Do you consider yourself an extrovert, an introvert or an ambivert (a mix of both)?
Personally, I think all of these labels are totally limiting, and I don’t really believe in any of them. We’re complex human beings with a zillion different thoughts, emotions, and motivations all vibrating at different frequencies, and yet, we all basically want the same things: peace, happiness, and love.
That said, I definitely tend to fall into the spectrum of introversion. I love hanging out with close friends and family, but I’d take a cozy night in with a book over a social setting any day.
This definitely has its pros and cons. I feel like I’m pretty in tune with my thoughts and emotions because of my introversion, and I think reading has made me more creative and imaginative over the years.
However, I feel like I’m more at home when I’m alone, which means social situations come less naturally to me by default. I’ve never been super extroverted around people I don’t know well, but recently, I’ve come out of my shell quite a bit to overcome shyness and connect with people more honestly.
At its heart, or in my case at least, shyness is just fear: fear of what the other person will think of us, fear of sounding like an idiot, fear of being ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with being shy (heck, shyness is often a super charming quality!), but sometimes we can be so shy that it feels crippling, and prevents us from forming awesome relationships with like-minded people.
Often, the best way to grow is to break out of your shell and beat down the barriers between yourself and others. Because really, we’re all of the same mind anyway, and anything you see in another person is just yourself being reflected back to you.
Here are my top tips for overcoming your shyness so you can make meaningful connections, speak your mind, and feel at ease in social situations:
1. Stop questioning yourself so much. Often, we feel shy around others because our internal monologue is throwing self-doubt around left, right and centre. “This person seems intimidating. She’s way cooler than me. What will she think if I say xyz?” Sometimes, we have to learn to silence this voice to feel more comfortable, even though our ego is only trying to protect us from a potential threat. I try to remind myself that just because someone is different than me, it doesn’t necessarily make them better. The other person could always be looking at you thinking the same thing, so don’t let your ego tell you you’re not worthy. When you hear that voice in your head, simply say, “thank you, but I’m actually having a conversation right now and you’re interrupting!”
2. Have compassion and ask questions. If your focus is solely on how awkward you feel in a social situation, the feeling can only grow. When you feel yourself starting to get nervous, take a deep breath and make your focus all about the other person. Ask them questions about their career, their family, or any trips they’re planning, and really listen to what they say. You’ll probably learn something you didn’t know about them, and if you ask them about something you genuinely want to know, the conversation will flow more naturally. Plus, you won’t miss any telltale signs that a friend is upset or struggling with something, which will make you a better friend at the end of the day.
3. Take a deep breath and let the interaction happen naturally. If you try to force it, it will only feel more awkward, so just relax and say what’s really on your mind. If there’s a silent pause, don’t try to fill it as soon as you can out of awkwardness. People have super sharp senses, and they can always tell when someone is nervous. If the pressure’s on at a job interview or a first date, do a meditation beforehand to really get centred and grounded. Try to remember that they’re all just people, just like you and I, and we’re all floating on this tiny speck of dust in space. We’re all equal, and we’re all just trying to figure it out as we go along. If you’re in a social setting, make it your priority to relax and have fun, and maybe engage in a few interesting conversations. I used to feel like I had to rely on alcohol as a crutch just to talk to people at parties because of my shyness. If you can relate, check out my top tips for cutting back on alcohol so you can relax into your true self.
When you remember that nothing is as big of a deal as it seems, social situations get a whole lot more fun. Just be your cute self and the world will love you.
How do you combat shyness in social situations? Let me know in the comments below!
P.S., special thanks to Katie Ward for this awesome bag.