This is a collection of tips and stories that former-introverts have submitted to us on how they were able to overcome shyness. If you’re a natural introvert like myself and so many others, and you’re trying to overcome your shyness, I’m confident you’ll find at least one or two great ideas here. 🙂
I’ve made a summary of what’s been submitted so far below, along with the link to the full comment (many contributions make many more points, and in these cases I’m just writing the one that resonated with me the most). I strongly recommend having a read through these!
- The realization that without forcing yourself into social situations, future opportunities will be much bleaker (link)
- Apply mindfulness – realize your mind is very good at creating worst-case scenarios that rarely come true, and stop yourself from dwelling on them (link)
- Throw yourself into situations where you have to get out of your comfort zone (link) (many submissions will mention this – here’s another good one)
- Seek out other introverts for conversation (link)
- Realize that people care less about you than you think (link)
- Find a mentor that challenges you (link)
- Working in an office of extroverts, and doing work that requires human interaction (link) (or working in a large open-plan office and slowly getting better at interactions (link))
- Pre-planning scenarios (link)
- Stop caring so much and say yes to any offer to speak (link). Even consider holding your own meetings and events (link)
- Break the journey down into small steps (link)
- Try debating and speaking (link)
- Find compassion and learn from it (link)
- Consider studying the Enneagram of Personality to help you find why you are the way you are (link)
- When interacting with a group of people, focus on one person at a time (link)
- Start working out (link)
Also, if you have your own story to contribute, please do so here (it’s free).
I was once so cripplingly shy I couldn’t give people eye contact, and barely spoke. I found meetings at work so unbearable, I would have to meditate before I was able to relax at all. Now, I am the complete opposite - I love social situations, and you can throw me alone into a party and by the end of the night I’ll have chatted to everyone. My “journey” was straightforward. Ultimately, it relied on the conscious acceptance and realisation that if I didn’t start forcing myself into social situations, the future would be very bleak. I would end up curtailing my opportunities in life, as well as my career and possibility of finding a romantic partner. Something had to change. I would consciously think of a list of talking points before any social situation so that I was forced to interact with others. I would not allow myself to leave a space until at least three of these had been ticked off. For the first six months this was almost unbearable - especially as I was deliberately going out more. But I didn’t want this to be my life forever. As I got more comfortable, I no longer needed this list, and the interactions became more organic. After a couple of years, I no longer felt that anxiety - as nothing could ever be worst than the first time I did this. Essentially it came down to "fake it till you make it".
--Nushy Rose, Parlia.com
I used to struggle with social anxiety really badly, I would avoid events, I would lose sleep for weeks before events I couldn’t avoid, I missed out on weddings, parties, job opportunities, it was awful.
I am now significantly better and am comfortable in most social situations most of the time.
I used two techniques, I got them from a therapist but people can do both on their own with practise.
The first thing I did was to learn and apply mindfulness. In a nutshell it is about realizing that our mind is very good at creating worst-case scenarios and that these almost never come true.
So by raising awareness of when your mind is doing this you can stop dwelling on these thoughts, you can stop “getting stuck” on them.
For some people it sounds way too simple and I did struggle with the simplicity at first, but with practise it turned out to be highly effective, it changed my life significantly.
To get started just try one of the mindfulness apps like “Calm” or “Headspace”. You can also look seeing an ACT therapist (online or face to face) if you want help to speed up the process.
The other technique I used was gradual de-sensitization. I got this one from Cognitive Behavior Therapy (aka CBT).
In short, you use baby steps to increase you ability to cope with scary stuff. So you could start by saying hello to shop workers as you buy your weekly food. Then build up to short chat. Then a longer chat, then try a different slightly harder task like chatting to someone in bar.
Again this might seem silly at first but it really does work, if you search for videos on YouTube about CBT for shyness you will find loads of great free advice. And you can also find a professional CBT therapist for paid coaching.
--Scott Jones, Pupster Passion
In my case I put myself out there and faced my fears. I bought a CB radio and although I was nervous at first, I forced myself to talk to people I didn't know. After a while this became much easier. And I was able to talk to strangers without too much worry. But this was only when hidden behand a CBD radio. Not face to face.
