Chapter 3

Overcome Your Shyness


Shyness is part of everyone’s personality. Some tend to show it more than others, but just because it may not be printed on someone’s forehead doesn’t mean they never get those inner jitters of uncertainty. Of course, nobody likes to be shy about something, but letting go of it is easier said than done.


Some of the most successful people, including Charles Darwin, Bill Gates and actress Keira Knightley, are famously shy. The Duke of Portland even took his shyness to the next level and built a 15-mile labyrinth of tunnels under his home so he and his staff wouldn’t have to see each other. Now, just because some successful people have a reputation for shyness doesn’t mean they have allowed that one personality trait to define their entire lives. They can, arguably, be more successful because they learned to embrace how their shyness makes them who they are.


If your shyness has become such a significant obstacle in your life that you want to see a doctor about prescribing something for it, you may want to think twice. There is no cure for shyness. Though you can learn techniques for managing it, you won’t be able to eradicate it from your personality altogether. You can’t turn a pig into a horse, and you can’t force yourself to become someone you’re not. Overcoming your shyness takes a lot of self-talk and encouragement, and you can do it if you put in the effort.


How Can You Become Surer of Yourself?



What’s a better way to get to know yourself than to try out new things? You may need to have those mirror talks with yourself to get there, or you may be on board immediately. Either way, trying new things that challenge your boundaries and take you out of your comfort zone can be a valuable learning experience.


No, I’m not telling you to jump out of a plane or eat an insect. Small, daily steps can help you become surer of who you are. Best of all, there’s no such thing as a negative outcome. If you succeed at something, you may have just found your new skill! If it’s isn’t right for you, at least you can say you tried! That’s when you use that afterthought and gain the confidence and courage you need to become surer of who you are.
Here are some positive ways to look at this approach:


You become stronger. Even though you didn’t achieve the level of success you might have hoped for, you gave it a try. You took the confidence and courage you always longed for and used it to better yourself. You have it in you to handle the tough things in life.


You learn. It didn’t work? Of course it did! You may not have had the ideal outcome you envisioned, but it taught you something new. How could you beat yourself up about something you didn’t know? Learning experiences are part of life we don’t always include in our success story. Instead of going into a situation trying to be 100 percent prepared for every eventuality, go into it with the mindset of what you can learn from it.


You increase your success. Not only are you one step closer to your goal, but you are blowing it out of the water. The success you had always hoped for is one step closer, and the feeling you’ll receive after is going to be even more meaningful. Your success will come — it just may take a longer route than you imagined.


These are things to remind yourself daily. You’ll have a tiny, but insistent, voice inside your head trying to tell you the opposite of each one. As easy as it is to let it get to you, don’t let it. You have the power to shut off the negativity and train the voice in your head to feed positivity for these moments of doubt. Train it to say, “You are strong. You are smart. You are successful.” Once you and that tiny voice inside your head work together, you’ll be able to take on any challenge.


Getting Rid of Shyness: How to Conquer It


Just like everything else, there are numerous angles from which you can choose to view your shyness. You can either regard it as a destructive monster, or you can accept it as one of the best traits you have. It would be crazy to disagree a positive outlook is the better way to go. Unfortunately, more often than not, we instinctively treat shyness as if it is always negative.



Regardless of what that voice inside your head tells you, conquering your shyness is well within your reach. It may not always be the easiest self-journey you take, but it will guarantee a change in how you view things in life. Accepting it as a gradual process that involves taking a series of small steps for yourself can make a world of difference.


Also, never feel like you have to be vocal about your shyness. Unless you bring it up, most people will never notice how awkward and uncomfortable you feel, because your self-doubt is all in your head. That tiny voice is already so loud to you, don’t give it the power to communicate with others as well.


The best person to have on your side is yourself. If you look at the voice in your head as a teammate and not an enemy, it’ll be able to feed you the confidence you need in the moment. When you start to judge yourself, you start to lose control of the wheel, and your self-confidence decreases. Always plan for the best. It may not come easily, and it will definitely be a hard-fought battle, but doing so will increase your overall outlook about the situation.


Conquering your shyness involves fully owning it. There is nothing wrong with being shy, but learning to be comfortable with it requires you to accept it as a facet of your personality. You may not be as outgoing as the person next to you, but that’s what makes you unique!


Past and Present of Shyness: Where Is the Future Pointing?



It’s not rocket science to figure out shyness isn’t a new term. Of course, even historical figures like George Washington had moments of self-reflection from time to time. However, at a 1997 meeting in Cardiff, Wales, psychologist Philip Zimbardo argued shyness was becoming an epidemic. He predicted the growing influence of digital technology would gradually erase the ways humans used to communicate to others, like going into a bank to withdraw money, going into a store to buy something, picking up the phone to talk to someone — or worse, having to go to their house and knock on the door — scary!


Before the advance of technology that allowed us to hide behind a screen and avoid human contact, people had no choice but to leave their house and interact with others. Now, of course, we can buy everything from a pencil to a car online, and have it delivered to our doorstep within a day or two. Thanks to the internet, we can even get a full-time job that allows us to do all our work online, without meeting our co-workers face to face. Zimbardo was ahead of his time in predicting this future.  



In the same Zimbardo study, he discovered 80 percent of Americans had been shy at some point in their life, 40 percent thought of themselves as shy and 4 percent feel shy all the time. Knowing how many people self-identify as shy can help you feel less isolated and more comfortable in knowing that, regardless of the circumstances, others in the world have felt exactly the same way you do.    


In the words of British author Joe Moran, “The truly heroic act is to carry on trying to connect with others, even if it can be dispiriting to keep doing something you are not very good at. There are no accolades for reaching this kind of accommodation with the world, for being mediocre at being ordinary. I can rustle up a passable impression of a normal person because I know it is part of the deal, the levy we pay on being alive, even if it sometimes feels I have to scrape together every penny of emotional effort to pay it. Being shy is a feature, not a bug.”


Conquer Your Shyness Once and for All



A fitting endcap to this is the story of the founder of Digital Press, Nicholas Cole. He grew up as the epitome of a shy kid, and by the time he entered college, he had such crippling social anxiety that he could barely talk to anyone. His best piece of advice? Practice your confidence, and get out of your head. There’s no step-by-step action plan to follow, and it absolutely doesn’t have an expiration date. Take your time and enjoy the journey of discovering yourself in the process.


Shy or outgoing, confident and fearless or not, we all deal with it — that’s life! It’s essential to remind yourself of that as you deal with those days of struggle. Productivity Theory has your back and can guarantee you’re not alone. Check out our other posts to continue this journey of staying positive and productive in your day-to-day life!