If you’ve always admired other peoples’ ability to be outgoing and confident, but never seemed to figure out how to cultivate those qualities in yourself, you’re not alone. Being shy is a pretty common problem, but most people don’t want to be known as the shy girl.
The world seems made for extroverts, with the most successful people seeming to be those with great social skills and endless confidence. Shy girls, or those of us who are more introverted, can sometimes be overlooked. While there’s nothing wrong with being quiet or reserved, it can hold you back in some ways. Even if you have a ton of great qualities, the people around you may not be able to appreciate them if you’re too shy to express yourself. You just get boxed in as the shy girl. It’s also hard to meet new people when you’re shy, which can make it difficult to make friends, date, and have fun, new experiences.
The problem is that shyness feels like a very difficult hurdle to overcome—when you’re shy, something as simple as ordering food can feel extremely nerve-wracking. Those of us who have been shy since we were young children may feel like it’s impossible to change our ways.
Fortunately, that is not the case–that there are plenty of things you can do to help overcome your shyness. Read on to discover ten helpful tips for shy girls looking to put themselves out there.
Why Are You a Shy Girl?
The following recommendations will help you break out of your shell and shed the title of the shy girl. Say goodbye to the days of being the wallflower at parties or being too nervous to ask a cute guy on a date! By learning more about yourself and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, you will be able to shed the label of the shy girl and be the confident and outgoing person you’ve always wanted to be.
1. Understand the Root of Your Shyness.
Have you always been known as the shy girl? Many shy people are naturally inclined towards quietness and introversion, due to genetic or environmental factors. Just like some people are naturally more confident, some of us are naturally more reserved.
You may have also adopted shyness as a learned behavior growing up. Maybe you were taught as a child that quietness was equated with good behavior—after all, many of us have heard the saying “Children should be seen, not heard.” This idea is reinforced in school when we’re advised to be quiet in class and other settings. There is also the possibility that you had a traumatic social experience as a child that made you uncomfortable in social situations.
Most of the time, however, shyness stems from the fear of rejection. Shy girls don’t speak up because they fear being judged or misunderstood by the people around them, or they feel self-conscious about how they are coming off to others. Taking a look inward can help you identify reasons why you’re shy and help you tackle shyness head-on.
2. Understand the Difference Between Shyness, Introversion, Social Anxiety, and Selective Mutism.
Sometimes shyness and introversion seem interchangeable, but the two words actually have different meanings. Shyness is defined as “the tendency to feel awkward, worried, or tense during social encounters, especially with unfamiliar people.” Sometimes, shy people have physical symptoms of shyness like facial flushing, sweating, a pounding heart, and an upset stomach. Shyness is a spectrum, though, so some people are only a little shy, while others have extreme shyness.
Introverts are defined as people who “feel more comfortable focusing on their inner thoughts and ideas, rather than what’s happening externally.” Introverts often enjoy low-stimulation activities, and they most likely prefer spending time with one or two close friends rather than large groups or crowds. When someone is introverted, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are shy—but the two do tend to overlap.
Social anxiety takes shyness to the next level and is also known as ‘social phobia.’ With social anxiety disorder, which is considered a mental health condition, normal, day-to-day interactions cause significant fear, anxiety, and self-consciousness that disrupts a person’s life. This goes beyond just being a shy girl—sometimes the disorder is so severe that the person struggling with it can’t hold down a job or do small things like go out for groceries. Fortunately, working on coping skills, participating in counselling or therapy, and certain medications can significantly improve social anxiety disorder.
Lastly, selective mutism is a severe anxiety disorder in which the sufferer is unable to speak to certain people or in certain situations, such as with unfamiliar family members or at school. With this disorder, it’s important to note that the person isn’t choosing not to speak—they are truly unable to speak due to the body’s panic “freeze” response. Selective mutism, like social anxiety, can be improved with lifestyle changes, medications, and therapy.
Easy Ways to Overcome Shyness
If you feel like you fit into multiple categories mentioned above, that’s completely normal! Some shy girls also experience social anxiety disorder, while others consider themselves shy girls and introverted, but not socially anxious; the lines between each category can be blurry. Now that you understand your shyness more, read on for the actionable steps you can take to break out of your shy girl mold!
3. Start Small.
You aren’t going to get rid of the shy girl title overnight, so the best strategy towards overcoming shyness is starting small. Try to make eye contact with the cashier at the grocery store when you check out, or, if you tend to avoid eye contact with friends and family, challenge yourself to look them in the eye when you’re speaking to each other. Eye contact is essential to showing the person you’re talking to that you are friendly and that your attention is engaged. It will feel weird at first, but eye contact is a great way to build confidence as a shy girl—and appear more confident.
Another small step to try is smiling at strangers. Many people prefer to keep their heads down, hoping that no one will look at them or speak to them on their commute to work or school, but that behavior serves to further ingrain shyness. Even though you know you’re just a shy girl, it can make others think you’re stuck-up or snobby, further driving away potential friends and making you feel more isolated.
You don’t have to strike up a conversation with a stranger, but do try to smile at the people you pass in shops or on your commute. You may find it to be scary at first, but the more you do it, the better you’ll feel—you may be surprised at how many people will smile back! You may also find that changing your body language—standing up tall with your chin up—makes you feel more confident.
4. Prepare for Social Events.
For a shy girl, one of the scariest parts of socializing is all the small talk. When you’re in a situation with someone you don’t know well, it’s easy to clam up and not know what to say. However, you can avoid this situation by preparing before social events. This can be in the form of researching current events, familiarizing yourself with new or popular movies that have recently come out, or even watching some viral videos so you’re in the loop. Not only will this give you information to talk about, it will also allow you to respond to others if they bring up one of these topics.
