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How To Live With Shyness And Social Anxiety

Submitted by on September 6, 2012 – 10:08 amNo Comment | 4,831 views

shynessAlthough people are generally born as social and communicative beings, some tend to be more extrovert or introvert than others. Some are bold, while others are rather shy. People tend to communicate and react to their environment differently, and they get their energy in life at different ways. This is what makes us special, it is what makes us unique.

Sometimes, or rather increasingly more often, people create an anxiety, or a sense of fear, for social situations in their lives. In itself, being somewhat shy does not need to be a problem, but if it starts limiting the quality of life, then it can become a major issue. Although shyness refers to a lack of comfort or a sense of awkwardness in proximity of another person, the more serious social anxiety involves a sense of fear in proximity of other people, rather than merely a lack of comfort.

It is still not entirely clear why some people develop into extrovert or confident people, and why other develop some form of shyness or social anxiety. Whereas it is believed that shyness and social anxiety is somewhat determined by our genes, at the same time it is believed that shyness and social anxiety develops during childhood, depending on the experiences a person makes, mostly negative ones. A lack of confidence in social interactions might well be the results of very negative situations in the past, which ocured during similar situations. These are anchored in the mind deeply in the form of beliefs, and often result of avoidance of similar situations, or situation which can lead to one. These beliefs are just what they are, beliefs, and exist in our heads.

Shy people and people with social anxiety often get trapped in a vicious circle. Their belief systems makes them often shut down at an emotional level, in order to either avoid or protect them from any negative experiences still to come. Shy and socially anxious people are often more passive during social settings, holding back to take an initiative or even express simple thoughts. Thoughts are often carefully selected to be expressed, leading to shy and socially anxious people often ‘living’ in their heads. As a result, and due to the emotional distance, shy and socially anxious people are often perceived as arrogant and unfriendly by others, leading to others keeping at a distance from the shy and the socially anxious. This is exactly what shy and socially anxious people try to avoid; they want to be liked, and they most need people to break through their invisible barriers. To to the lack of this, shy and socially anxious people tend to continue to make negative experiences with other, as it is exactly that what they expect.

As people grow older, it becomes more and more difficult to actually change existing negative beliefs. They become so anchored into our minds, they become part of us. In order to dissolve these anchors, which are built by experience, we need other experience, which prove otherwise. One popular method, or rather therapy, is behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy focuses on a set of methods for reinforcing desired and eliminating undesired behavior. Behavioral therapy exists in many different forms, either as group sessions or individual sessions, and intends to modify behavior with a long-term and lasting effect.

Going to therapy, however, is a big step, but it might be necessary for those whose quality of life is suffering as a result of shyness and social social anxiety. Still, in addition to therapy, there might be a few things you can do, or think about, in everyday life. This is article is by no means a substitution to professional advice, and nor does it provide any professional advice.


Perhaps the most important step is to view everything in perspective. Many people, who are shy or socially anxious, might not even consider themselves as such. Many see the world as evil, because that is what they are getting back time after time. It is very well possible, that shy or socially anxious people are very confident in other areas of their lives. However, we often get back what we give, even if it is not voluntarily.

Knowing, that shyness and social anxiety is for a large part the result of past experiences, it might help to go through the past, and simply to try to identify in which situations in particular you feel socially anxious, and which past experiences might have contributed to that. Some people are socially anxious only in large groups, while others are anxious towards a particular gender, whereas others are anxious in a more flirtatious setting. If you know when, and potentially why, your shyness or social anxiety is fed, it is possible to take constructive measurements.

The other thing to realize, is that any person can change. If your behavior is largely due to experience, then new experiences can change behavior too. This should give you a positive mindset, that change is possible. But it will not go away alone; it requires work, and the gathering of experiences.

Small steps

It is remarkable how many people turn into doctors suddenly when someone is sick, although they have no clue. You can read and hear over and over again, that shy and socially anxious people should just ignore their fear, and do what they want to do, and go to people time after time in order to get rid of their fear. But this will not help, the step is too big. The fear can be so big, that it can evoke emotions and even physical reactions which are similar to someone who is about to be hit by a train.

One option, is to really start with little baby steps, and use these to become socially active. For example, if you dare you can go to a stranger on the street and ask for the time. Or ask someone for directions. This is neutral, and quick. If you feel comfortable with this, you can perhaps ask for someone’s opinion on a jeans you would like to buy in a clothing store, which is already a more personal interaction, but also short and quick. In a third step, you may want to ask someone for their opinion, and perhaps add two or three lines for a more personal interaction.

These are only ideas, on how it is possible to proceed. The trick is to expand your boundaries and your comfort zone. By taking baby steps, you start within your comfort zone, and start moving outside of it step by step, until you feel comfortable with the new situation. Then, you can seek again a situation outside of your comfort zone, in order to expand it.


It is up to you to define how you want to approach and mitigate your shyness and social anxiety. But one thing is certain: shyness and social anxiety can severely limit the quality of life. By seeing things into perspective and accepting that you are a shy or socially anxious person, you have already made one big step, namely the realization that there is something limiting you, and that you have the power to change it. Additionally, gathering new experiences might mitigate the degree of your shyness, which is the result of past experiences. It is recommended, however, that you seek professional help. Behavioral therapy is a popular therapy method for mitigating social anxiety, but a professional specialist might certainly provide other available alternatives.

The absolutely most important driver, however, is your hunger to change, and to make a difference. Your success depends on your motivation.

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