Once upon a time, I was invisible. I know this sounds like some weird make-believe story in which I have a fantasized superpower, but it was real. It wasn’t done with a cloak or magic trick, though. I was shy – and I was real good at being it. Basically you wouldn’t know I was in a room unless you tripped over me. I now identify as an introvert & a recovering shy person. How to overcome shyness
It is important to note that being shy and being an introvert are NOT the same thing. You can be a shy introvert but it doesn’t have to be a package deal. Introversion refers to how you spend your energy in social situations and how you recharge it after. There is NOTHING wrong with being an introvert. I am a proud one – we think before we speak, we bring calmness and focus to groups. We are creative and tend to be great listeners. Introversion is an asset. Don’t let anyone tell ya different.
Shyness is a liability. I remember feeling a tightness in my chest, my heart pounding, my breath getting short – whenever I had to speak to someone new or exist in a new space. It seemed like an invisible wall I could not scale – I could, however, see the other side – where I truly wanted to be, but I could not get there. Over and over I would break my own heart, missing out on connections, relationships, healing and opportunities because speaking up was literally physically daunting.
Shyness is your perception of other people’s perceptions. It is a fictitious prison you build with the fear of not measuring up to what you think others expect of you. Being shy creates a half-lived life as a result of being afraid of what might happen if you dared inhabit all of who you were created to be. It’s a backwards way of living – from the outside in as what could happen out in the world dictates how you express what’s inside of you. And it is exhausting.
If you find yourself in this space, I want you to know there is nothing wrong with you. There is, though, something wrong with choosing to stay there and letting it rule your life. The hard truth I had to swallow was that shyness was not something that happened to me. I felt like it was – like it had been placed on me as a personality trait and, therefore, it was mine to live with. It’s not true. You owe it to yourself to investigate where this fear came from in your life, get to the root cause of the trauma, and uproot it. Shyness is a manifestation of fear, and fear is not from God. In fact, God gave you power – you already have it. You just have to decide to walk it out.
So, how did I graduate from “person who hides in corners and back rows” to a recovering shy human? Courageous awkwardness.
*Slightly Embarrassing Story Time*
When I was 25, I found a new church home on my own – it was my first time attending without family and I had no friends there. A full year went by before I spoke to anyone besides a “hello” or “goodbye” in the entryway. I knew I wanted to be free – to have fun with the other young adult women that went there, to develop relationships, so I came up with a strategy.
After church they would always talk to each other in a group so I would go stand by them. Yep – just stand there on the outskirts of the social circle. I would smile at something funny or laugh at a semi-inside joke I probably didn’t fully understand but I wouldn’t say anything because I had no idea what to say and I was too scared to say something stupid. I felt like a fool. But somewhere along the way, I realized I had to decide if holding on to my insecurities was more important to me than my freedom. Eventually I got up the never to say something. To this day some of those girls are good friends of mine. Standing next to them was a small step, but small steps still count. They often lead to bigger ones. In this case, actual words. To people. That they could hear. How to overcome shyness
The key to your freedom is having the courage to embrace the awkward instead of trying to wish it away. If you are waiting to magically not be shy anymore in order to start doing the work, I promise you it will never happen. Social interaction is awkward for some of us and that’s ok. Just let it rest over you like a poorly, knitted oblong blanket.
I call myself “recovering shy” because those tendencies are not gone. I still have anxiety around social interaction. Many times I leave a situation beating myself up because I decide that the other person felt as awkward as I did during the small talk that I am not good at and, therefore, somehow it was unsuccessful. I’ll think about it randomly at 2 am after the fact, and then sometime 12 days later. Even still, I talk to people even though I’m scared of them. And the more I simply accept that it’s awkward the less anxiety I have about it. I trust that whatever God wants to do with the interaction, He can do, therefore I waste time obsessing about what I said “right” or “wrong.” Not only is it not about me, but His ability to move in a conversation is not hindered by my feelings about it went.
So, my advice? Exercise the power that you already have. The more you practice, the easier it will become, but you have to do the work. Stop waiting to walk in the courage that you already have. Do not over think, do not second guess, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Don’t stop at awkward. Shyness is a liability to your life & purpose. Push past it and watch how your world opens up. How to overcome shyness
Are you shy or recovering? What do you feel are the greatest obstacles to overcoming it? How to overcome shyness