Through the Self Help Article Request Form, (as well as through e-mail) I’ve gotten quite a few requests for information and advice about Personalities, Personality Disorders, and Overcoming Shyness. As a matter of fact, these subjects have greatly taken over the ones that had been leading the way: Depression, Anxiety, and The Blues.
Personally, I think that backs up my previous theory that a lot of those were results of pure old fashioned winter doldrums. Hopefully, anyway, many people are feeling happier and have put the words depression, blues, and sadness out of their reach.
I also think that the recent requests for articles, advice, and tips about things such as personality, boldness, and overcoming shyness are great indications that people are coming out of their winter hibernation and are ready to improve themselves and, in turn, their lives. That’s exciting!
A Word or Two About Personality Disorders
I think the word disorder is nearly as overused as depression. People are selling themselves short and it hurts me to see anyone do that. There are, of course, clinical conditions that fall under the category Personality Disorders. However, none of the conditions that have been shared with me fall into these categories. They’re simply personality or temperament characteristics that people wish were different.
The great news about that is this: If we have a bodily feature that we don’t even come close to appreciating – such as abs that are as undefined as a killer vocabulary word – what do we do? We work on it until it matches our preconceived notion of how it should look.
The same holds true for those aspects of our personality or temperament that we don’t like. We should simply address these particular “shortcomings” and take steps to improve them.
Being shy or awkward in social settings do not mean you have a disorder. It simply means you are shy and/or awkward in social settings! The first thing I would ask is that you not think of yourself as less capable or as handicapped in any manner. The fact that you realize you have an area in your life that could use a little attention puts you in the top 20 percent of the human race. The fact that you are seeking out information and an active course of making this improvement catapults you into the top 5 percent. You go, you!
Most people simply don’t see the areas where they could improve, and the ones who DO see the areas seldom do anything except make excuses and gloss over them.
Kudos to you for being special, and I truly mean that.
More times than not, shyness is a condition that’s brought about when the individual lacks confidence. They may feel as though something isn’t quite “good enough” about them. This feeling causes the person to feel awkward, ill at ease, out of place, and apprehensive. When they find themselves in certain situations, they can often feel so completely overwhelmed and intimidated that they break out in a cold sweat. They look for the nearest exit and don’t feel completely “safe” until they’re far removed from the stressful situation.
I’m not just describing something I’ve read about or something someone else has described to me. I lived with shyness for a great part of my childhood. My shyness actually stemmed from being an only child. I was with adult family members and only adult family members for the majority of my life. When I began school, I was completely unsure of how to handle other kids my age. I found that the safest place to be was inside of my own head. All by myself. And I seldom ventured out.
I was afraid that if I spoke, I’d say the wrong thing. If I did anything, I’d fall on my face.
When I got a little older, my mother suggested (okay, she insisted… to the tune of “You will do this.”) that I take drama class AND debate class at school. In the same year. I thought she’d either lost her mind or wanted me to have a total breakdown.
A ham was born. In drama class, I actually came to crave the spotlight. I found Joi and seemed to think she needed to be center stage! With debate class, I found that I didn’t have to always be right – that sometimes being wrong was a heckuva lot more interesting. And fun.
A mini Erica Kane was born that year and she has lived inside me ever since.
I’m living proof that you can grow out of the uncomfortable shell of shyness. But you have to want it badly enough to go through the growing pains. You have to be willing to put up with a little discomfort – to step out of your comfort zone. You have to MAKE yourself reach higher and go farther – You’ll never get anywhere if you keep marching in place.
Tips to Overcoming Shyness:
- Talk to three new people each day. Initiate the conversation and look them directly in the eyes while you’re talking and while they’re talking to you. It isn’t comfortable at first, but you’ll feel like Goliath afterward.
- Never back out of social situations. Not going to a particular party or gathering is the easy path and growth never occurs on easy paths. Never. Put on your best outfit, do your hair, brush your teeth, floss, and off you go. Make yourself go through with it, 99 times out of 100 you’ll have a great time and make others have more fun as well.
- Be prepared. Whether you’re going to lunch with someone or to a social event with a group of people, be prepared. Have a good handle on the subjects that are likely to come up. Brush up on things that are going on in the world. Knowing, ahead of time, what you’ll talk about will take away a lot of the awkwardness that comes with being shy and will give you an upper hand.
