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Overcoming Shyness
October 05, 2011

Simple Ways to Tame Anxiety

October 5, 2011
Volume 11, Issue 10

How can shy people start to break out of their inhibition? What's the first step? This month's issue of Anxiety Coach® offers a suggestion.

The Anxiety Coach® newsletter brings tips for overcoming fears and phobias to your inbox the first week of each month. If you like it, please pass it on anyone who might be interested. If you received this issue from a friend and want your own subscription, please subscribe.

Overcoming Shyness

What goes through your mind when you meet someone for the first time?

Do you look for their defects, their weak spots? Examine them for signs of nervousness or inadequacy? Wait for them to say something foolish?

Probably not. But if you struggle with shyness or social anxiety, you probably assume that they're thinking this way, about you.

Are they? Probably not, no more than you are. But if you're shy, you'll still find yourself having such thoughts.

What about these thoughts?

Shy people often act as if these thoughts are accurate, and try to avoid making any bad impressions in social situations. Unfortunately, this often means making no impression at all, as they avoid attention, remaining quiet and in the background.

Sometimes they'll get into an argument with their thoughts, trying to convince themselves that there's no reason to be anxious, and hoping to correct their thoughts. It seems like a good idea, to fix your thoughts, but generally this response isn't much help. It just leads you to be more focused on yourself, and your thoughts, than on the others in the room. It leads you back to the same avoidance of others you were hoping to change.

Either way, frustration and unhappiness on the way home is the usual result.

What to Do?

You might think that you need to make your thoughts more realistic before you can change what you do. But it's not so. It's enough to recognize that you keep having anxious and exaggerated thoughts about how other people are looking to judge you. If you're shy and socially anxious, these thoughts have probably become a habit.

It's okay to feel anxious and, if you don't get into a struggle about it, it will probably pass.

Rather than trying to reform your automatic thoughts, accept the fact that you feel nervous, and turn your attention to your reason for being at this social event. What do you want to happen? Are you looking to meet members of the opposite sex? Looking for a job? Looking to expand your circle of friends?

Whatever your purpose or interest, let that be your guide, rather than your anxiety. It's okay to feel anxious amongst strangers. You don't need to change that before you talk to anyone. Instead, act in accordance with your purpose in being there. Allow your anxiety to diminish as you play the role you came for.

And keep it simple. You don't need a brilliant conversational gambit. "Hello" has worked for centuries. Smile, make eye contact, say hello and introduce yourself. Your brain will probably be screaming at you not to drool, but that's okay. It's just nervousness, and will eventually pass.

What if you need more?

If you're someone with simple shyness, this first step might well be enough to get you started in a process that can roll back your shy behavior.

If your social inhibition is more persistent, and you need more tools, here's a great self help book: Overcoming Shyness and Social Anxiety, by Gillian Butler.

See you next month!


Dave Carbonell, Ph.D.

ADAA Conference in April

The Anxiety Disorders Association of America will hold their annual conference this April, in the Washington, D.C. area. It's a great conference, mostly aimed at professionals, but they also offer some programs for consumers.

Information and registration is available here.

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