Overcoming shyness


Just believe in yourself

Genetic or environmental?

I heard or read somewhere that extreme shyness is part genetic and partly due to your environment. Apparently, if both of your parents are shy, having a disposition to shyness is very high.

On the other hand, if you are very isolated, don’t have a chance to socialize when you are young or receive negative feedback as a child, you might also be very shy.

Accordingly to Bernardo J. Carducci: “shyness is characterized by three major features: excessive self-consciousness, excessive negative self-evaluation, and excessive negative self-preoccupation.” Reference: www.psychologytoday.com

Based on Carducci’s quote, you would figure that shyness can be modified. We are not destined to view ourselves negatively.

There is an old Chinese saying that your character at age 2 is your character at age 80 (or something along that line anyway). So, if you are a super-shy child, does that mean that you will remain super-shy as an adult? Maybe or maybe not. You are not destined to be shy, because as you age, your life experiences change and shape you differently.

Problem with society

I studied sociology in University. Society likes to create categories. This way, people can easily group and stereotype people. People often treat shyness as a disease. Teachers repeatedly tell your parents that you are too shy and need to come out of your shell. Based on informal surveys that I heard about, those who speak out loud and often are viewed as ‘smarter’ than those who do not. It is not true, but people generally cannot tell what you are thinking unless you speak up.

Shy or introvert?

I prefer to call myself an introvert.

When I was young, I was so painfully shy. I hid behind my parents’ legs. I would never initiate a conversation with anyone. I would say a few words if spoken to. As I child, I feared standing up in front of the class for show-and-tell and speeches, and to this day, I still dislike big groups and public speaking. Every elementary school report card would say something like, Monica’s so shy. She needs to participate more and share with the class. Yaddy-da, talk to the hand…

Yet, there has always been a part of me that is fearless and gutsy. I like to keep it light and push myself for fun. To this day, many people do not believe that I am an introvert, because, with the right people, I can talk non-stop (especially about things that I am passionate about). But at the end of the day, I would rather read or write a good book, than talk.

Here are some tips to help get you ‘out of your shell’:

  1. In a large group situation, just talk to individuals instead of larger groups. I hate big groups. Even in my twenties, I was invited to a dinner party with my ex-BF’s siblings and other family members which I never met. I was so overwhelmed because they were not particularly friendly, so I just spent a few minutes with each person. The feedback I got from my ex-BF later, was that his brother was so impressed that I took the time to talk to everyone. Ha! I managed to hide my shyness bigtime!
  2. Get outside of your comfort zone. Give yourself tiny challenges such as saying hello to someone you don’t know. Sometimes others are ‘shy’ too until you break the ice. I have made many friends using this technique.
  3. Find something that you are passionate about and find others that enjoy your passion as well. Join a cooking class, a painting class, a hiking group, for example.
  4. Believe in yourself. Never let others tell you that you are not good enough.
  5. Take a deep breath. I was all panicked about the speech segment of my recent book launch. I could feel my heart rate go up just thinking about it. I never spoke into a microphone (except when I was a youngster making a homemade story with my sister on the tape recorder), because I don’t like to hear myself speak. Anyway, long story short, I did it. And actually, quite enjoyed it! When is my next speech?

In this thing called life, you just have to “own it”. Be yourself but also have fun with yourself.