“Never assume that loud is strong and quiet is weak.” ~Unknown
This quote seems counterintuitive, right?
For many years, I, too, scoffed at the idea.
Having dealt with crippling shyness throughout my life, I know firsthand what it’s like to feel weak, powerless, and trapped because of it.
As a child, I remember clinging to my mom’s leg and using her body to hide from strangers. Then, as I got older, this shy behavior manifested into a fear of speaking my mind, interacting with others, putting myself out there, and so on and so forth.
My quiet and timid nature led to me being known as “the shy girl,” a label that followed me through my formative years and made me feel stuck inside a box of limitations throughout my adult life.
During these years, my shyness did nothing but hold me back from being who I wanted to be. It felt like a dark cloud hanging over me, and I couldn’t escape.
Until, one day, I realized that being shy got me nowhere. I was living a life of loneliness and fear where I had no close friends, no social life, and no happiness.
I refused to allow myself to fall victim to being shy. So I chose to do something about it.
Looking back, it’s been a long road to get where I am today, but I can honestly say that I’m a stronger person because of what I went through as a result of all of it. I’m thankful I went through the challenges that come with being a shy person because it forced me to make a choice: shrink or grow.
So if you, too, are dealing with debilitating shyness, here are some things that may help.
Feeling stuck? Then it’s time to shake things up.
If you’re extremely shy then, chances are, you’re scared to put yourself out there. And why would you? Especially when your comfort zone is just so comfortable.
I know what that’s like because I’ve been there myself. It’s easier to live your life within the confines of what’s familiar because there are no risks and no surprises. But there’s also nothing to be gained from an unchallenged life.
From a young age, I recognized that my big ambitions were tethered on a short leash because of my shy nature. I was never going to reach any of my goals if I kept living my life in fear. And that thought alone scared me more than the thought of putting myself out there.
For that reason, I saw my transition from middle school student to high school freshman as an opportunity for a fresh start. I knew I wanted to do something I never had the guts to do before.
So I decided to take a theater class offered by my school. I saw it as the perfect challenge because, not only was it completely out of character, the mere thought of performing on stage terrified me.
What better way to help me break out of my shell than taking a class that involves speaking in front of an audience?
Skipping ahead to my first performance, I remember my face being beet red, my palms were sweaty, my heart was beating out of my chest, and my anxiety was through the roof. I was in fight-or-flight mode and, and while I would normally choose flight, this time I was determined to fight throughout.
At the end of the performance, I felt an amazing rush. It didn’t matter how I did or what people thought. All that mattered is that I pushed through my fears and did it.
I saw this as a huge victory in the battle against my shyness.
So if you want to take a step toward overcoming your shyness, then it’s time to step outside of your comfort zone. Do something that scares you. Think of an activity you’ve always wanted to do but never had the guts to try and start there.
It’s terrifying, and chances are you’ll second-guess yourself throughout the entire process, but what you feel once you get through it will make all of the anxiety worth it in the end.
Don’t give up.
While theater classes helped me learn to face some of the challenges that came with my shyness, it wasn’t until college where I really broke out of my shell.
As you can probably imagine, social situations were a nightmare for me because of how shy I was around others. I didn’t know how to connect with people and, more importantly, I was scared to try.
My life up to this point consisted of a nonexistent social life and friends who were mostly just classmates or acquaintances.
However, that changed when I took a job at a local restaurant.
At first, I despised the job. Everyone seemed so close and I felt like I didn’t fit in, which is why, within the first week, I wanted nothing more than to give up and quit
All of my life I’ve felt like an outsider, so I assumed that this would be no different. Despite that feeling, though, something told me that I needed to stick it out and stay.
So I did. And it paid off.
Over the next few months, I became more comfortable talking to my coworkers, which turned into spending time together on lunch breaks and then getting together after work hours. Pretty soon, these people who were once nothing more than strangers to me became the friends I had longed for throughout my life.
Because I stuck it out and pushed through the discomfort and fear, I was no longer an outsider and I loved my job. It was a complete 180 from where I was when I first started working there, and all it took was patience and effort.
This experience taught me that anything worth having takes persistence. A self-defeating attitude will only keep you trapped within the limitations of your shy tendencies.
If I had given up, I would have never met the people who became my closest friends, and still are more than a decade later.
So when the going gets tough, dig deep and push through it. Changing a pattern like shyness is no easy task, but if you don’t give up, you could end up with something amazing.
Practice makes perfect.
Change doesn’t happen overnight.
In order to break away from your shy tendencies, you need to do more of what gets you out of your comfort zone.
For me, that’s socializing.
Because of my shy, introverted nature, I’m typically more comfortable being by myself and, as a result, I tend to withdraw from others.
Yet, despite those tendencies, deep down, I’ve always wanted to be a social person, somebody who’s confident in social situations and has no problem approaching people.
So I decided that I was going to practice.
Coincidentally, all of this took place after my twenty-first birthday, so the nights out on the town with my friends became a way for me to practice my social skills.
I’ll admit, at first I felt extremely awkward and uncomfortable. In the presence of large crowds, I would typically shrink down and avoid talking to others. Because these skills didn’t come naturally for me, it took some time for me to break away from those habits, but eventually, I did.
I continued to push myself to talk to strangers whenever I would go out with my friends. Granted, this was a lot easier considering that the people I spoke to were typically a few drinks in, but it still did the job.
Pretty soon, the thought of approaching someone and having a conversation wasn’t as scary as it once was in the past. In fact, I actually started to enjoy it.
I like to think of social skills like a muscle in the body. It may start out weak and exercising it can be painful, but the more you work out that muscle, the more it grows and the easier the exercise gets.
Shyness can be debilitating if you let it take over your life. So practice socializing, having conversations, approaching people and anything else your shyness holds you back from doing. While it can seem impossible to overcome at times, with practice, you can come out on top.
If I can do it, you can too.
After spending most of my life feeling like a victim to my shyness, I now appreciate that it made me stronger. That’s because, as a shy person, it takes so much more effort and energy to put yourself out there. It’s going against familiar habits and causing friction that, hopefully, results in change.
It’s easy to succumb to shyness, to stay within your comfort zone, and to be controlled by fear. And anyone who has pushed through and challenged those tendencies in order to live a fulfilled life knows that it takes a tremendous amount of work. It’s a constant uphill battle, but it does get easier if you’re willing to push through.
So challenge yourself, don’t give up and practice.
It’s time to own your shyness instead of letting it own you.
About Sonya Barrett
Sonya is a spiritual wellness blogger who helps millennials use mindfulness to thrive in today's busy world. Sign up for her free guide the Worry Detox for instant access to tips that add more peace and calm to your daily life.