How to overcome shyness

Does shyness occasionally hold you back? For some people, shyness can really take the fun out of life. Just the thought of a social situation can bring on feelings of anxiety and depression, but know that you are not alone. With a bit of help it’s totally possible to beat shyness. This article can be your first step in overcoming your shyness.

A young woman is sitting on the floor. She is watching a video on how to overcome shyness. This is a wide-angle image.

What does shyness mean?

Let’s start by clearing up the meaning of the word ‘shyness’

Generally speaking, people who are shy don’t feel comfortable in social situations. They can be timid and lack confidence in themselves. Certain situations will be worse than others. For example, sometimes we receive more attention than expected, making us self conscious and apprehensive. Some people only tend to feel shy when they meet new people. While it’s quite normal to be a little reserved around someone you’ve just met, for some people that shyness persists. It can make it difficult for them to get to know people at all and even lead to social phobia. Read on to find out how to overcome shyness.

Shy habits

*Que Ed Sheeran* My shy habits lead to early nights ending alone. Tucked in bed with a pizza that I already finished (all lyric credits go to us, ofc) 

In all seriousness, here are some things that shy people do when interacting with others: 

  • Avoid eye contact with others.
  • Always look down or away from people.
  • Avoid talking to others because they’re worried about being embarrassed.
  • Can’t think of anything to say in a conversation and offer very short answers to questions.
  • Speak infrequently and quietly.
  • Get embarrassed easily.

For some people, learning to assert themselves more can help them come out of their shell. If you would like to learn more about how to overcome shyness, we have just the article.

What is severe shyness?

Most of us feel shy from time to time, usually when we are met with a new situation or new people, say when we’re starting uni or on a first date. However, severe shyness is more serious, and can make every little thing a struggle. It can stop people leaving the house, and make a person feel terrified around everyone, perhaps even their closest friends and family. This pathological shyness is a form of social anxiety.

Severe shyness can also lead people to turn to drugs and alcohol to help them relax socially. While the odd drink isn’t a problem, shy people may become dependent upon these coping mechanisms every time they go out, which could lead to addiction.

If any of this sounds familiar, The Mix have a few articles which might help.

How can I overcome shyness?

There are lots of different things you can do to overcome your shyness. Just by reading this article you’re already headed in the right direction. But since you asked, here are a few pointers: 

  • Step-by-step: set yourself mini tasks, such as “I will speak to Fred today about the weather, I will arrange to meet my best friend at the pub (and turn up)”, and so on. Keep a record of how it goes (success/ failure) and soon you’ll see that most will be successful.
  • Get counselling: it may help you focus on what has caused your shyness, and along with some assertiveness training, you can really work on your social confidence. Learn more about common types of therapy here.
  • Join a shyness support group: spending time with other shy people in a shyness support group will not only make you realise you aren’t alone, but it’ll also help you with your people skills.
  • Accept it: if you’re comfortable with your shyness and see it as a positive, attractive attribute, you may find you are better able to deal with it, and life in general.
  • Hypnosis: hypnotherapy can work for some people by helping them to alter their feelings and behaviour, allowing them to go out socially once more.
  • Our discussion boards are a great place to connect with other shy people. There you’ll find plenty of others keen to share their stories and tips for how to overcome shyness. 

Next Steps

  • The Self-Esteem Team (SET) run workshops in schools across the UK to help tackle young people's issues with body image, self-worth and mental health.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 16-Oct-2021