So I joined a band, playing guitar. This again forced me to face my fears. I was playing most weekends, and met a lot of people face to face. Plus I obviously had to perform on stage. With all eyes on me. Again after some time, I got used to this.
Whilst playing in bands, I took a job working in mental health. This meant a lot of interacting with people. Some with challenging behaviours. And many who were unpredictable. Again after a while I got used to this. And I learned how to deal with unexpected things people would say or do. After a while, not much phased me.
I believe these three things in particular helped me develop my confidence. Whilst it doesn't have to be these things specifically, you MUST throw yourself into situations where you have to be confident. Give it some time and a positive attitude, and you'll figure out how to cope. And your confidence will follow.
The worst thing you can do is hide away from your fears. Because they'll grow stronger, whilst you become weaker. If you face your fears, you'll quickly grow stronger with every day that passes.
--Jon Rhodes, Narcissisms
I am a physician, which sometimes seems incompatible with being extremely introverted but, over time, I have made things work for me. There are a couple of things I have done that have helped me:
1) I realized that part of my shyness was that I felt people would judge me negatively. I then thought about the fact that I am not very judgmental toward others and that most people probably don't judge me as much as I think they do. I remind myself that, if people really aren't critiquing my every move, I can be safe in being more approachable and more open with others without fear.
2) I think in advance about which things I am good at talking about so I can use these as opening lines or as topics of discussion. As an introvert, if I find myself talking about something I feel comfortable with, I am less introverted. I become more engaged and do better around people.
3) I restrict myself to small groups where I don't feel so overwhelmed to talk to everyone. In small groups, I can gauge better who seems most approachable and don't feel as shy if I am sharing in groups of about five to eight persons at the most.
4) Most importantly, I pace myself and simply quit when my energy levels in a group setting or with other people have run out. When that happens, I take the time to rest and do things by myself later that will shore up my resources so I have more energy to deal with people again.
5) I also seek out other introverts for conversation. They tend to be less energy-guzzling than others and together, the other person and I can pace ourselves so that neither of us has to feel a lot of stress in the conversation or interaction. Extroverts are very difficult to control and tend to take more of my energy than I can tolerate for a long period of time.
--Christine Traxler, InvigorMedical.com
I run a parenting blog for new dads. I’d say I’m moderately introverted, but I felt incredibly self-conscious when I started a website with my face attached to it.
It may be helpful to dwell for a moment on the fact that people care less about you than you think. You may feel very self-conscious in social situations, but try to remember that you’re just one of many, and not all eyes are on you.
I like to read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (it’s on my nightstand). He was a philosopher and a Roman Emperor who constantly pondered on the passing of time and how quickly we forget even the most influential people around us. I guess this book is a kind of “memento mori” for me:) I decided to shamelessly attach my pictures to my website because, in the end, I’m probably only one who has a problem with it.
--Gert Mikkal, DadProgress
I’m a recovered awkward and shy introvert. Today I work as a counselor helping other introverts overcome their social issues. I’d love to tell you my story about how I overcame my stifling shyness.
Growing up I was always shy, especially with new people. When I was about to join high school, I decided I didn’t want to be the shy, reclusive guy anymore. I decided I would actively try to socialize and introduce myself to everyone in my new class. It worked better than expected, and over time I made friends with most people in my class.
But my shyness didn’t just disappear overnight, it was still there in other situations. When I was 20, I still had never even kissed a girl. I found a mentor that helped challenge me to talk to girls. At first, I was so nervous I could only say a phrase I had practiced beforehand, then my head was just completely blank. But making a fool of myself enough times did eventually help me lose most of my shyness around girls. Today, I’m in a happy relationship with my girlfriend. We celebrated 8 years together just this weekend.
--Viktor Sander, SocialPro
I am a shy introvert, and I'm not sure you really ever overcome it. Therefore, I'm still not really comfortable in social situations, but I must be social and people think I am comfortable now.
My story begins when I was laid off from my dream job after 9/11. I was a systems engineer for a fortune 100 company. I worked in a private office with four computers, which is more than the number of people I talked to on a typical day. My entire team was laid off, and I had to look for a new job. I soon discovered that there was a glut of people with similar resumes, and I needed to be creative about finding new work.
