Tips for Getting Over Being Extremely Shy

Reader’s Question

How do I get over being extremely shy?

I’m 18 years old and I’m an extremely shy person. It’s hard for me to meet new people, and I’m so shy to the point where I have to depend on my family to do things for me in public or making doctor or dentist appointments and they even go with me to places too. I’m really scared of being shy because I don’t want to be shy all my life. It’s affecting me emotionally and it’s taking control of my life. Like I said before I’m 18 years old, have no job, except for a volunteer job, being a volunteer firefighter. I like the job, but I don’t talk much to the guys except for if they say a few words to me I’ll say a few words back (I’m extremely quiet). There are times at events that the fire dept. puts on that I feel uncomfortable being around a large group of people and then it’ll lead to nervousness to the point where I won’t know what I should do or what I’m doing. My shyness is so bad sometimes I feel like a stupid loser, hopeless, and depressed about myself.

I’m going to be 19 in June and I need to get a job, but shyness is keeping me from doing so. I can’t even talk to strangers, that’s how bad it is. I’m really worried! There are often times when I’m tempted to talk and speak up, but I just can’t do it, it’s like my mouth is zipped shut or something. It’s horrible! There are even times when I’m asked to do something like ask a store employee where a product is, but then I just chicken out and I don’t do it and it leads to my parents getting mad at me or frustrated with me. Also leads to me being hard on myself too.

I have no friends at all! I have no girlfriend! It’s like I’m shut out of the world. The only friends I have are online. I can talk to those people online like a normal average person, but if it’s in person I don’t say a word to anyone. I am also trying to use tactics to help myself like for example when I go to the fire dept. and see the guys I speak up and say ‘hey guys’ or I ask ‘how’s it going?’ or when I’m leaving I’ll say ‘see ya later!’.

I just can’t talk no matter how hard I try or how hard I try to force myself I just can’t do it. I’m not shy around family or relatives: I’m pretty opened up being around family and relatives no shyness at all. I also have a low self esteem, I have no confidence in myself. Like I’m also scared of getting a job too because of not only being shy, but making mistakes.

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I need help and badly! I want to be like a normal average person where I can do things myself and go to places myself. I want to do things myself like make my own phone calls to make my own appointments. I want to have friends, I want a girlfriend, I want to be out-going, I want to be able to have conversations with someone and be able to keep one; I also want to be able to say to some stranger walking down the street ‘hey, how’s it going?’ or go a stranger and ask a question like for directions or something random, anyway you probably get my point what I’m trying to say.

I need help and fast!

Psychologist’s Reply

Shyness is very treatable. We have a variety of therapy programs as well as medications. The medications work to cancel the anxiety/panic reaction that surfaces in social situations.

One aspect of shyness is catastrophic thinking. Shy folks feel they can’t talk to others yet if you actually listen to casual conversations — there’s very little personal or emotional content. As you mention with your Internet experiences, you can express yourself — just not face to face. You’ll also notice that no one on the Internet has been rejecting of your comments, opinions, etc. unless you’ve been very aggressive. You’ve actually been testing your social skills on the Internet — and they work. Despite your fears, you’ve not been saying offensive, weird, or silly things. You will now need to transition your Internet skills to the community at large.

You can begin by practicing on those around you. For example:

  • Observe how people talk. It’s a lot of passing comments (How ya doing? Great weather isn’t it? etc.). Learn what to say in certain situations. Don’t say “Great weather” “Nice to see you” in the bathroom for example.
  • Research a few topics of common interest. News stories, sports, local events, etc. Practice discussing these topics but not using your own opinion such as “I saw on the news that we can expect some bad weather”.
  • After your research on topics and discussing them, begin by adding your own opinion like “I’ve never really been bothered by the weather. I don’t care if I get wet or not (then laugh)”.
  • Use lots of humor in your casual contacts with others. It’s fine to say “I’m not much of a talker”.
  • Search out support blogs/groups on the Internet related to shyness. It’s very common. The Internet is full of helpful hints on improving social skills and reducing shyness. Learn to research about it.
  • Practice on people you know. Start up a conversation with your relatives and see how it goes. Keep in mind, social interaction is an acquired skill — just like driving, working, education, etc. The more people you interact with, the better your skills become.

A counselor would be helpful in improving your social skills. When you consider employment, remember your social comfort level. Shy folks should not seek public contact jobs (unless they are wearing a uniform — that actually reduces shyness). Look for a job with limited or only regular social contact.

Social skills can be improved. Keep in mind that there are many occupations where shy folks work very well. This is a skill you can learn.

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