Shyness and its more extreme form, social anxiety, can be crippling, but as Ailin Quinlan discovered, there are some simple but effective steps to tackling both problems.
Shyness is a common personality trait - a shy person doesn't want to be at the centre of attention, explains Gary Donohoe, a psychology professor. Social anxiety, which is also quite common, can take the form of an intense fear, anxiety or discomfort in social situations, which can become debilitating. Consciously start to reduce the pace at which you are breathing with some slow breaths, Prof Donohoe suggests. Imagine your breath is like letting the air out of a balloon.
Focus on the breath out of your body. Controlling the breath as it leaves your body is much easier than trying to control the breath in. Slowing your breathing down means that you are slowing your heart rate and, thereby, giving your body the message to relax. Identify the particular situations you generally like to avoid, says Dr Olivia Gordon, a senior clinical psychologist.
You may, for example, dislike making casual eye contact or making small talk with people you don't know. Once you have identified something real, start to build your self-confidence by deliberately doing these things - in a careful way. Start with the smallest most manageable thing, which may simply involve making eye contact with a colleague in the corridor. It's very important to be your own friend in these anxious situations, says Donohoe.
Be supportive of yourself rather than critical," he counsels. Understand that, even though they may not show it and you may not be aware of it because you assume it's just you, lots of people feel uncomfortable in particular social situations. Try not to see yourself as the exception to a rule that "everyone" is automatically comfortable in all social situations, he advises. It makes you feel less isolated - it's called normalising the problem. Ask yourself why you're afraid of social interaction - and start to tackle the problem with a little bit of Exposure Therapy, suggests psychologist Patricia Murray.
Now, put yourself into a situation that is a little uncomfortable for you, and check if you respond with excessive blushing How Do You Ask A Girl Out If Your Shy usually you won't, she says.
This is called "bio-feedback". Identify particular situations that trigger your shyness or social anxiety. It may be job interviews, giving presentations or attending "How Do You Ask A Girl Out If Your Shy" where there will be some conversation with people you don't know. Is it that you might say something foolish or worry that you aren't as clever or as interesting as other people?
Once you can name it, it becomes more understandable and more manageable. Are you afraid of what people will think of you, or that you will say something embarrassing, or that people will think you're odd?
Do you fear that people are scrutinising you and evaluating you or that they are noticing your signs of anxiety? Question these thoughts in a pragmatic way, she How Do You Ask A Girl Out If Your Shy. Ask yourself whether it is actually realistic to assume that everyone will be looking at you. If you feel self-conscious and suspect that people are looking at and evaluating you, remember that they're probably not doing this because they're usually more focused on themselves rather than on you!
Remind yourself of this with the following aphorism: In your 20s, you convince yourself that you don't care. And in your 30s you realise that nobody was really looking at you - or thinking about you - anyway! Donohoe suggests taking your mind off your anxiety by simply watching something that makes you laugh. Try an episode of Friends or Modern Family, before attending the kind of social event that makes you nervous, he suggests.
Even well-known celebrities will have a glass or bottle of water nearby when they do television interviews, she points out. Taking some simple steps beforehand can help you avoid increasing your sense of physical anxiety. If it's a presentation or a job interview, she says, be well-prepared and very punctual.
If you don't know what to say to somebody in a social situation, says Prof Donohoe, ask the person about themselves. This means that you are giving out the message that you do want to engage with other people, and that you are interested in what they think.
This is because they are self-preoccupied. If you ask people about themselves, it can takes the pressure to perform off you and allows others to do the talking for you - this allows you to relax. Don't hunch over with your arms folded trying to make yourself small, says Donohoe. Instead, assume a posture of confidence - stand straight and tall, because this can actually help to increase your sense of confidence, he reveals.
Rather than folding your arms in How Do You Ask A Girl Out If Your Shy classic defensive posture, Donohoe suggests holding a glass or putting your hands in your pockets. A "threatened" stance can put people off approaching you, turning your anxiety about the event into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
And remember to smile. Become aware of personal behaviours that can get in the way of a natural conversation, suggests Gordon. Most people will find the things they feared are not happening and that people are not as judgemental and critical as they had assumed.
To get away from this uncomfortable feeling, boost your self-esteem by doing something you're good at, such as art or photography, in a small group, she suggests. This is about assuming that you know what other people are thinking, says Gordon - more often than not, she quips, they're probably not thinking about you at all. For example, "she thinks that I am boring", "he thinks I'm not saying enough", "they know I am no good at this", "everyone can see I'm nervous".
Mostly, what people think about are their own lives, their own worries, and they only have a small proportion of their attention devoted to us. Even this small proportion is positive, if they're a friend and if they're not a friend, they have stopped thinking about us already. So what should we do to avoid mind reading? When we notice that we are mind reading, we can challenge some of our own negative beliefs about ourselves, she advises. Ask yourself what the facts are? How long has this person been my friend?
Maybe my friend accepts me just as I am, even if I don't. Stop thinking about the conversation and throw yourself into it; try to go with the flow of the conversation. Notice that when we focus on the conversation, rather than on ourselves, we tend to feel more relaxed and less self-conscious.
Acknowledge that a particular social situation probably went far better than you imagined, Gordon says. Later, don't dwell on a particular event, she counsels.
Be kind to yourself - and acknowledge that you did your best. Think about how your shyness affects your life, asks Gordon. Ask yourself what you'd like to change in your day-to-day life. Would you like to be able to ask someone to go for a cup of coffee, or invite somebody out on a date?
Would you like to be able to go to a party without getting into a bundle of nerves? Then decide to do something about it - and take it in small steps. If you have a shy child, it's never a good idea to throw him or her into a big group or club, warns Murray. It seems obvious, she says, but some parents who are naturally extrovert can expect their kids to be. Joining a club is hard, even for adults, so parents should not give advice that even an adult would be reluctant to follow.
Instead, she advises, set something up with a friend, a one on one, or ideally, four children, and for a short time. The activity should involve doing something enjoyable, so that shy children don't feel judged either for their doing of the thing, or the social skills they display while doing it.
So leave them alone with a few
How Do You Ask A Girl Out If Your Shy and come back in 20 minutes, and take them home," she advises.
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