How I Was Able To Beat Shyness.
Shyness...I learned, is not something you GROW OUT OF.......
or medicate out of.
Shyness, I learned, is an issue that is not resolved by nature or external factors as medication. The solution involves personal inner-growth requiring dedication and action of simple social-building steps from the individual to mentally and emotionally guide the individual to progress out of the state of shyness and into a more sociable existence.
Shyness for the most part, is a psychological developmental snag that requires the learning of basic confidence-building steps of interactions with known acquaintances, as well as, strangers. Partaking in simple exercises of gradual interactions with others can yield great results, quickly.
Kids and young teens are most prone to social anxiety as they are still learning communication and social skills but with some adult attention and guidance, new skills and the opportunity to express themselves in a safe environment can quickly transition a shy kid or teen into a more confident, communicative person.
As a kid, I was always shy. I remember my mom explaining to others that I was shy and later she would explain to me, that this was something I would simply grow out of.
So, I waited.....
and I grew....
but still remained shy into my teenage years.
Shyness is an emotionally painful issue for those trapped in the bondage of isolation and silence. I do believe as human beings, we all need human interaction with others outside of home and family. We may all have different levels of how much socializing we enjoy and need but for the most part, my core belief is that people are more fulfilled in life by having positive interactions with others, than being alone; positive human interaction is a critical key to happiness.
As we move past our obstacles, I find it amazing, as human beings, how malleable we are. Once we can achieve success to overcome an obstacle, once we are transformed, how we can easily forget the struggle that once consumed us. As an adult, I had completely forgotten all about my shy past, until recently, I came upon a person's painful experience of being shy. As I read this person's first hand account, I was immediately transported back into time....my past suddenly opened up from the depths of my mind, the all but forgotten pain, insecurity and loneliness of a girl who was once plagued by ACUTE SHYNESS came crashing back to me.
Being who I am today, to look back on my incredibly shy past, it now seems like a lifetime ago, lived from another world by another person, but as my mind drifts back in time, the feelings of emotional pain and isolation, the memory becomes vivid, as if I had just experienced it yesterday.
I know how HARD it is to live a life being SHY. It's so difficult struggling from moment to moment, day after day with debilitating shyness, it takes over every facet of your life.
I'm here to tell you GOOD NEWS!
Having come from it, now that I am on the other side of it, I must state that it is actually more difficult to live in the confines of SHYNESS, than to endure the short term process of actually moving through it.
As a young teenager, my shyness had come to a point that it prevented me from making friends. When friends leave your life, one must be able to replace them otherwise, life becomes a deserted island of isolation amongst a crowd of people.
At around 12, one of my best friends moved, then at 14, my other friend started socializing with a deviant group of girls, didn't attend school much after that and eventually dropped out of school altogether. I had lost my two best friends at a critical time in life.
I was just turning 15, entering High School and found myself friendless. I was very sociable with my former friends, very comfortable in our friendships which were formed at such an early age, I couldn't even remember the day I met them. For some reason, although my existing friendships had been mutually rewarding, I had no clue as to how to form new ones. I felt lost. As a teenager, I knew I had to find a way out of my hell but I just didn't know how. How do I even begin?
I desperately wanted friends but the few kids I did know in school were not good for me, a really rough crowd, acting way beyond their 15-16 years but they were all I knew. I had to somehow get into another 'click' of teenage girls, girls that were behaving within the norm of society at their normal age range level - still innocent, the type of girls who would be better for me and my future.
The problem was, I had no idea how to start forming new relationships in a world of teens already set into their own social clicks.
Logically, I realized I could not longer sit back and wait until my shyness subsided. The truth was the "shyness" aspect of me had gone on for fifteen years and I was already tired of it.
I just didn't know how to start making new friends, especially outside of the existing group. Fifteen was a very difficult and awkward age to start making friends again.
Making new friends seemed like an impossibility, I just didn't know where to begin. I didn't know what to do and how to do it. The situation had me psychologically overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted.
I prayed and trusted GOD to show me the way.
One night I was lying in bed reading a woman's magazine my Mom had picked up.
There was a small article on how to get over being shy. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't turn to the article fast enough. I read it and although I had to follow the instructions, I decided I was willing to give it a try. As I read the article, I came to the conclusion that I had to follow the plan. I could no longer fool myself into still believing I would someday simply "grow out of" being shy. As I read, I realized I had to mentally grow - I had to stretch my mind.
I never saved the article and I read it over 30 years ago (Yikes!) therefore, I can now only surmise what I remember from the article and have taken the liberty to add in some new information from my own personal experience.
According to the author, it would require three or so steps....
The best way out of shyness is to trick yourself out of it. Okay, I thought, I already like the uniqueness of it.... I continued reading.
STEP 1: Forget about who you think you are right now.
(Hmm...I smiled and thought to myself "Now, there's a step that seems too good to be true")
STEP 2: Who do you choose to be? (This sounds interesting..)
