“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