Are you a shy person in certain situations? Up to 50% of people say that they’re shy, perhaps in dating/romantic encounters, public speaking, social situations, and the like. Now there’s a way to use your shyness as a gift, a power, that can help you achieve your goals in life. Here are some practical tips we discussed at Love University to help you transform your shyness into a great advantage:
*Embrace Your Shyness: In Dr. Avila’s classic book, The Gift of Shyness (put amazon link), he redefines shyness as “extraordinary sensitivity” and “deep reflection.” Research shows that shy people are often more sensitive, empathetic, deep thinkers, modest, and loyal (they’re likely to stick to the few relationships they have). Think of the positive traits you have as a shy person—write them down—reflect on them. When you do this, you will realize that you are a unique and gifted person who has a lot to offer to others and the world.
*Develop the 80-20 Actor-Observer balance. The Actor is the part of your personality that is spontaneous, natural, and fun-loving. The Observer is the self-conscious, judgmental part that tells you that other people will criticize and reject you if you say or do the wrong thing. The socially content person has approximately 80% of the Actor and 20% of the Observer (the socially anxious person has 80% Observer and 20% Actor). Focus on developing more of your Actor (while reducing your Observer), and you will be more confident and socially successful.
*Get Your Fools Out: One way to develop more of your Actor (while minimizing the Observer) is to practice acting foolish and silly in private so you can be more confident in public. Get in front of a mirror at home and make silly faces, jump up and down, create funny and weird noises. Act like the funny fool. When you do this in private—get the foolish parts of you out—you will be less worried about acting foolish in public since you’ve already done so in private.
*Practice Micro-Interactions: Whenever you go out, focus on engaging in small energy exchanges with people. Smile. Say “Hi.” Compliment someone on their dress. Although it may seem awkward at first, especially if they are strangers, doing these small interactions can give you confidence to engage in more conversation and deeper connections with others. When you realize that other people are human just like you (with similar worries about being liked and approved of), you start to realize that it’s no big deal to talk to people and make connections. Develop a sense of curiosity about others and you will have more fun interacting with them (and you will become more of the Actor and less of the Observer).
*Be Like The Sun: Give Loving Energy Without Expectation: One of the greatest pieces of social advice is to “Be Like The Sun.” The sun doesn’t get mad or take it personal when some people cover up because they don’t like the sun. The sun keeps shining—on everyone: the old, the young, the beautiful, the not-so-beautiful. The sun shines because it is the sun. In the same way, practice extending loving energy without expectation to others; be kind, loving, and helpful. Volunteer at humanitarian and charitable organizations; help the homeless, listen attentively to a friend or acquaintance who is hurting. Find the shyest person in the room and help them feel comfortable. The more you extend your positive energy to others—without expecting anything back (not approval, friendship, or relationship)—the stronger and more confident you will feel. You will be like the sun—shining your loving energy to everyone—and eventually you will find people who resonate with your style and will reciprocate with their own warmth and friendship.
Although the Observer (self-conscious) side of shyness can be a challenge, there are many ways for you to tap into the positive gifts of your shy nature as you become more of the Actor, the natural spontaneous side of you. You may always be a shy (sensitive) person, but you can claim your personality as a power and use it to accomplish your dreams and help other people feel calm, safe, secure and loved. Then, you can offer the greatest gift of all: pure acceptance of yourself and others.