, just laugh it off and relax. It takes practice but it can be done – put yourself in uncomfortable/awkward situations on purpose. Confident people never concern themselves about feeling confident. Worrying about being confident will always result in feeling insecure.

    -Nathaniel

  • FlawlessConfidence.com

    Exactly Jelani. As for destination, I believe that it’s a never-ending journey. We should strive to improve ourselves on a daily basis!

    -Nathaniel

  • FlawlessConfidence.com

    If you want to become confident, you have to step outside your comfort zone. It’s not that you aren’t able to talk to strangers or approach beautiful women in the street – it’s that it makes you very uncomfortable or nervous. Once you start doing these things, you’ll notice that you too can do them (even if at first you’re going to tremble and stutter).

    -Nathaniel

  • Guest

    Shyness can very well be compared to a muscle. Work it out daily, and it will be fit for you to use whenever you need it. Stop using it at all for awhile, and it will atrophy completely.

    If you suffer of severe shyness, it’s like having an atrophied “shyness muscle”. You’ll have to start out slowly and progressively, just as the article suggests. When you’ll finally get it in shape, you’ll still have to exercise (though not as much) to keep it that way. In this case, exercising refers to having interactions with people in as many environments and conditions as possible. Go out there and socialize, make nothing “your purpose”. Your only purpose should be to learn something new from every interaction you’re having.

    This is probably one of the best articles on overcoming shyness around.
    Kudos for that!

  • Paige Tomkinson

    Thank you so much for the reply! I didn’t really expect it, and it was a very pleasant, and informative, surprise. I will look for the books you mentioned. Thanks again! Subject: [tinybuddha] Re: Overcoming Shyness: How to Feel More Confident

  • Shy

    Thanks for the reply. I have almos 25 years of experience as a teacher and I still find it very stressful, so practice is not all. And it it were, why is that some performers stop acting e.g. B Streissand?

  • Gary

    Hi Dirk,
    Wonderful article. I was an extrovert up until 12 years back when an incident left me shattered and I not only became depressed but also an introvert. Since that day I have become very shy to approach people. Your post has encouraged me to once again come out of my cocoon and approach people. I’ll start implementing this from today onwards. Somewhere I had read “Shyness is Pride”. Probably reducing our ego’s would help us approach others more easily.

  • FlawlessConfidence.com

    I don’t have experience as a teacher so unfortunately I can’t relate to that. I think that there are simply some things which are always at least a little bit stressful, for instance when you have your first lesson with a new class and you don’t know what to expect. However, I’m sure that after 25 years of experience you don’t feel even 10% as stressed as when you were starting.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that “stressed” doesn’t mean “insecure”. Confident people also feel stressed. You can feel stressed in a traffic jam, when having financial problems etc. and it doesn’t mean that you’re no longer confident.

    As for “why some performers stop acting” – you can simply get tired of it or reward is no longer worth the pain/stress. Just because someone does something well doesn’t mean that he or she still enjoys it.

    -Nathaniel

  • FlawlessConfidence.com

    Different life situations can change us. However, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and you can definitely become a very sociable and confident person once again. You’ve already made a decision so now it’s time to act on it. Good luck Gary!

    As for “Shyness is Pride”. When I was a shy person, I thought that I’m somehow special because I was always a lone wolf, someone who didn’t need other people. In fact, it was only a stupid excuse for my behavior. So yes, reducing your ego can help. Shyness is nothing special and it drastically affects life satisfaction (most shy people don’t even realize how much they lose by being shy).

    -Nathaniel

  • FlawlessConfidence.com

    I believe that once you become very confident (and I’m talking about permanent confidence here, a complete change of your mindset) it’s very hard to “forget” how to be confident and start acting shy again.

    A good example is with approaching women in the street – if you really stop caring about rejection (which is the main reason why guys are afraid to approach women in the street), even if you don’t approach women for a few weeks you will still be able to do it easily when an opportunity presents itself.

    If you have authentic confidence, it’s deeply rooted in you. It’s the same with rich people – take all money away from a self-made man and sooner or later he’ll make it again. But I agree that it all starts with exercising, first you have to build your “self-confidence muscle”.

    -Nathaniel

  • Layla

    I’d caution that yes – you can talk to anyone, but eventually you will have to pick a group of friends… I used to start out every school year strong, then get completely overwhelmed because I had too many people-i-talk-to and no real friends. Finally, I realized this and the first couple weeks of the semester I find myself in a searching phase – what would be the best fit for me, with this slightly different group of people than last year, and how can I engineer a smallish group of friends that I can talk to?

  • Layla

    I recently read that book, and she does mention that it’s a spectrum. I’m an introvert, but also need to meet with people pretty much every day, and I start to feel drained if I spend too much OR too little time around people. I think we both have the same issue with Quiet, and it’s nice to “meet” you :)

  • peacemakerrd58

    Thank you for sharing your insight. ;-)

  • FlawlessConfidence.com

    Talking to anyone doesn’t mean that you don’t have a small group of best friends. It’s very important to find balance – yes, you can talk with everyone but you don’t have to do it all the time. If you want to enjoy a deeper connection, talk with people who you want to get to know better. Anyway, talking with many people increases your chance of getting to know people with whom you really connect.

    -Nathaniel

  • michelle

    I need hep having more confidence

  • http://www.petesapper.com/ Pete Sapper

    I just wrote an article on this topic giving a sneaky little ‘social hack’ that works like a charm, but the best advice I’ve personally ever been given was Tiny Buddha’s #1 Tip – Talk to EVERYBODY. Once you’re able to comfortably do that, the next logical step – learn the lost art of giving compliments. In my opinion, being able to effectively boost other people’s self-esteem is the most powerful way to build one’s own self esteem. Create value for others, receive value naturally as a result.

