Being shy is not something to be embarrassed about. It also does not have to be something that dictates your social life, your dating skills or your relationships.
People often confuse shyness with having an introvert personality and some even think that overcoming either of these is an insurmountable challenge. This is not the case.
This article will explain how shyness isn’t necessarily a bad thing and provide some tips on how to overcome it. I will relate it to my own experiences of going from notably shy and reserved in my youth, to confident and comfortable in any social scenario… 🙂
Introvert and extrovert personality types:
Most people lean towards one of two personality types, introvert or extrovert, and you can be equally shy in either case.
There are many misconceptions as to what exactly an introvert is. People often mistakenly think of an introvert as a social recluse, one who despises and avoids social interaction wherever possible.
An introvert is simply someone who draws their energy, thoughts and feelings from their inner world and is decidedly selective in their social endeavours.
An extrovert is typically more gregarious, outspoken and consistently fond of the company of others.
It is a combination of these contrasting traits that gives the impression that an introvert is also shy by default.
The difference between being an introvert and being shy:
The terms “introvert” and “shy” often get used interchangeably but there is a key distinction between the two.
Shyness is a learnt behaviour formed from beliefs and experiences, usually during childhood. In a general sense, shyness is a fear of social interactions. In comparison, introversion is merely an internal preference towards social interactions.
One of the main barriers to overcoming shyness is being labelled, by others and also by ourselves. Constantly reaffirming that you are “shy” only validates the associated beliefs and behaviours, especially when faced with a social situation where that shyness is a conscious hindrance.
Due to the social stigma against introversion and shyness, I generally recommend against purposefully stating that you are “shy”. If you embrace the way you are without using it as a restriction, you can take small steps over time to change the aspects that are undesirable to you.
Going from shy to sociable:
This is exactly how I overcame the shyness I possessed. I made small, manageable and conscious steps as often as possible, starting with talking to strangers regularly and getting more involved at social gatherings. As experience and confidence grows, shyness becomes something that you are completely in control of: you can choose when and with whom to interact with, regardless of whether you are an introvert or an extrovert.
Even now I would class myself as leaning towards the introvert side of the personality scale. I enjoy meeting people, making friends and interacting with others but I also enjoy my own quiet time and I am not particularly brazen in social environments. This can sometimes be viewed as shyness to outsiders and that’s fine.
This may seem rather surprising for someone who has worked predominantly as a dating coach for so many years and indeed I do have a style that is unique and renowned amongst fellow relationship and dating coaches.
Your personality type does not have to directly affect your dating life and relationships; it will just modify your approach to them!
Fear and ego in shyness:
It is counter-intuitive to think of the ego as something associated with shyness but that is actually what it is. Shyness is an ego-protection mechanism born out of fear and presumption.
Another term that describes this internal struggle is outcome dependence. Outcome dependence as described here is the fear of repercussions as a result of specific social interactions. If you want to be fully comfortable and confident in any social interaction, as well as being able to approach and start a conversation with anyone that you choose to, then you must start refraining from assuming, pre-empting or hoping for a specific outcome. Try to be in the moment whenever possible.
An article that discusses this aspect of shyness and how to establish a proactive mindset towards being less shy is the popular article, ‘Dealing with approach anxiety’.
Working with your shyness:
You can be shy and still have adept social skills; you just have to work to your strengths.
For example, whenever I attend a party or other social venue, I am much more interested in connecting with a chosen few, rather than be seen as a raucous socialite. I would rather make a deep and lasting impression with one person than be casually remembered by everyone.
If you are shy, forget about the big picture and how you appear to everyone else and start by becoming more confident talking to less threatening or domineering people. It actually makes the other person value the interaction if they assume you are shy but you have started to get to know each other anyway.
Once you start making sincere connections with even a few people, it doesn’t take long for that to transpire into your social life in general, as well as becoming more pragmatic in developing fulfilling relationships.
Being a storyteller and being a good listener:
Storytelling is something that is touted as being essential to creating attraction and lasting memories with the people you meet. Whilst I acknowledge that being able to hold and engage a group with a story is a great skill to have, it is not as imperative as some people make out.
I am not the greatest storyteller. Yes I do have lots of stories but I tend to keep them short and interactive, rather than long and emotive. I much prefer encouraging others to tell their stories and to interact through those. If you are shy you can probably relate to this.
The most important thing is to learn to be socially aware, so that you can sense when someone is feeling awkward or uneasy. This will only be perfected through experience. Small talk and other related social norms were created for this very reason. The last thing you want is for people to misinterpret any shyness you have as disinterest or rudeness, so use simple conversation pieces to lead into more meaningful rapport at a later stage.
Listening intently and encouraging others to talk whilst showing full interest is an easy first step to overcoming shyness.
I hope this article has been useful and interesting and I’d love to hear from anyone who feels that they are an introvert, an extrovert or particularly shy, or if you have had to deal with shyness in the past.