If you find yourself freezing up during small talk, shy girls can still make a good impression by keeping body language friendly. This means making eye contact, smiling, and nodding when appropriate. If you find yourself in the middle of an awkward silence, compliment the person you’re talking to (for example, “I love your shoes, by the way!”) or ask them questions about themselves. It’s pretty much a universal rule that people love talking about themselves, and it allows you to take a break from talking. But be sure to maintain eye contact and stay engaged with what the person is saying; if you can’t muster much small talk, you can still be a good listener.
5. Invest in Yourself to Build Self-Esteem.
A big part of shyness is not feeling confident in yourself, so it can be helpful to find ways to boost your self-esteem. This can look different for everyone, but you can start by setting some time aside each day to tune into what you need. When you invest in yourself, you are showing yourself that you are worth the time and energy it takes to feel good. Reaffirming your worth to yourself can help you build confidence.
Investing in yourself can come in the form of affirmations. Though it may seem corny, it is worth it to think of some affirming statements to repeat to yourself to instill higher self-esteem. This can be in the form of repeating phrases to yourself like, “I am worthy,” or, “I am enough.” If you’re not sure what affirmations work for you, you can find lists of positive affirmations online.
And if you prefer to write down your affirmations instead of saying them aloud, that’s perfectly fine too. The point is to repeat positive phrases to yourself to gradually reprogram your subconscious, and it can be very useful in overcoming shyness.
Lastly, invest in yourself by spending time doing the things you love. It’s easier to feel self-conscious when you feel like you don’t know who you are outside of being a shy girl. When you take the time to dive into hobbies or interests, you are building your sense of self, and having a strong sense of self helps a lot in feeling confident.
6. Develop Assertiveness.
Sometimes passiveness and shyness go hand-in-hand. Shy girls are often so worried about people judging them that they go along with whatever someone else is saying, even if they don’t agree with it. You may feel like speaking your opinion will provoke a negative reaction in the person you’re talking to, but you must remember that you have a right to express yourself just as much as anyone else.
Developing your assertiveness—that is, speaking up for yourself, being forthright with your wants and needs, and confronting someone if they step on your toes—may be hard at first because it feels confrontational and maybe even aggressive. Plus, girls and women are socialized to be timid and non-confrontational, so pairing that with being a shy girl makes it even harder to be assertive. Either way, it’s good to stand up for yourself and what you believe in, and when you’re brave enough to do this, it can inspire others around you to do the same.
7. Find New People to Hang Out With.
It’s easy to feel shy around people who you just don’t click with. If you don’t feel like you can be yourself around your current friends, or if you don’t have any friends at all, a good first step is to find events to go to that will have people there who share your interests. If you like reading, join a book club! If you love music, go to concerts and try striking up conversation with people around you. It’s not easy to do this—even for people who aren’t shy, making friends as an adult can be uncomfortable. But try to remember what it was like making friends as a child. There wasn’t really any awkwardness; young children just walk up to other kids and start playing together. We can still make friends easily like we did as children if we just allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to try.
You probably won’t find a new group of friends overnight, but if you put yourself out there, you will meet new people over time. If the idea of going out to meet friends is too daunting, it’s totally fine to start with finding new friends online—social media can be a shy girl’s best friend. Sometimes people we meet online can turn into real-life friendships, and even if they don’t, they can still be great online friends.
8. Don’t Get Caught Up in the Little Things.
It’s easy to remember all the times you said or did something embarrassing in a social situation, but you’re less likely to keep a record of all the times you have succeeded in social settings. Try not to ruminate on your social blunders and remember that everyone says the wrong thing sometimes. Shy girls tend to be more self-critical, so it’s hard not to obsess over mistakes, but it’s important to keep in mind that people are often more concerned about how they’re coming off than how you’re coming off. That means that if you did something embarrassing, the people around you didn’t notice it or will forget about it soon enough.
Also, something to remember if you’re feeling self-conscious is that shyness can be a charming personality trait! Being a shy girl isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and many people think shyness is cute. Our imperfections make us human. But if you feel like being a shy girl is getting in the way of things you want in life, that’s reason enough to work on lessening shyness.
9. Push Yourself Out of Your Comfort Zone.
This may seem like cliché advice, but you probably aren’t going to overcome the label of the shy girl if you don’t put yourself in uncomfortable situations that force you to face your fears. For many shy girls, the idea of approaching a stranger may seem too awkward or embarrassing, but if you don’t force yourself to try it, your fear of rejection will continue to grow, and your shyness will not get any better. The worst that can happen is that the person doesn’t want to talk to you, and then you feel uncomfortable or awkward for trying.
But feeling uncomfortable or awkward isn’t going to kill you—they’re just feelings, and they will pass. Becoming okay with rejection, and realizing it’s not personal, can help you build confidence in yourself and further distance you from the shy girl label.
Remember, it’s okay to start slow, and you can push yourself to do the smaller things like eye contact and smiling before moving on to the bigger things outside of your comfort zone.
10. Have Compassion for Yourself.
If you find that the process of overcoming shyness is a slow one, don’t feel bad. It can be tough to change a personality trait if it’s been ingrained since childhood. You didn’t choose to be a shy girl, so don’t beat yourself up for something you had little control over! Research has found that 40 to 45 percent of adults consider themselves shy—that’s nearly half the population! So keep that in mind when you feel like you’re the only person who struggles with shyness.
Also remember that even trying to improve your confidence is a great step and is worth celebrating. Every small success, like talking to a stranger or going to an event, is a step in the right direction, even if it doesn’t result in an instant disappearance of your shyness.
If you’re sick of being the shy girl, there are so many ways to boost your confidence! It may not be a super quick process, but if you’re willing to invest in yourself, try new things, and push yourself a little out of your comfort zone, you will be able to lessen your shyness, shed the shy girl label, and live a more confident and fulfilling life.