- Remember to breathe! When we’re nervous or anxious, we tend to take shallow little breaths. This actually compounds the problem and makes us feel even more anxious and ill at ease. It also does remarkably creepy things to our voice. Take deep breaths – it’ll help to calm you down and keep you from sounding as though you’re auditioning for the role of Alvin, Theodore, and Simon’s long lost cousin.
Addressing Aspects of Your Personality That You Would Like to Change:
Below are a few things I want you to write down in your mental notebook:
- There are as many types of personalities as there are types of plants. Some may seem prettier to you, some may seem less attractive. Some may seem fancy, some may seem common. Some require very little attention and some are quite demanding. Just because a fern doesn’t look like an azalea bush doesn’t mean the fern has a disorder. It also doesn’t mean the azalea bush has a better life or is any more worthy. If all plants were the same, what boring yards we’d have – and if all personalities were the same, life wouldn’t be nearly as fun or colorful.
- Some people simply live louder than others. When any one of my family members enters a room, I know who it is simply by the sound (or lack thereof). A few glide past, as though any noise would “give them away,” while a few have never entered a room without announcing their arrival in some manner. My world is instantly a little sweeter when any of them happen along, whether they arrive with a whisper or a shout. If shyness is something you live with, consider your personality “soft-spoken.” Not everyone can be, or should be, bold or “out-spoken.” Can you imagine a world filled with Bobby Knights and Charles Barkleys?! Tylenol sales would go through the roof.
- Feeling awkward and unsure of yourself is something you can actively work on. The first step is to identify WHY you lack self confidence. Is there something in particular that you aren’t comfortable with? More likely than not it’s something no one else thinks twice about. I knew a girl once who spoke very, very little. I actually knew her for a whole year before I even found out she was from Europe and had a beautiful accent. Apparently she was uncomfortable with her accent and chose to deal with it by becoming very shy and quiet. One day I told her that I loved her accent and could listen to her talk all day. You could see the cloak of quietness and shyness fall off of her, and she never put it back on.
- Sometimes shyness is simply a layer of protection. For me, I was used to spending so much time alone (as an only child with two parents who worked) that I was kind of afraid of NOT being alone. I found my safe house, and it was deep inside myself. When I’m going through extra tough times (such as the loss of a loved one, a pet, a move, etc.), I still tend to retreat into myself. Over the years I’ve learned something – there’s nothing really wrong with that. We all have different ways of coping and, in the end, only we can say what works best for us.
- Fake it until you make it. If you wish you had certain traits, such as boldness, calmness, an easy going nature, etc. – act as though you possess them, and they’ll rub off on you. I promise!
You are an original and there’s nothing wrong with being different. Avoid any and all individuals and any and all thoughts that suggest otherwise.
Road Rules: Be the Truck. Not the Squirrel. Learn the 12 Essential Rules for Navigating the Road of Life – First and foremost, this is the book I’d recommend for the individual who is looking to improve their life in any manner. The author, Andrew J. Sherman, provides a wealth of insight and advice for getting the most out of yourself.
Painfully Shy: How to Overcome Social Anxiety and Reclaim Your Life – If you are so shy that it’s interfering with your life, it’s time to look your shyness dead in the eye and overcome it. Break out of its hold and live your life on your own terms! This book, by Barbara and Gregory Markway will help you along the way by making the seemingly impossible suddenly possible.
10 Simple Solutions to Shyness: How to Overcome Shyness, Social Anxiety & Fear of Public Speaking This easy to read book is also a fun to read book. It’ll really make the light bulb come on over your head and help break you out of your shell.
Overcome Your Shyness Subliminal CD Many have not only been helped by subliminal cds such as this one – they swear by them and defy you to deny the difference they’ve seen in their life.
Did You Know?
Lucille Ball, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Brad Pitt, Carrie Underwood, Elvis Presley, Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas Edison, Tom Hanks, Cher, Courteney Cox Arquette, Bob Dylan, Julia Roberts, Jim Carey, Don Rickles, David Letterman, Joan Rivers, Ingrid Bergman, and Eleanor Roosevelt each had to overcome shyness.
Each found their inner magic and brought it to the surface for the world to enjoy. You can find your own magic… the world is waiting!