My wife suggested real estate, because it was booming (this was before the housing crash). I was appalled, but I didn't have any better ideas. So, I got my license and signed up for sales training. In the beginning I struggled. I analyzed the market and evaluated the terms of various deals, but I didn't talk to people and go show houses. Finally, I got the courage to sit at the desk and answer the phones and engage the people who came into the office. It terrified me, but I did it because I needed to earn money. About that time an older, very experienced salesman took me under his wing. We worked on some deals together. He wasn't able to get around as well as he used to, and I did most of the leg work on the transactions. He gave up a lot in commissions to help me, but it was what I needed to learn to really engage people in conversation. So, I'm very grateful.
As you can imagine, the office I worked in was full of extroverts. They were all nice to me, though, and it helped me see that its easy to talk to most people if you are honest an sincere. Now I own my own business (not in real estate). I find that its easy for me to talk to people as long as I feel like I'm helping them.
--Robert Linker, Family Debt Planning
I overcame social awkwardness by doing a lot of pre-planning ahead of time and taking breaks in the moment.
For pre-planning, I would try to come up with talking points before the meeting or event so I always had something to talk about. I used to get really nervous when the conversation paused and would be in my head a lot.
By having topics ahead of time, I didn't have to come up with things to talk about in the moment. For example, if I was going on a date, I would read through the persons profile (I was online dating) and find things of interest in there to talk about. If I was going to a networking event, I would try to find others who were attending and check out their LinkedIn profile. If it was just a night out, I would catch up on social events.
From there, I tried to ask a lot of questions. By asking questions, I can just sit back and listen and not have to talk a lot. And if you really listen, you can find follow up questions to ask as well. This isn't to say I never talked, but it helped to take the pressure off.
And finally, as an introvert, it is very tiresome to be on for a long time talking to people. I would regularly take breaks and step outside to be alone or run to the bathroom just so I could have a couple minutes of quite time for myself. This was the case at larger event and not one-on-one situations like a date.
--Don Dulin, unfinishedsuccess.com
The journey for me in overcoming shyness was to just get out there! A close friend of mine once said (about public speaking) when you're asked to speak, always say yes especially when you're first starting out. It's like an elastic, the more you use it, the more it stretches out, and by pushing yourself WAY outside your comfort zone (like pulling the elastic really tight), you can't go back. It won't contract.
Expansion comes with use - the more you do it, the better you get at it. Don't hide from your shyness. I did for way too long and it never served me. The moment I stopped caring so much, the more I grew, which made me a better parent, wife, entrepreneur, neighbor, friend, and colleague.
--Renee Warren, We Wild Women
From an early age, I was introverted, reserved, and shy. Of course, as a kid, I didn’t know what to do with it. It was hard to make friends, get to know girls, and even a simple oral test at school was a total nightmare.
I got tired of all this during college. I read a lot of self-improvement books on the subject. Of course, it didn’t help much on its own, as knowledge is scarce for progress.
It was around this time that I started going to the gym as I wasn’t happy with my look either. And I thought it would add something to my low self-confidence, too. Training has changed a lot in me. Not only did my appearance change, but I realized something. Overcoming shyness is also training. You have to go in small steps.
You need to find the warm-up exercises you need to do and can do every day. For example, make eye contact with 10 strangers a day. If this is difficult, be 5 first. Then, if you no longer have a problem with eye contact, step further. You can go to elderly aunts on the street and ask where the store is. People tend to be less afraid of older women. The point is, you will definitely have to step out of your comfort zone if you want to improve. However, breaking down this journey into small steps will make things much easier for you.
--Peter Laskay, Petworshiper
I'm an introvert through and through! When I was a child, I was incredibly shy, often purposefully placing myself in situations where I knew I would be less likely to be in front of others.
I struggled with shyness until highschool when I forced myself to join our school's speech and debate club. Our speech coach put me in LOTS of uncomfortable situations, from one-act plays to debate competitions. While I would never have classified myself as good,after time and practice I became less nervous and soon realized I would survive these speaking scenarios.
