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5 tips to overcome shyness and social anxiety
Do you relate to the phrase “crippling shyness”? Have you ever described yourself as “royally awkward,” or “wallflower”? Perhaps you saw that book-turned-movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower and identified with the lead protagonist. You’re not alone; most of us would readily admit to feeling some trepidation when it comes to social activities. It’s okay to be shy; however, you need not be retiring. It is possible to get past fear and learn the knack of social interaction. The following tips could just nudge you away from the shadows and a little nearer to the spotlight.
1. Take small steps.
The key to social gatherings is to extend your comfort zone, a little at a time. You can start by going to a party with people you are comfortable with, as this can bolster your confidence. The next time, you can just meet friends there. Ultimately, you can go anywhere without being certain of a familiar, friendly face. It would also help if you take part in an activity that you’re good at. Take your pick – a team sport, or perhaps a parlor game like cards or billiards? On the other hand, you may also deliberately choose an activity that you’re not quite good at, relying on beginner’s luck. Have fun. You don’t have to excel; you only have to be a “good sport.” If you’re not ready to enter the limelight, why not watch a movie or a concert or a game? As spectators, you already have something in common; you have something to talk about.
2. Be open to conversation.
Once you’re at the party or social gathering, be open to introductions. Don’t limit yourself to the people you already know. Strike up a conversation with someone new. Do it often enough, and it will get easier. If you’re a fan of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, you’ll remember that Fitzwilliam Darcy has everything that one could possibly wish for – wealth, good family background, and good looks – but he was so shy that he was perceived as being standoffish. He admitted that he did not have the “talent of conversing easily” with people whom he has never met before, to which the rejoinder was that perhaps he should “practice.” It’s good advice.
3. Leave your critical self behind.
Social anxiety stems from a fear of being scrutinized by other people and being rejected or ridiculed. You’d rather blend into the background because you’re afraid to embarrass yourself. Why are you so certain that they’re looking at you and waiting for you to make a mistake? To be honest, everyone has had that thought and that fear. Be the person who is more concerned about making other people less nervous, making them comfortable, rather than focusing on your own fears. Be kind. Try not to scrutinize the flaws in yourself and in others. Concentrate on the positive.
4. Bring a sense of humor.
It’s okay to laugh; it means that you appreciate a good joke. You don’t have to crack jokes all the time, but you can sincerely laugh at someone else’s jokes, right? Sharing a joke is one way of establishing rapport. Laughing also makes you involuntarily relax, and you will be more comfortable extending yourself. Don’t take yourself too seriously and you will be less inclined to fear embarrassment or criticism, or react negatively when being teased.
5. Be mindful: meditate.
Mindfulness, which is rooted in the practice of meditation, has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety. The intention is to increase awareness of oneself and one’s environment, to direct one’s objective gaze on personal experience and emotion. You focus on what is real rather than what is imagined. You tackle the present, what can be done now, rather than the unforeseeable, intangible future. Ask yourself: what triggers your shyness? How do you usually cope? Does it make you feel better or does it make matters worse? Think of meditation as mentally confronting your fears – and how you react to these fears. Your first critic is really yourself, not the people you meet. Your first hurdle is to treat your shy self with compassion. The trick is to break free from the burden of self-criticism and self-consciousness, and approach society with a healthier attitude.
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