Character / Personality

I am shy. Please help!

What is shyness?

How to lose fear?

How to get self-confidence?

I am afraid to be an introvert.

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How can I lose my fears?

Dad's response

Before you can start to develop your social skills you must get rid of your worst fears. Just "going out" or trying to socialize won't work! You will only make a fool of yourself by being clumsy. You will start to sweat or blush because your fear and anxiety will distort normal social interaction.

Try seriously to identify situations, in which you feel most uncomfortable! For instance, I still hate to call a person I have never met before on the phone. It is important that you don't lie to yourself. Some people are extremely uncomfortable when they have to complain about something in a shop or return a bad product. Other people are afraid of public speaking. Most people become extremely nervous if they have to walk on a stage and give a speech in front of a large audience. (I almost got a heart attack, when I had to give my first life interview on radio. No wonder I messed up horribly). By the way - many men are extremely afraid to ask a woman for a date - really!

Once you know, what is most uncomfortably for you, try to get yourself into these situations. Sorry! But that is the only way. This technique is a well-known method called behavioral training. In my experience, it works quite well to get rid of irrational fears. There are numerous books and scores of psychologists who offer such training. But you can also save your money and do it yourself. The basic rule is quite simple. Get yourself in those social situations, which are uncomfortable to you or cause real anxiety attacks. Do it slowly and gradually. Start with situations that cause mild discomfort and then proceed to more unpleasant social situations. After a while you will get used to these uncomfortable situations and your anxiety will decline. In most cases this works. However, in very serious cases of phobias and extreme social anxiety you need professional help!

Being shy doesn't mean that you are socially incompetent and afraid of social contact in every respect. Many people are only shy in very particular social situations, while they are bold and self-confident in others. If you are in one of those special situations where you feel the jitters and butterflies in your stomach you can also try to focus on something rather ordinary. For instance, if you have to talk to a person who intimidates you with high social status or authoritative behavior, focus on how he or she would look like sitting on the toilet. This usually works well with all kinds of powerful people - teachers, bosses, and political or religious leaders. Many people are extremely afraid of public speaking. If you have to get up on a stage to give a speech in front of a large audience, focus on two or three people which you perceive as sympathetic. Look them directly into the eyes and imagine you would talk to them one-to-one. You will be surprised that they often respond directly to your speech - by giving your subtle signs, such as nodding or shaking the head or smiling.

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Copyright 2014, 2015 by Gerhard K. Heilig. All rights reserved.

Updated: 3 February 2015