  • Tasha

    Hi,
    This is a great article.
    In the past year I’ve faced a lot of rejection and the people close to me have lost confidence in me, which has made my confidence hit rock bottom. I have some really important interviews soon that I’ve worked hard for, but am worried when it comes to the interview itself nerves will get the better of me. When I talk to people who are more intellectual than me, I find it really hard to potray my thoughts without feeling.. well, stupid. Any ideas how I could build my confidence so I can talk to interviewers without being a nervous wreck?

  • Dollface

    I agree with you Rach.

  • Luis

    thanks a lot, i am a shy and introvert person and this article i think will help me.

  • howtodevelopselfconfidence.net

    Interesting topic and i completely agree that you have to talk to everyone. Not just the attractive opposite sex, talk to the people in the service industries, your neighbour, join organizations. You have to form a habit!

  • aashka

    hey! firstly, i love to talk but don’t know what to talk about when i meet people..i become blank and afraid..i always feel that im being judged and some people are always behind me..as to when i come, they just start pulling my leg..and when it comes to knowledge, i would like to say that im a topper..bt because of my introvert behavior i feel alone..i used to have that confidence in childhood..i can say that on the basis of my childhood videos..but when i was in 4th, i shifted from usa to india..and i believe that was the turning point of my confidence..sad to say but now im going to join college in a few weeks and im still introvert..but i want to know can i improve my “years of fears” in just a few weeks so that on the first day of college, i make a good impression on strangers (to make “friends forever”) ?? and how?? please i need an urgent reply..

  • aashka

    i would add that i am reading books of louise hay-you can heal your life, esther and jerry hicks-ask and it it given, the secret, etc.. and i have also attended many workshops of mind development like that of jose silva.. so i would love if you could please explain me in a detailed way

  • Sedona Cole

    Great post, thanks for the share. There are no victims. If we are an ‘introvert’, as mentioned below, than we can become a ‘pseudo extrovert’ and not accept fate as set. We are what we think. We have the grace of changing our mind. If a particular behavior is learned, by the simple law of opposites it can be unlearned. I realized this after being diagnosed with lupus, and then told it wasn’t curable. It occurred to me, if my body could ‘create lupus’, then it could un-create it by mere common sense (despite what we are conditioned to believe). I am happy to say I don’t have lupus anymore, as verified by the Mayo clinic. Everyone has the power within to choose and decide. That, is the defining moment that create results. On that note, I have to give a shout out to ‘The Audacity of Success’ when it comes to confidence. It goes deep into authenticity, passion, and inner integrity. When coming from that place, what is there to fear (as that is what shyness ultimately is). God bless! p.s. Excuse the rant. Just had to speak to the comment below ‘introverts are born that way’.

  • Myemanuals.com

    For me, the most important one, is the tip 3 ,
    Practice and Be Persistent. That’s the key, if you are able to achieve that you will be close to overcome your shyness.
    I was a very shy person in the past, now I believe am not anymore, I wrote a book for spanish speakers about my experience. It’s free. I hope can help someone
    superar timidez

  • Jack

    Leonard: Oh, great, well the key to acquiring proficiency in any task is repetition.

    Sheldon: With certain obvious exceptions. Suicide, for example.

  • http://www.dennisnapoli.com/ Speech Therapy Orange County

    A lot of people certainly find it difficult to overcome their shyness. Well, there are several factors as to why a person feels less confident and I guess discovering that factor and doing something about it is the best way for one to overcome such issue. Anyhow, thank you for all these tips you have shared.

  • karma youden

    hi drik
    your post was really nice,i could relate to some of it.
    but it would be great if you could tell me some suggestions after hearing my long complicated self esteem problem. i am a very introvert and shy person with very minimal self esteem because of which i ended up being lone some, like:
    i cant put my foot down even if the other person is walking all over me
    when some body ironically criticizes me with laugh or smile i just can’t show them that i am not liking it.
    my colleagues take advantage of my politeness and low self esteem by saying what not because they know that i wont say anything,
    i just cant be rude and put my foot down and keeping thinking about it till my head pains. i just cant be like others no matter how much i try. i think it came from my too disciplined family to be this way but what ever it is please help me out..if you have a good suggestion

  • Kay

    Good article and wonderful tips to overcome shyness. I am 24 yrs old, and I think i am still a shy person and afraid to talk with stranger, But after reading your article , I found lots of area to improve myself.
    Thanks for sharing these wonderful valuable tips.

  • Audrey

    This is great advice, it’s nice to hear it from somebody who has previously had a problem with shyness.

    Sorry to hear that Youden, I also used to have a problem expressing my emotions and I still do from time to time. The trick is to learn to learn to love yourself. (Trust me, I know this is way easier said then done, it takes time)

    If you’re still having problems with shyness, I highly recommend you check out: http://www.TheConfidenceTricks.com

    All the best.

  • Henry

    Great post and makes it crystal clear what I need to be doing more. Generally speaking, I wouldn’t say my friends or colleagues would describe me as shy. For me, I’ve long had a tendency to follow that internal dialogue telling me to reverse out of an encounter; particularly if it’s a girl you like. It’s now a matter of caring less about who they are and suppressing any inner resilience. Thanks again!

  • rathi

    i too agree with you rach .you are so correct