8 Simple Steps To Overcome Shyness

By Celestine Chua

August 30, 2010   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Are you a shy person? Shyness is simply a feeling of nervousness or awkwardness when around other people. No matter who you are, each of us have our times when we feel shy. For example, when you’re new on your first day at work, when you’re at a party and everyone is a complete stranger, when you’re with someone you are attracted to, when you’re asked to speak in front of a huge audience, etc.

When we’re caught in a state of shyness, most of us will take on certain actions to “protect” ourselves. Some of us become reclusive. Some of us turn into introverts. And some of us try to evade the situation altogether. While these actions make you feel “safe”, doing them aren’t exactly constructive. For example, you can hide from an awkward situation, but you gain nothing out of it except for self-perceived safety. While you can keep turning down social invitations and avoid strangers, at the end of the day you’ll still be the same person. You’ll not be able to grow as a person nor build new social connections.

So rather than avoid such situations, why not work on addressing your shyness instead? There are times when I feel shy, and when that happens I confront the feeling, address it and move boldly inline with my desires. I find that whenever I do that, the experience is so much more fruitful. Instead of being dictated by your shyness, you can now be empowered to make your own decisions, to say what’s on your mind, and to be who you really are. Overcoming your shyness isn’t impossible – it’s really all a matter of taking the right steps. Here, I’ll share with you 8 simple steps to overcome your shyness and emerge an empowered self:

  1. Know what’s causing the shyness
    What are the situations that trigger your shyness? Despite what you may think, you’re not shy all the time. For example, when you’re with your best friend, you’re probably very open and comfortable being yourself. Your shyness only emerges when you’re in certain situations.

Start off by being aware of what’s causing the shyness. Identify 5 incidences from the past where you felt shy. It can be when you’re alone with a stranger, whenever a certain topic is being discussed, when you’re with a large crowd, and so on. Then, analyze these situations. What is it about these situations that’s causing you to feel shy? Realize that shyness is the effect of feeling insecure. If you can identify what you’re feeling insecure about, you can then take action on it.


  • Improve on your areas of insecurity
    After identifying your areas of insecurity, the next step is to take action on them. For example, perhaps you are shy when it comes to presentations at work. If that’s the case, then work on improving your presentation skills! Practice doing it again and again. Invest your 10,000 hours of hard work – it’s been said that 10,000 hours is the average time experts spend to be the best at their skills. As you spend more time on areas you’re insecure about, your shyness will naturally dissipate.


Taking myself as an example, I used to be fearful of public speaking when I was young. However when I went into university, I gained more experience in public speaking through class presentations. Later on when I went to corporate work, I was doing it on weekly basis. As I did it more regularly, I became better in presenting, and the fear just disappeared. Today, I conduct training workshops at least once a month for my personal development business, and it’s already part of my routine. While I definitely have not spent 10,000 hours speaking to date, it’s clear that the time I spent speaking from before has made me more proficient in speaking, which in turn addressed my shyness in the area.


  • Identify your strengths
    Many of us tend to focus on what we’re not good at, rather than recognize what we are good at. As a result, we feel awkward around others, because we feel there’s nothing to impressive about ourselves. It’s time to stop selling yourself short and start focusing on your strengths.


What are you good at? What are your past achievements? What are things you’ve done that you are really proud of? Spend some time to recognize them. You’ll be surprised to see the huge list of things you are good at. There are so many great things about yourself that you’ve become blind to because you’re took them for granted. Knowing your strengths helps you to be more confident of yourself. Remember, all of us are true winners in our own right.


  • Objectify the situation
    Many people worry too much about what others think about them. Whenever I work with clients on building their self-confidence, it’s always invariably linked with being afraid of what someone else thinks of them or will think of them. They don’t want to do X because they’re afraid what person Y will say. They are at a loss of words with Y because they’re afraid what Y will think of their thoughts.


But the funny thing is, it’s just in your mind. Most people are actually too busy thinking about themselves to pay attention to what you’re doing or not doing. While you’re worrying about your behavior, others are actually too busy worrying about their behaviors and opinions of themselves to think about what you’re doing! Hence, there’s nothing to feel shy about. Your shyness is merely a result of over scrutinizing yourself – of which you’re the only person who does that. When you take an objective viewpoint, it becomes clear your shyness is unfounded. Rather than focus on an disempowering emotion, you can now focus on what you want to achieve.


  • Have a role model
    Can you think of someone you know (whether a friend or a famous person) who is very confident, assured and outgoing? Use the person as your role model. By identifying a real life person who is not bounded by shyness, it becomes easy for you to break through the confines of shyness, because there is a reference point. Whenever you feel shy, ask yourself what that person will do/say in this situation. Then, do that. Soon, it becomes second nature to you to behave in that manner.



  • Ask questions
    Asking questions is a simple trick I discovered that works very well. Sometimes, you may feel awkward because you don’t know what to say/do. If so, just ask a question to the other party. For example, it can be a simple question like “What do you think about this?” or “Why do you say that?” or “Can you tell me more about yourself?” In doing so, it immediately shifts the attention from you to the other party. As the other person gathers his/her thoughts and answers your question, you can take the time to regroup and compose yourself. By the time he/she finishes speaking, you’ll be in a good position to continue the interaction.



  • Observe how others interact
    A great way to overcome shyness is to observe how others around you act. Reduce the time you spend worrying about how others perceive you (again, remember it’s all in your mind) and look outward at how others conduct themselves socially. What do they say? How do they act? What can you learn from them? How can you apply these learnings to your future interactions?



  • Take the first step
    While it may seem counter-intuitive, taking the 1st step actually helps you overcome your shyness. Firstly, when you consciously take action, it’s a personal testament that you have personal power over the situation. Secondly, by first taking action, you experience the positive benefits of your actions, which sets in place a forward momentum. For example when I run my workshops, I notice that the participants who are the 1st to introduce themselves end up being the most vocal and active participants for the whole workshop, even though I present everyone with the same opportunity to speak.


Your first step needn’t be complicated – it can just be going up and saying hi. Once you take the small step forward, the rest will follow in its stead.

How can you apply the 8 steps above to overcome your shyness? Feel free to share in the comments area.

Written on 8/30/2010 by Celestine Chua. Celestine writes at Personal Excellence, where she shares her best advice on how to achieve personal excellence and live your best life. Get her RSS feed directly and add her on Twitter @celestinechua. If you like this article, you will enjoy one of her top articles: 101 Things To Do Before You Die.

Photo Credit: andriux-uk


Celestine Chua

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