Bashful. Shy. Timid. Reserved.
Quiet. Cautious. Wary. Guarded.
Do any of these words describe you? Who of us hasn’t experienced at least one instance of intimidation in their life? Or been afraid to speak up in a situation where you really wanted to? If it doesn’t happen to you very often, you’re one of the lucky ones who can explain it away and shrug it off as a one-time thing.
photo by saavem courtesy of: http://www.sxc.hu/
For all of my adult years (and most of my teen years), being shy has been as much a part of me as my height, weight and eye color. It has seriously interfered with my life, and did, in fact, cost me many things. A boy I really cared about in high school, a position in journalism that meant the world to me, friends, missed opportunities when I wanted so bad to speak up but sat paralyzed with fear of opening my mouth, and even respect from people I once held in the highest regard.
But, I must point out something very important. Being shy taught me many things about life, and as much as I want to banish it from my personality once and for all, it’s difficult to dislike a trait that taught me compassion and empathy for others, and strengthened my relationship with God.
… “Be strong and courageous… Do not be afraid or discouraged,
for the Lord God, my God, is with you…” ~~1 Chronicles 28:5
What’s Holding You Back?
This is one of the first things you have to figure out, because that is key to conquering the battle. Do some serious soul-searching. Did something happen when you were a child that dashed your self-confidence? Do you have issues with your self image? Would you be surprised to know people aren’t sitting around analyzing your looks? If they are, they have serious issues themselves. But truly, what does it matter what they think of you? It only matters what you, your loved ones, and your God think of you.
I can picture you all scratching your head. LIGMO? What could that possibly mean?
Let It Go. Move On. I don’t know how many times I’ve said this to myself since I heard it a couple of years ago. When you hold something inside, it doesn’t hurt the other person. It only hurts you. That person who embarrassed you or made fun of you in the past – how is your shyness hurting them now?
photo by cempey courtesy of: http://www.sxc.hu/
Self-Talk: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
I’m sure you’re all familiar with the expression “self-talk”. We use it all the time. It only makes sense that when we use self-talk, we start to believe what we’re telling ourselves.
- “I’m worthless.”
- “No one loves me.”
- “This dress makes me look fat.”
- “Do I really have anything important to say?”
- “How do I even know they really like me?”
Turn it around. Find the positive. Repeat it. Believe it. You have something worthwhile to say. Your input is just as valuable as the next person’s. You are worth something. You are smart.
What Language Are You Speaking?
Become a student of body language. What does yours say about you? Do you cross your arms when you’re sitting in a group? Slouch? Sit up straight? Make eye contact? Smile?
Do you project when you speak? Do you speak with confidence? If you speak in a well-modulated confident tone, and use positive body language people are more apt to pay attention to you.
How does a shy person accomplish this? I have a relatively unconventional method, but it works for me.
The Acting Studio
A lot of actors are basically shy people.
- Jim Carrey
- Kim Bassinger
- Nicole Kidman
- Tom Hanks
Elvis. Cher. Lucille Ball….
When an actor is playing a part, they’re pretending to be someone else. I used to love acting. Whenever I played a role, I forgot my fear of speaking in front of people and became the character. It didn’t matter how many people were watching, listening, critiquing. But would it work in real life? I decided to give it a try, and to my surprise, over time, it has helped. I’m growing more comfortable with each group setting I’m in. This method does, however, come with a caveat. First, you must be confident that you know what you’re talking about. Make sure you have your facts straight. And second, while pretending to be someone else might help you speak up in a group setting, as a whole, it isn’t constructive and should be used sparingly. Once you’re able to feel comfortable, you should be yourself and no one else.
We do, after all, want to be loved and accepted (and thereby comfortable expressing ourselves) for who we are. To achieve that, we have to learn to love and accept ourselves.
Put yourself out there. Advising the shy person to put herself in a situation where she has to talk seems as unconventional as pretending to be someone else. It’s a bit like aversion therapy. The more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll become. Start with only one thing; a Bible study group, book club, a committee, a group blog. Get comfortable with those people and you can move forward from there.
The Magic Number
I once heard someone say you have to repeat something twenty-one times before it becomes a habit. That’s twenty-one times of forcing yourself to speak up. Don’t be disappointed if you lack a surge of confidence the first time. Your mouth might be dry and your stomach might feel like a dozen butterflies breaking out of their cocoon. This is perfectly normal, but will get easier each time.
Please don’t be discouraged, and don’t give up. Remember twenty-one times. Before long you’ll be a natural.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ~~Isaiah 41:10
Remember, you never go anywhere alone. I know it sounds trite even to some Christians, but the truth is the truth. God is always with you. And through Him we can do all things. If God is with us, how can we fail?
You can be brave because you’re loved. Take courage in that and let it help you find your confidence. You’ll be surprised where it can take you.