Maria Kennedy
April 07, 2015 6:17 am

I used to be extremely shy. This one time, in the sixth grade, the boy I had crush on asked me out and I said “no” out of nervousness. It was an extremely forceful “no” too, which in retrospect was probably mean to the boy. It’s just that he hadn’t spoken to me directly many times before and “no” was the only thing I was physically capable of saying.

This pattern continued for me as I got older. Aside from my sixth grade crush, there were also parties I didn’t go to and people I didn’t take the time to get to know. I went through long bouts of wanting to be someone else.

My shyness came from a place of fear, of always wanting to be safe and always sticking with the familiar because it’s comfortable. It was bad for me and I knew that if I kept it up I would keep missing out. Like anything, overcoming shyness is something that takes practice. For me, it was important to put myself out there as much as possible and slowly but surely, new people and places became less intimidating. Here’s what I learned when I finally started challenging myself to step out of my comfort zone.

Ask questions

Everybody has insecurities, even people who seem totally comfortable in their own skin. They may express themselves differently or do a better job of hiding them altogether, but it’s good to remember that you’re not alone. Let that give you some confidence to approach other people. Shyness is sometimes mistaken for unfriendliness. I find one of the easiest ways to make connections is to ask questions. People love talking about themselves and genuinely appreciate having someone listen to them. It’s also sometimes easier to open up after the conversation has already started.

People are friendlier than you think.

Most people like meeting new people. After I graduated college, I was unemployed and generally confused about my next steps in life. I always worried that people would judge me for being unemployed and absolutely dreaded being asked what I did for a living. This was a ridiculous thing to be worried about. Everyone has been unemployed before. Plus, people with jobs are often just as confused about their life path as people without jobs. The people I met during this time were really nice to me and even proved helpful in my job search.

No matter where you are, you can always go home.

It’s always good to try new things and even if the results are disastrous, you’re still a rock star for putting yourself out there. I mean, it’s possible to go to a party and end up standing awkwardly on the outskirts of a conversation because everyone is talking about Taylor Swift and you don’t know anything about Taylor Swift. On the flipside though, it’s also possible that someone at that party loves Divergent just as much as you do and you totally bond over the movie and make a new friend you didn’t at all expect to meet.

Just think, no matter what happens, at least you tried. Even if it’s awful or embarrassing or just plain boring, you wouldn’t have known if you hadn’t put yourself out there, and your Netflix queue will be waiting for you at home.

Be yourself

Always be proud of yourself and who you are. Think about all of the things that are great about you. You have a lot to offer other people and they are missing out by not getting to know you. Don’t let that happen.

Also, it just helps to remember that nobody is brave all of the time. We all feel a little shy sometimes, and that’s totally OK.

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