How to Overcome Shyness

If we can learn the art of relaxing we shall also be able to overcome nervousness and timidity.


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Me make a speech? Oh, I  couldn’t  “I wish I could  pluck up courage to speak to her, but I daren’t”,  “I don’t think I could – I’ve never done anything like that before”. “I dread meeting new people”.

These are typical  of the phrases uttered every day by a great number of people who face every fresh situation in life with dread and timidity.

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Most of us face this  situation at  some time or other in which we feel nervous, but this is far different from the constant dread of saying anything, or meeting anyone or going anywhere. Shyness to this degree becomes a real burden, and a desperate hindrance to our true enjoyment of life.

Here, as with all character problems, we need a certain measure of self – acceptance. The basically shy person is unlikely to develop into the hearty, extrovert; nor should he desire to do so. A degree of shyness can be an attractive trait!.

There are, however, certain attitudes and activities which can be developed that will enable you to handle shyness positively and creatively.

1. Remember that you are not always shy:

There is nobody who is shy all the time, in every situation, with everybody. This in  itself, ought to be a source of encouragement to anyone to tackle the problem of his or her shyness and timidity.

Think about the situations in which you feel happy, and people with which you feel at home. This builds up confidence. Too often the nervous person is thinking about the situations in which he is sure he will be unhappy and the people he dreads going to meet. Instead of concentrating on the real and present and known,  he allows his mind to be disturbed by something that has not yet happened. But to think of what has happened, is to build up unconsciously a store of confidence for fresh situations.

2. Cultivate the physical signs of confidence:

The very way a person walks and holds his body can play an important part in building up confidence  – or in increasing the sense of timidity. A slouching posture depresses the spirits; an erect one can raise them up. The very act of standing straight, with shoulders back and head erect, can make one face life with a sense of confidence and well – being.

The way  you shake hands tells the other person far more than you suspect about the way you feel about yourself. The limp, dish – rag type hand shaker is low on confidence. The bone – crusher is apt to be compensating for a lack of self confidence. He goes to too great an extreme to impress you that he is really confident. The firm, but not crushing handshake, with just a little squeeze in it says: “I’m alive. I’ ve got a firm grasp  of things”, is the handshake that denotes self confidence.

Also, remember the importance of the voice. Hunt out some inspiring passages – poems, passages from the Bible, speeches of some notable political, social or religious leader. Put your heart and soul into reading them aloud. Give zest to the cheerful  passages  and pathos to the darker ones. Learn some of the memorable pieces by heart so that you can repeat them at will when your spirits need a “lift”. Not only will you develop your powers of expression, but your whole mental outlook will be enlivened and uplifted.

Sensible attention to the matter of dress can be another valuable aspect in building self confidence.

Looking well is a big  step towards feeling well.

3. Find a consuming interest:

Nervousness is very often an accompaniment to the unfamiliar. We need to centre  our attention not upon  ourselves, but upon  the thing we are doing. So, interest is the secret. When we are  interested, life becomes interesting and people are interesting and everything about us becoming interesting.

Cultivate your interests – in people, in hobbies, in growing knowledge of your favourite subjects, in pastimes. Interests breeds knowledge and competence and these lead naturally to confidence.

4. Learn to relax:

If we can learn the art of relaxing we shall also be able to overcome nervousness and timidity.

A well – known  public speaker told me he overcomes nervousness just before making a public speech by consciously relaxing his muscles, from top to toe. A little practice will assure you how unobtrusively this can be done, and  yet how effective it is. In the same way, a series of slow, deep breaths will work wonders in bringing a sense of relaxation and tranquility.

The tenseness which promotes nervousness  is  itself often brought on by violence of physical action: clenched fists, frowns, irritable or whining tones – all these tend to disturb and disrupt. On  the other hand, a quiet voice, a smile, help to promote serenity deep within the mind, and this quality overflows into our outward  life too. As tenseness goes, so does nervousness.

5. Learn to appreciate yourself!

The nervous person is usually obsessed with his own failures. The secret of the successful, confident person is that he sets great store by successes and so tends to perpetuate the strain of success rather than the strain of failure.

Let us give ourselves credit for our achievements. Let us be genuinely grateful for every gift  we possess. Let us make the most of these gifts – not like the one – talent man of the Gospel who neglected and hid it.

Being yourself – your best self, of course – is the greatest possible contribution you can make to your own personal happiness and confidence. And indeed, to the community at large.

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