As an adult, I am no longer shy, much do to my high school speech and debate experiences. I can speak to nearly anyone without much reservation. I continue to avoid public speaking if at all possible, but one on one discussions are no longer a concern.
I also enjoy using Amy Cuddy's power pose in social settings for a confidence boost to get me started. Sometimes it's the little things that get us through.
--April Lee, Love Our Real Life, LLC
Orphaned as a child and adopted by my estranged aunt, I was so shy and insecure I would not even speak in an audible tone. I was moved around and didn't go to one school for more than a year or two, and I was picked on, bullied for my height and weight, 5' tall at 11 years old and under 80 lbs., the kids called me names and made fun of me, and I wanted nothing to do with anyone. After my mom was murdered, I trusted no one. My uncle forced me into sports. He signed me up for a girls' softball team. There, I was terrified. I didn't know the rules of the game, had never held a glove or a softball, and did not know anyone on the team. My first time at bat, I ran to third base instead of first base. I was the joke of the school. I wanted to quit in complete and utter embarrassment and shame. He would not let me. I cried before and after the games. I was given a jersey with double zeroes as my player number and benched for most of the season. More humiliation. However, I did make a few friends, and the next year, we got a coach that worked with me, and before I knew it, I was playing great, having fun, and feeling like I belonged. That really had an effect on my self-esteem and I came out of my shell and realized, we are all human, and no one is better or worse, just different. I learned that we all have our strengths, and weaknesses.
I found compassion from others and learned from it, to be gentle with those who are scared, alone, weaker, or afraid. From then on, I was no longer shy. I learned that humor is a great ice-breaker, and compassion is a column in the foundation for humanity. I now work at a nursing home as a communications specialist-going on 14 years-- and I love reaching out to others to help them feel loved, needed, and that they have a voice, a purpose, and a reason to be on this earth. I help seniors' dreams come true, help them publish their books, paint or sing the song they always wanted to write, all with encouragement and belief that we are one nation, one world, and we all matter.
--Sherry Gavanditti, Menorah Park
As I am a Marketing writer it helps me to avoid any public events. It is unnecessary to attend them, and it suits me the best.
But 3 years ago I was tired of being shy and refusing great opportunities to make my life better. What I’ve done? I organized and held my own public events. There were 3 my own events (dedicated to texts writing) held by me, and you know what? My fear of public speaking was disappeared.
My biggest discovery was related to the fact that when you hold a meeting, it makes you feel like a creator, like someone more than just a participant. This feeling encourages you and you finally see what is the point of what you are doing in your life.
And one more thing left. I allowed myself to make mistakes, blush and stammer. Just allowed myself to be shy. I know this may sound pathetic, but I'm a real introvert who has chosen to write texts, that help me hide from the people) But the experience of public speaking helps to become a confident person. That’s what I know for sure now.
--Tatiana Gavrilina, DDI Development
I’m a hardcore introvert, and have been my whole life. I pressed into music and escaped through art in not wanting to interact with people. Eventually, I had to make money and my first job helped me overcome shyness. I worked at Chick-fil-A and I had people who saw potential in me and trained me. From that job, a mentor who I currently work for helped make me business-savy, where now I work in sales and help do marketing for music businesses.
All my life I’ve felt “different” and an outsider. When I realized that these things were in my head, I focused on being present with people and owning my individuality and uniqueness. It was the enneagram (I’m a 4) that REALLY helped me overcome shyness. It exposed why I was the way that I was – for all the good reasons, and the bad. I would recommend studying the enneagram to seek personality freedom. You can see what habits are hurting you, and what will build you!
--Isaiah Ramkhelawan, lessonsinyourhome.net
I use to have a huge fear of talking to people on the phone. Now that I have have my own business and need to be actively networking, not talking to people via the phone is just impossible. So throughout my college years and well into my early adulthood, I simply HAD to talk on the phone and have comprehensive discussions. Whether it was explaining health issues to schedule an appointment or a surprise job interview phone call, I had to be present and learn to leave all fears and shyness aside.
