Many of my friends don’t believe me when I say this but I used to be a VERY SHY PERSON. I felt uncomfortable socialising and preferred to keep quiet with my book in a corner of the room.
At least, that’s how my family members saw me. Hanging out with my friends was another world.
Hanging out with my friends was like being in a parallel universe. I would jump around and be a chatterbox.
(Now that I think about it, I may have been shy intentionally, i.e. I’d be shy whenever it suited me.)
However, there are certain situations, for example starting university, where you want to be outgoing and friendly to potential friends and yet… you just can’t seem to do anything. You’re just frozen, in a crowd, hoping someone makes the first move instead.
Or maybe you have this crush on this person, but… suddenly, you don’t know how to talk.
It sucks being shy. But it’s not a trait that’s ingrained in your personality, so it’s possible for you to learn social skills and be good at them. By the way, being an introvert is a different matter. You can be an introvert and still be great at socialising.
However, this won’t happen overnight.
It takes time, practice and courage.
So how do you get over being shy?
Since this is a student blog, I’m going to focus my examples on university life situations, but just like my post on relationship advice, it can also apply to anyone at any stage in life.
As I’ve mentioned above, shyness is often an unconscious choice. It could be a reaction to new situations, protecting you from potential psychological risks like being humiliated or weird.
Think about it for a second.
It’s scary to know that what you say could impact people’s impression of you for the rest of their lives. Isn’t that why we tend to be shy in social situations?
Once you realise that shyness is not one of your inbuilt personality traits, it’ll be easier for you to get over it.
As I said before, there’s no quick magical way to get over being shy. It’s a step-by-step process, and if you keep at it, you’ll soon face social situations like you’ve never done before.
Let’s start with practising your social skills.
This part is quite similar to the one in my advice post on making friends at university: start by greeting people you meet. Say ‘hi’ to students, security guards, lecturers, cleaners. Smile. Wave, if you want to.
It seems like an insignificant step, but it makes a difference. It’s so simple, yet it allows you to do something your shyness will often not let you do; it compels you to make eye-contact with acquaintances or strangers and speak to them.
The most intimidating challenge I made up to overcome my shyness in my first semester was to eat alone in a restaurant. Yep.
As a shy introvert, this was really challenging, and even if I don’t consider myself to be shy anymore, I still find it intimidating.
But I did it anyways. I still do it from time to time, and to be honest I wish I did it more often because, university advice, you won’t always have someone to accompany you when you’re dying to try out that new place in town.
Your first goal to get over being shy could be anything. Make it a challenge to say ‘hi’ to your crush. Make it a challenge to call the delivery guy instead of letting your friends do it.
Make it a challenge to introduce yourself to the person next to you in class. Then, start a conversation with that person (discreetly).
Take it step by step.
What’s your goal?
What’s the point of overcoming your shyness? Why are you trying so hard to be social?
Is it because you’re tired of being left behind? Is it because you’ve had enough of being single? Is it because you want to expand your professional network?
Mine was not the best example, but I wanted to get out of my comfort zone as soon as possible to prove to my parents that I could make it on my own abroad.
As long as I reminded myself the core reasons I was trying to get over being shy, I would be more motivated to break the habit.
That’s also how you can find new ideas to break the ice in your unique situation.
I was well-above overcoming my shyness until something unexpected put me back to square one. Yes, as much as shyness is a habit you can break, it can also be a habit you relapse into. Being in university or going into adulthood is not easy. One day I was an outgoing girl, and the next, I was someone that would be afraid of meeting anyone. My confidence, that I had built while I was overcoming my shyness, fell down to zero. I couldn’t look at anyone in the eye. I couldn’t make conversations anymore. I didn’t want to. What had happened hadn’t been something traumatising; to skip the details, let’s just say it was a broken friendship. Yet, shyness is so volatile. It fluctuates, like moods.
Eventually, I got back up by building my social skills all over again. It’s painful to go through that process again, but it was the thing to do.
In the end, getting over being shy is going to take time; it’s going to be hard. But whatever happens, remember why you want to do this in the first place.
What’s your reason for overcoming shyness? Let me know in the comments below!
D. K. Waye.