I’m extremely shy. For those of you who have met me as an adult (or haven’t met me), you’re probably surprised to hear this. After all, I approach complete strangers to ask if I can interview them and take pictures in their place of business for my blog. I’ve managed departments up to twenty people, been a corporate trainer/instructor, worked as a consultant and served on the board of a not for profit. I attend events with people more fabulous, younger and thinner than I and recently joined a social media group where I didn’t know a soul. Doesn’t sound like someone who’s painfully shy, right?
As a child, books were my best friends and I was awkward in social situations. Having big glasses, train tracks, a giddy giddy and being the teacher’s kid didn’t help matters much. I was comfortable one on one with my handful of good friends but I’ve never been the girl people are naturally drawn to.
In high school, I switched out the glasses for contacts, changed schools and became part of a great group of fun girlfriends who were anything but shy. To my surprise, boys also started to show interest in me. I started to come out of my shell a bit but largely because I had the support of the girls, alone I still felt socially inept as ever.
In college, something changed. I wanted to work for a big firm and to get hired I needed to be active in organizations, be able to network and interview well. Strangers…I needed to not just talk to strangers but to connect with them. I made the decision right then and there that I didn’t want life to pass me by as I watched from the sidelines.
I looked inward and made changes, in attitude and perception. This process didn’t happen overnight and I’m definitely still a work in progress.
These are some of my tips, what worked for me, to overcome shyness.
Smile and say hello. Smile at complete strangers at the mall, say hello to people at events, strangers walking down the street and at networking events. You will put other people at ease and will be seen as more approachable, you’ll eventually feel more comfortable approaching strangers when you need to. Sounds simple right? You’d be surprised how easy it is for someone who is shy to appear unfriendly and standoffish merely because we are so wrapped up in our insecurity that we forget to smile. Which leads to my next point.
Get over yourself. A lot of feeling shy has to do with being self-conscious. Self-conscious is the feeling everyone is watching you; it’s an acute awareness and preoccupation with oneself. Once we realize we aren’t the center of judgmental attention at every party or event we attend, it’s easier to rest easy. That said, there are cliques and groups of grown up “mean girls” who will be judging you so…
Don’t let the arrogant, snobs or negative half glass empties keep you from having a good time or getting the job done. From time to time, there will be a co-worker, acquaintance or relative stranger who may judge you for no good reason. My feeling is they’re going to do it anyways so don’t let that keep you from attending an event, doing your job or making new friends. Kill em with kindness but don’t bend over backwards to please someone who has decided ahead of time not to like you. And please don’t become a shrinking violet because of them.
Embrace your quirkiness. As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned everyone is weird in his or her own way and it’s a wonderful thing. Not everyone will get you but those that do will love you if you are true to yourself. I’ve learned to not worry so much about fitting or blending in.
Show interest in others. Not sure what to say to someone? Ask them about themselves, their families, how they came to be at the same event as you, where they bought that lovely dress they have on, where are they from…just get them talking. Chances are they feel a little awkward too and you could be the one to put them at ease. Instead of worrying so much about what you’re going to say, have and show a genuine interest in other people. Be a good listener.
Get out of your comfort zone. Don’t let your shyness keep you cooped up in the house because of nerves. Get out, network and accept invitations from others, you may surprise yourself. Event at the MACC look interesting? Buy a few tickets and find someone to go with you or go by yourself. Practice makes perfect and the more you take yourself out of your comfort zone, the easier it gets.
After years of practice and gaining an awareness of what causes my shyness I’m now able to easily speak to anyone in a business or organizational setting. I do still feel awkward in new social settings but don’t let it stop me. I’m willing to try anything once and if I really want to attend an event, I just do it, even if I have to go by myself. The shyness won’t ever go away completely. Before each blog spotlight interview, I feel like I’m going to pass out from nervousness and anxiety. I just take a deep breath and press on, camera and moleskine notebook in hand, pushing the fear aside.
Wimpy is as wimpy does…this one panel comic originally ran on September 20th, 1987, in the Maui News, part of a regular funnies feature titled “Off Center”. Off Center was created, written and illustrated by Judy Ginoza, my talented and very funny mother.