So how do you do that? Simply by doing what you're scared of. In my case, it was talking to people over the phone. I had so many calls to sit through that I lost track of time and found myself two years later with no issues on this anymore.
--Alexandra Cote, mktodyssey.wordpress.com
For me, it was really hard to interact with a group of people of more than four or five individuals. What really helped me was to focus on one person at a time, and to slowly build on my social skills from there. Something that always worked great when I didn't know what to talk about was thinking that everyone wants to be listened to. It's a no brainer, but most of the time we are worrying about what to say when the simple answer is to be a good listener. Practice great conversation openers and ask questions of other people and you will be surprised how many really get going. Most people are just waiting for the opportunity to talk about themselves.
--Joe Flanagan, 90s Fashion World
I used to by quiet and introverted, especially at my workplace. It was an open-concept floor plan and I got so nervous going into the office because there are at least 100-200 people, and there are no cubicles, just people at their desk. I hated having that attention right when I walked in.
My shyness was getting to be a real problem because I wanted to contribute and get out of my shell. I wasn't making any work friends either. So I tried to find ways to change. I read the Confidence Code and a few other books and the one thing that really helped me get over my shyness was to initiate a greeting and to acknowledge that not everyone I said Hi to would respond. Every time I interacted with someone, usually by saying Hi or smiling, I would give the interaction a gentle rating. If the other person reciprocated positively, it was good. If it was bad (like if they ignored me, were rude to me, or things got awkward), I would count this as bad - but told myself that it was definitely okay to have these types of interactions. Not everyone is in the mindset to reciprocate the kind of interaction you want.
The journey was slow painful and really embarrassing. If you smile at someone and they don't smile back at you, you really wonder what happened, if they don't like you or something else. But I learned to understand that not everyone is going to reciprocate, and that's totally fine. I had some bad days for social interaction, and some good days. Eventually I got better and better. Progress wasn't a positively sloped line, it was jagged with ups and downs but it worked out that I improved a lot over time.
--Hannah Fisher, HVAC Supreme
Growing up I was always extremely shy, I'd never start a conversation with anyone and if anyone spoke to me my answers usually consisted of one word. At the age of 14 I started working out, initially just a couple of times a week but as I saw my body begin to grow and change I stepped it up so I was training 3-5 times a week. Having always been on the smaller side exercise helped me gain new confidence which significantly helped me overcome my shyness, it took a while but by the time I was 19 I was able to hold a good conversation and was even willing to start them with complete strangers at times too!
--Daniel Richardson, Homes For Students
As a child and teenager, I was painfully shy. I watched life and people from the sidelines, afraid to risk rejection by engaging. I’m older now, and much more socially confident. A few things helped me:
At age 19, I took a big leap to stretch myself, when I began working as a door-to-door political canvasser, asking for signatures and financial contributions. I was motivated to push my boundaries by my passion for environmental issues. What I learned from my trainer was that canvassing was a simple numbers game: most of the people I would talk to would support the issue, and if I followed the script and gave good answers to their followup questions or concerns, I could expect a contribution rate of about 1 in 4. This simple formula helped me to overcome my perfectionism and fear of rejection. I realized that if I simply kept putting myself out there and doing my best, I would be successful. And I was: I soon became one of the highest-grossing canvassers in the office.
Years later, I read Tim Ferris’s book The 4-Hour Work Week. It contains a tutorial on how to approach someone for a date. This was another arena in which I had felt shy in the past, and as a result I hadn’t dated nearly as much as I would have liked. Ferriss describes the approach to this problem as a numbers game as well, suggesting that moving toward “failure” is the way to success. The more times you are turned down, the closer you are to being told Yes. I stretched myself again, approaching a man who I found almost impossibly attractive. I did so purely as an exercise in getting comfortable with rejection, so that I could move forward and be told Yes by others. But this man surprised me by returning my interest, and we dated for four wonderful years. On other occasions, I have indeed been turned down, and I now recognize that as an essential part of the process.
To anyone who is shy, I would say: Don’t worry about failing, embarrassing yourself, or being socially rejected. Those things will indeed happen, but you will survive the momentary discomfort, and it will lead you forward to future successes.
--Maren Souders, Dream Into Change