When feeling timid or nervous on the edge of a crowded room, the bulk of us wish we knew how to get over our shyness. It's never a fun feeling sitting uncomfortably on a couch and peeling the label off if your beer as everyone else is having an awesome time around you. It's not necessarily that you're lacking self-esteem, but there's this hesitation in confidence when it comes to knee-jerk wallflower ways. As in, you begin to measure yourself according to other people's standards and assume, in your head, that you probably don't measure up. So why bother speaking to begin with?
As a teenager, I used to be painfully shy and would have this inner monologue with myself where I was convinced I brought nothing worthwhile into a conversation and was better off manning the punch station like a teen-movie loser. But once I taught myself that — no — I've actually got loads to say and enjoy learning about other people's stories, that painful shyness ebbed into uncomfortable shyness and flowed into moderate nervousness. Five years later, eight out of 10 times I'm the first one barreling up to you. My punch bowl days are gone.
And that's because being shy is nothing but a habit you need to break. If you're ready to do just that, here are seven ways to get over your shyness!
1. Don't Hide Behind The Label
When you label yourself as shy, there's a tendancy there to hide behind the statement. As in, you're shy so you might as well not go up to that person and start chatting because that would be so out of character. But that's a crutch, and you don't need one personality trait to dictate how you experience the world.
Lolly Daskal, president of leadership development firm Lead From Within and contributor to entrepreneur site Inc, advised, "Don't label yourself as shy — or as anything. Let yourself be defined as a unique individual, not a single trait." Just don't let yourself identify with the word. You might be more reserved and hesitant when it comes to approaching people, but don't do the equivalent of hiding behind your mom's skirts with the word.
2. Move The Concern Onto Others, Not Yourself
We feel shy a lot of the times because we're nervous of how others will perceive us. But if you become more interested in what others could offer you — as in, what they'll talk about and what stories they'll share and what great company they'll be — then you're moving that concern of how you'll be perceived onto them. How will you like them? And since you're a nice person, you're going to go in assuming they'll be amazing.
Dr. Lickerman at Psychology Today shared, "The more compassion I found myself feeling for other people, the less I become concerned about how they saw me—not because I no longer cared how they saw me, but rather because I was paying less attention to it." Distract yourself by putting the responsibility of impressing people onto those in the room with you, not taking it on your own shoulders.
3. Keep In Mind What You Bring To The Table
Shyness is linked with a lack of self confidence, so to break the habit of hanging back and being a wall flower, realize all that you bring to the table. Being in a conversation with you is awesome, and you have a lot to contribute. Once you realize that, why wouldn't you want to go and share your thoughts and ideas with people and friends in a room?
Daskal encouraged, "Make a list of all your positive qualities...and read or recite it when you're feeling insecure. Let it remind you how much you have to offer." We all have stories that can inspire and opinions that could make others think, so why waste time pretending that we don't? Go offer them to those in the room with you.
4. Treat It Like A Test You're Going To Ace
Being shy is a habit, and if you're serious about breaking it see moments of hesitation and nerves as tests you need to ace. Lifestyle writer Adam Dachis at Life Hacker explained, "This fear of rejection is normal. Everyone shies away and has moments, or extended moments, of self-doubt. But the fear is also a test, it means you are onto something and you should pay attention to it and not shy away."
Lean into the knee-jerk reaction of being scared and wanting to shy away, and tell yourself if you ever want to change you need to start. Acknowledge you're uncomfortable, but go and do it anyway. Each time that happens it's a test, and you need to at least try and ace it.
5. Try To Surround Yourself With Personalities You Admire
I have this one friend that reminds me of a sunbeam: She's warm and friendly and has this ready laugh that makes you feel like you're the most hilarious person in the tristate area. And every time I'm with her, I feel myself matching her energetic, open personality. Maybe not at the same wattage, but it's almost impossible to stay shy and reserved in her presence.
Surround yourself with those kind of people. Whether it's in real life, podcasts, or videos, surround yourself with people that have the type of personality and frankness that you hope to have. They're rub off on you.
Daskal agreed, "Give your time to the people in your life who are responsive, warm, and encouraging." Let their warmth influence you.
6. Break The Habit
Like I mentioned before, being shy is just a habit. If you can beeline for the table with the chip dip every time you enter a party instead of the hub in the middle of the room, then you can choose to go against that instinct and try something else. It'll be hard, but if you make an effort every day to do something small that goes against your shy tendencies, then you'll start changing your reactions.
Dachis "Breaking a bad habit just involves forming a better one in its place, so make an effort every day to do something you'd otherwise avoid because you feel shy." It'll be tough, uncomfortable work, but if you want to change you need to change.
7. Name Your Insecurities And Lean Into Them
Sometimes creating a strategy of attack is the best way. If you really like to over think things and focus on the worst-case scenarios of what would happen if you approached someone at an event or bar, then plan for those worst case scenarios. That way you'll know what to do when it goes downhill, because you will try to talk to someone tonight. Daskal offered, "Make a list of all your jitters and worries. Name them, plan how you're going to eliminate them, and move forward."
Once you have a plan in place, follow it like a to-do list. Have your rejection-recovery plans, have your brave action steps (ex: Go talk to at least three strangers at the party, say hello to one person at the bus stop,) and stick with it. After long, your habit of shyness will begin to wan into a habit of openness.