Being a painfully shy introvert has it’s bonuses. You get a lot of reading done. Sometimes, your quiet contemplativeness makes people think you’re mysterious and sexy. You never run out of themes for pity parties.
But that’s about it.
I’ve struggled with being shy most of my life. I remember watching my dad interact with people (he’s friends with EVERYONE) and wishing that I could talk to people like that. There came a point where I just got sick and tired of feeling so awkward in social situations.
I remember being at a fire department party and feeling so painfully shy and anxious. I would say hi to people and not much else because I had no idea what to say. Why would they care what I had to say? I stuck super-close to my husband and begged to go home early.
I was a total drag.
So I decided that I wouldn’t feel that way anymore. Life is no fun when lived in a fearful state and I was done with missing out on connecting with people.
It’s been a few years since I’ve made that decision and I am very happy that I did. Now when we attend a get-together, I enjoy talking to people. There are still times that I have difficulty approaching people I don’t know, but then I usually push myself to do it and end up very happy that I did.
Was it easy? No. It was challenging and there were many times that I was way out of my comfort zone. Was it worth it? Oh heck yes.
But where do you start? Do you volunteer to be emcee at your best friend’s upcoming wedding? Probably not. Here are a few practical tips that I followed to pull me out my shell of loneliness and solitude.
Don’t talk to strangers. Yet.
You’re not going to go from wall flower to life of the party overnight, so don’t try. Besides, the thought of that probably makes your heart race – and not in a good way. To start, make a point of talking to someone that you’re acquainted with but don’t know very well.
That way they’re familiar, but you still have to work to engage with them and build a relationship. You can do this by inviting them to your house for dinner or casually stalking them.
Get out of your environment
Home is cozy. It’s yours and you don’t have to talk unless you want to. But if you want to get out of your shell, you first have to get out of your environment and hang out with…other people. Scary, I know. Really, I know.
But that’s the only way you’re going to have the opportunity to approach new people to get to know them. Unless you want to start hosting dinners at your house, then go for it. But you can’t hide in the kitchen all night.
Get some Vibram FiveFinger shoes and have lots of kids
Ok, I’m kidding. But only a little. Having four little kids has helped ease (force) me out of my shell because so many people approach me to comment on my “full hands”. My Vibrams are awesome for this, too.
Soooo many people have come to talk to me over my shoes. Sure it would be easy to shrug and say, “Yep, they’re pretty cozy.” But that would be a missed chance for connection. If you’re approached (in a non-threatening way, of course) try to engage with words other than yes and no. And don’t forget to SMILE.
Would you rather talk with Emeril Lagasse about delicious food or Dave Ramsey about debt-freedom? That’s a trick question. I would say both because they’re extremely passionate about their respective topics and that enthusiasm draws people in (or repels them, which works out well for you in the end).
People love passionate people. Nobody wants to listen to you complain about your job or whine about the economy (again, you probably don’t want to hang with those people who do). There’s enough of that everywhere else. Sharing your passion with others, be it gardening, cooking or semi-automatic handguns makes it easier for you to open up and more enjoyable for the person talking with you.
Tell a better story
Story goes hand-in-hand with passion. We are naturally drawn to a good story. Is yours a good one? One of my fears was that people would come say hi and then walk away because I was just so boring. If you have a deep desire to come out of your shell, chances are your story might not be so hot. It’s ok. It’s never too late to change. Life doesn’t have to be extraordinary all the time, but you should definitely start sprinkling in moments of awesomeness where you can.
Take dancing lessons, learn a new language, take a trip somewhere new, start volunteering your time (like at a fire department. ), take up a new sport. Sign up for something that sounds fun but scares your pants off. Start living your life as the amazing story that it is. Once you feel truly alive, it’s hard to hide it. Relating to others is a natural by-product.
I’m still working on the last one. But in the last year I’ve done some things to push myself out of my comfort zone and have happily ended up with more relationships and less social anxiety. Really, what have you got to lose? Fear? Anxiety? Time with your cat? Trust me, you’ll be better off with less of that.
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