You know you're shy when the mention of conversations, parties and performances fills you with dread every time. Genes count very little in producing shyness in comparison to actual experiences. Do you feel the warmth and encouragement from your environment, or distance and judgment? External factors have a lot to do with the shyness you have, which also means that the damage can be undone.
The truth of shyness
Shy isn't something you are born as; it is a learned behavior.
We don't rehearse before coming out of the womb. We emerge bloody and exposed, crying. Shame doesn't exist then, only life. Later on, we learn to restrain ourselves from spontaneity.
First, it's little negligible things. Nodding to spare ourselves from arguments. Making-up imaginary plans when friends ask to hang out. Looking at our feet instead of maintaining eye-contact. However, these little things can control us severely. We avoid wearing the clothes we want to wear, disappear, avoid involvement, turn down every opportunity that comes our way. We become like a mirror deflecting everything that enters, including the light.
We create ourselves to be mechanized robots because we have been damaged. And as a promise to never let ourselves feel that way again, shy people ruled out feeling discomfort altogether, which actually creates more tension, anxiety, isolation than actively participating in life ever can. This creates anxiety which manifests as shy behavior. At the heart of shyness is the terrible fear of being rejected, being ridiculed, outcast, getting hurt - and ultimately, being unloved and unlovable.
We shudder at the thought of taking on a leadership role because of all those eyes and ears on us waiting for our blunders. However, most of the time we, the shy people, are the ones crafting these stories in our minds. We emphasize the bad over the good. Stepping out of our minds, we have to realize people generally don't think this way. People see others as functional and capable individuals rather than eagerly awaiting mistakes and failures.
Which means to say, we, the shy ones, only fight with ourselves. Every time we stand on the stage and sit with a group, we're struggling to live up to our own expectations.
How shyness starts
Before I got bullied in 5th grade, I was the kind of girl who could walk up to anyone and do anything. I didn't even need to talk, I could express myself through dancing, crossing my eyes, sticking out my tongue (I did them all) ,barely batting a lash at other's opinions.
Those were just irrelevant to me until someone spread false rumors about me. Then, it became painfully relevant. Everyday, I was neglected and isolated by the entire class and from friends. For the first time, the girl who loved to open up to people had no one to open up to. I started shutting up and shutting in. My heart was crushed and all the confidence, laughter and love that came with it.
This happened to me at a very young age, but the damage lasted well until college years and affected my ability to express myself, get involved and receive support.
I called myself shy like it was natural. Like nothing happened to cause it. That denial prevented me from healing. That denial prevented me from reclaiming ME back. But how does one develop the courage to?
Change starts from within
Psychologists and coaches recommend shy people to get over shyness by "getting out there." Go to improv class, practice talking with a friend or mentor, join a sport - all of which are great suggestions... except that these suggestions don't make things any less scary in the shy person's head.
The thing is, we already know what to do. We know that "getting out there" can help us, but it's scary to get out of the protective bubbles we put ourselves in. It's hard to let go of a lifetime of training ourselves to avoid disappointment, scrutiny and judgment from others. Though it is possible to get out there, the change needs to come from the inside. The inside is what drives our commitment to change so that it's not a mere flirting with possibilities but a life-long relationship with self-improvement.
Mind over matter
For you to overcome shyness, you have to realize that enough is enough. You have to accept that being shy is much more uncomfortable than not being shy and that this discomfort becomes a conscious choice. In the beginning, you became shy because something deeply hurt you. That was something out of your control. But whether you will carry that pain your whole life, that is a choice and choice means that you're in control of it.
How do you talk to yourself? Intentionally or not, you are affirming your reality through your beliefs.
You speak softly because you believe your opinions don't matter (I am useless).
You get anxious in groups because you fear making a mistake (I slow people down).
You freeze up when the spotlight is on you because you fear people will misunderstand (I'm difficult to understand).
We believe what we tell ourselves. That's where our power lies and with our beliefs, we can rewrite our story.
Affirmations - the key to overcoming shyness
Affirmations are statements and phrases we repeat to ourselves that eventually become our reality. We can affirm things to our advantage or disadvantage. People develop shyness because they always recall their pain when faced with an opportunity or situation. They keep affirming that they can't do it, they are incapable, they are unsociable, they are a hindrance... and all of that becomes true.
But you can change your reality with affirmations. You can affirm your way out of shyness.
Instead of "I'm unlikable and weird" say "I'm naturally social, friendly and warm."
Instead of "I'm scared of social events" say "It is normal for me to be completely relaxed and confident in social situations."
Instead of "My thoughts and feelings don't matter" say "Sharing my thoughts and feelings is easy for me."
When you change the way you talk to yourself, you can change your life. The things you are afraid of doing will gradually become natural to you. Because you positively affirm that you are a valuable and worthy person, you allow yourself to take healthy risks, to pop out of the self-imposed bubble once and for all.
Criticisms are normal. Making mistakes is normal. Realize that everyone you admire today has failed at least once, and continues to make mistakes. They just choose to carry on by affirming that these are meant to better them. Including myself.
You are worthy, loved and talented. The world is missing your voice, your gifts, your thoughts. So start working on it and rewrite shyness into SHINEss!