Each of us could, without much thought, think of someone we know who is outgoing with an ideal personality.
Take a piece of paper and pen and write down those traits this ideal person has and /or those you wish you had.
Your Target Group and Your Current Status - Building the Bridge.
Also in Step 2, deciding who you want to be is also contingent upon, what kind of friends you want. Not only are you advancing in communication with others but you may also be changing or creating a new style of who you want to become, the highest image of yourself. The only way to better yourself, is to partake in some goal setting.
You must feel comfortable about the person you are presenting to others in order to feel comfortably communicating with them. If you hate the way you look, it will be harder to pretend to have confidence. Find a way to like yourself and if some changes need to be made, start taking inventory. The goal is to be comfortable with presenting yourself to others. Either way, you must find out how to best like yourself. You must take inventory of who you are now and who you would like to become - the best future image of yourself.
A) Goal Group: Decide which core group of friends would be ideal for you. Think it through. Start observing people and their behavior, which friends would make you the happiest? What are they like? How do they dress? Do they have their own unique style? What social groups do they belong to?
B) Current State: Now, look at your current state. Who are you, right now at the present moment? Take inventory of your person in both physical and mental form. What is your current hairstyle? Hygiene etc.? How do you speak?
C) Changes To Be Made. Now, what changes do you need to make to help you achieve your personal goals and that to achieve the goal of belonging to your goal group? Some changes will be easy and other goals will be more difficult and may fall into long term goals. Goals should be listed as either short term or long term and can then be broken down into daily, weekly, monthly and even annual depending on how much work, money and effort needs to be put forth to achieve each goal. Be reasonable!
The first week might be as simple as getting a new haircut, changing your makeup and the way you apply it etc.
STEP 3: Acting Class.
Becoming Someone Else- That Outgoing Person You Know and Wish You Could Be, You Will Now Become.
On your first day, you can start with a simple act. Depending on the scale of one’s shyness, if you feel you are at a basic level, you can simply start out by just asking a stranger a simple question.
Personally, I feel that if you are extremely shy, if just the thought of approaching your peers, freezes your inner core, then first go outside of your immediate circle of people, go out of your immediate environment - outside of your school, work, church group etc. Go to the shopping mall and ask a salesclerk a question. Remember, your not asking the question as you but as the outgoing person with the great personality.
What the heck, I thought, if it's not me and I'm talking with a complete stranger, what's there to be afraid of? If I make a complete fool of myself with a stranger, who's going to know?
Once you progress in communicating with strangers, you are ready to move onto those in your immediate environment, peers in the hallway, classmates etc.
The ART of Breaking Through Shyness
Get into your character.
If you don't know what to say, think about the person who you are emulating, what would this person say? What does this person usually talk about? Go ahead and imitate the person who you are pretending to be in every respect and gesture if it helps you, go ahead, use their favorite sayings and catch phrases.... Have fun with it, make it your 'secret' game. If you perceive this more as a game, you'll have a better chance of not tensing up, you might even start to enjoy this. The more amused you are with playing the role of someone else, the less tense you are, the less tense the conversation.
Does this person giggle or laugh hard? Do they often agree with other people? What do they say when agreeing? Do they nod their head saying "right, right..." Get down to the details etc. How do they stand, do they cross their arms? Shake their head? Are they reserved or animated?
If you have to, if it's easier for you, go ahead and copy their gestures ....even repeat their favorites jokes or stories... until one day, your so comfortable talking, you simply add in one of your own jokes or stories...
If you have decided to do these exercises among your peers, you may want to emulate someone outside of your peer group, so they don't accuse you of outright imitating or copying another close peer.
You role play until you become comfortable with just talking to another human being.. It's like training wheels.. Once you realize how easy it is, once you lose the self-conscious thoughts... you are free to become you. You will become you before you are even aware of it.
See yourself in a new light. Look at your face, your clothes, your hair. You may not be beautiful, not perfect but either is everyone else. We can always improve on what we have. How can you be better? What style is the new you at your best? Set goals for yourself in becoming the new you. Some goals are easy and can be accomplished fairly quickly, others may take years but get started!
Dare to become. First your alter ego, then yourself. In other words, you fake it to you make it. You will be amazed.
I dared myself to make the first move on the very next day and then each day after that. I would practice being someone else. It was my secret and it seemed to be working. I set goals for myself. The first day, I simply asked another student a question. Build my confidence, even if it's a small step, it's still a step. After ten questions (and knowing the directions to every place and activity in school there was to know) I then learned how to compliment people... I pretended I was confident, funny and open to friendships. I was soon making friends one by one.
About a year later, one day after school I was hanging out with some of my new friends. We were just giggling and laughing with each other....
Suddenly, my mind flashed back in time, to a scene of myself... I was alone, I was seeing myself alone during a period when I was without friends. The revelation hit me - my life had changed. I was at a place and time where I once envisioned myself, having a wonderful time with the friends I dreamed of. I was exactly where I wanted to be.
I smiled then.... and thanked GOD.