6 Steps for Overcoming Shyness & Social Anxiety
Shyness and social anxiety are usually the result of an overly excited amygdala (a portion of the brain that receives stimulation based on your surroundings). Individuals who are shy or socially anxious typically have an amygdala that is extremely sensitive (in part due to their genetics, in part due to the way they were raised).
Shy or socially anxious individuals perceive unknown situations as highly threatening.
This feeling of being “threatened” would be beneficial if you were being chased by a lion; causing your mind to focus solely on what is critical to save your life. However, your mind “going blank” at a dinner party or when your boss walks in your office is not very beneficial.
So with that, let’s discuss 6 ways to overcome shyness and social anxiety…
6 Steps to Overcoming Shyness and Social Anxiety:
1. Reality Check
Step number one is to recognize what is taking place chemically in your brain when you’re feeling anxious or shy.
You are not abnormal; your brain is just “unusually” sensitive to new stimuli, causing you to proceed with extreme caution – usually “unnecessary caution.” Just knowing this will help you rationalize what’s going on and will help relax you in future situations.
No need to become shy or anxious, just tell yourself that it’s just some chemicals and cells reacting based on a perceived threat that’s not really there – no need to panic (ignore the racing heart and sweaty palms) – just calm down and proceed intelligently.
2. Don’t Ponder on Negative Thoughts
When you give a presentation – there’s always three presentations involved: There’s the presentation you planned on giving, there’s the presentation you actually gave, and then there’s the presentation you wish you gave.
When you focus on what you could have done better, when you focus on the negative, you create a cycle of negativity. After you leave a meeting, or a dinner party, or a social gathering, don’t ponder on how you could have been “better.” Don’t think, “Why did I say that?”
Everyone says something foolish from time-to-time, however, focusing on negativity will lead you to believe that you are a person who says the wrong things at social gatherings; that belief will manifest itself every time. Recognize that everyone says something foolish from time-to-time; don’t ponder, move on.
3. No Pressure
Don’t feel pressure to be interesting, entertaining, or talkative. Just be your normal-natural self. It’s the pressure to be like someone else that enhances social anxiety and shyness.
You have survived participating in conversations your entire life. Your next conversation in a group is just one more conversation – you are not required to be the life of the party. Just be yourself and speak your mind when you have something to say – and if you don’t have anything to say – no pressure; “chill out” and have fun.
4. Don’t Assume
Don’t assume that people are judging you. Most people are primarily concerned about themselves and how they come across; they don’t have time to be consumed by your behavior. Remember this, if you don’t remember anything else in this article: Everyone is awkward at times!
When having conversations, every single person at one time or another does or says something that’s a little awkward. Don’t feel that awkward situations or strange silences are your fault alone. Don’t take credit for all the negatives in a conversation. Awkward things will happen, there will be silences, that’s okay; it’s perfectly normal, don’t think it’s not and keep on being yourself – your best self.
5. Don’t Panic – Pause
There’s no need to panic in social situations. If someone asks you a question, just pause. Think about the question and then answer it appropriately. Most socially anxious or shy individuals react to questions. They feel the need to answer a question immediately, as soon as the final word leaves the mouth of the other person; they feel obligated to start speaking – not necessary.
You never want to react to a question; you always want to respond, after you pause.
When you do this, you will sound more thoughtful, more insightful, and you will have given more deliberate thought to what you’re about to say. You will appear to have “executive presence.”
The need to respond right away shows that a person isn’t comfortable with silence. It’s usually the least “powerful” person in a conversation who doesn’t want there to be silence, but silence is okay. It shows that you are comfortable in your skin.
So learn to pause, never panic! Gather your thoughts, avoid saying “um” and answer like the intelligent person that you are.
6. Body Language
Your physiology will determine your psychology.
Avoid having the body language of someone who is shy and/or timid. Don’t haunch over and try not to be seen.
Stand tall, shoulders back. People will believe the body language you portray more than the words you say! If you look timid, people will believe you are timid and will treat you like a timid person.
To be seen as a leader, walk like a president. Take up space — like you’re a king. Put your feet on the desk, make large hand gestures, stand tall. If you possess the body language of a leader, people will begin to treat you like a leader. They will assume that if you handle yourself like a king, if you dress like a king, you must have good reason for doing so. People will believe the image you portray!