Don't Let Shyness Hold You Back

by self-help expert Dr Pam Spurr.

I’ve got a really big problem with our society that gives the message we should all be extroverts. That there’s something wrong if you’re not the life-and-soul of the party. Simply not true!

We’re all made differently and I hate how some feel the pressure to be something they’re not.

That said, I’ve seen the devastating consequences of shyness. Where a shy person feels they can’t talk to someone they’re attracted to. Or make new friends, or put themselves forward for a project at school or work.

So my approach is always to help people with shyness – which is a type of social phobia – to embrace who they are. Accept it’s okay to be on the quiet side. But also to learn to put themselves forward when they want or need to.

Here are tips for the shy-guy or shy-girl to try:

  • Learn to focus outwards. When you struggle with shyness you can be mega-aware of everything going on inside of you. The thoughts whirling through your mind, your sweaty palms, your heart racing as you walk into a room. Turn that on its head. Force yourself to look at your surroundings. Notice what’s going on around you to take focus off the nervous feelings inside you.
  • Start small. If you’re shy I bet you hold back from giving your opinions. There’s a debate going on about anything from music to the NHS and you stay quiet. Start small and voice your opinion on something you watched on telly or heard on the radio. Don’t feel you must plunge into a debate about the world economy.
  • Practice makes perfect. The more you practice voicing opinions, especially around family and friends where it feels quite safe, the easier it becomes. So keep it up. You’ll soon be ready to have your say in a group discussion at school or at work.
  • Make mistakes. Many shy people have confided in me they dread the thought of making a ‘mistake’. Scratch that irrational thought. Everyone makes mistakes whether it’s saying something a bit silly when trying to chat someone up, or stumbling over their words when giving a presentation. It doesn’t matter, we all do it. Your mantra should be: let it go!
  • Try a daily challenge. Those with shyness often stick rigidly to routines. There’s nothing wrong with daily routines – they give structure and comfort to our world. But it’s important you challenge yourself daily – try a new sandwich shop, café or pub. Take a slightly different route to school or work. Just break free a bit and you’ll discover it helps your overall confidence.
  • Get physical. When feeling shy, your body naturally tenses up. It’s crucial to take a holistic approach and learn physical relaxation. So get out for brisk walks, do a sport you enjoy, try yoga, anything to shake that physical tension out of your body.
  • Turn the spotlight on someone else. Help, you’re stuck, you don’t know what to say next! Simply turn the spotlight on the other person. Ask them questions about themselves. Suddenly you’ll find you’re in a conversation and you’ve forgotten your shyness.

Finally, keep telling yourself it’s okay you’re not the loudest amongst friends or at work. Remember to focus on the good qualities you have to offer.

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About the author: Dr Pam Spurr is an award-winning radio presenter, agony aunt, relationship, sex and behaviour expert, and life coach. Dr Pam is the author of 14 self-help books on topics including sex, dating, happiness, emotional eating and dream interpretation. She has appeared as a contributor on TV programmes including This Morning, Loose Women, LK Today, Daybreak, GMB, The Wright Stuff, BBC Breakfast, and for ten years running as a resident behaviour expert on Big Brother’s Little Brother and Big Brother’s Bit on the Side. Pam has a doctorate in psychology from a London teaching hospital and is a chartered research, academic and teaching psychologist. Her doctoral and postdoctoral research looked at parenting/family issues.

You can follow Dr Pam @drpamspurr or visit her website at www.drpam.co.uk.

image: shy by mark O'Rourke under Creative Commons license