Each of us, at times, feels anxious about a situation we’re currently in or about to enter. If such feelings are the norm for you, you may feel you’re “shy” and may find you’re labeled as such by others. 

Being shy seems cute when it’s a small child hiding behind a parent’s leg but as we get older, being shy can leave us feeling needlessly anxious and often keeps us from opportunities and relationships from which we might benefit. Extreme cases of feeling shy can sometimes meet the criteria for social anxiety disorder or social phobia. 

Fortunately, there are a number of steps a person can take to try to overcome shyness and social anxiety.  The simplest is to act with more confidence and to try new things. Shy people often suffer from poor self-esteem and low self-confidence. Taking positive action can help minimize those problems.

An important step is to try new things even if doing so may make you anxious. Often a shy person imagines how poorly doing something like going to a party or engaging in a new social activity will turn out, and then avoids it.  But when someone ignores that anxiety and takes that step toward doing something new, it often turns out better than expected.

One way to head in that positive direction is to increase your interaction with others. Start up a conversation in a checkout line or talk to a stranger at the coffee shop or gym or in a store. Having small, positive social contacts helps build confidence and open up new horizons.

You can also demonstrate growing confidence just in the way you walk and talk. Make eye contact in conversations, hold your head high and speak clearly and effectively. Don’t be afraid to make physical contact such as shaking hands or giving hugs.

The key to overcoming social anxiety and shyness is to take some chances in order to recognize and overcome your fears. Try going to a movie with an acquaintance rather than just a close friend. Be a bit vulnerable by offering opinions, asking questions and carrying on meaningful conversations. As you do things that normally you’d be afraid to try, you’ll find your self-confidence increasing.

Overcoming shyness takes effort and can seem frightening. If you need help in moving forward, consider talking to a professional counselor who can assist you in building a more confident you.

Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Comments and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit the ACA website at www.counseling.org.

 

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