Turning Shyness into a Strength


Does the thought of doing certain things hold you back, be it in social situations, work, public performances, or relationships? Like most things, a little shyness is normal and even helpful in small doses – it can be quite an endearing trait – but shyness can also be debilitating. But, as with many things, a little refocusing can turn things around. If shyness is more your enemy than your friend, here are some ideas on how to turn your shyness into a strength.

Own your shyness

Sometimes, we may be ashamed of shyness – we might think it is a sign that something is wrong with us. Despite what culture dictates, being a little shy and a little self conscious is normal, natural, and nothing to be ashamed of. Start making shyness work for you by taking responsibility for yours.

When you own something, you assert control over it. If you fail to asset control over your shyness, it will control you. If you acknowledge ownership over it, you will realize that shyness is something which, to some extent, you have created it. And if you created it, you can change it. You might not be able to eliminate it – fighting your natural tendencies is rarely helpful – but you can gently make changes.

Max out the advantages of being shy

Shyness is regarded as a virtue in some cultures. It is equated to being more thoughtful, intelligent, a better listener, and being more likely to think before speaking. Use your shyness to your advantage by playing the role of captivating audience: listen to others and ask thoughtful questions. Most people love to do the talking anyway. You have a silent power over the conversation by taking or giving attention to the talker as you please.

Communicate more with your eyes and body. Nod to acknowledge them, silently cast your gaze elsewhere when you don’t. Include a smile in your ‘hellos’ and ‘thankyous.’ Ignore an annoying comment; walk away from malicious or rude comments.You’ll also seem more mature and confident this way.

If you like getting to know people one at a time and warm up to new folks rather slowly, cultivate friendships with the handful you enjoy. There’s nothing wrong with being reserved. You can still be who you are and enjoy deep, meaningful relationships with others.

Experience it completely, then let it go

Owning up to your shyness will give you control over the only obstacle that is getting in your way: yourself.

The apprehension, lack of confidence, and the awkwardness that comes with reaching out to others comes from thinking of yourself from other people’s point of view, which is almost certainly misconceived – how can you know what others are thinking? Why even try? If anything, they are more worried about themselves.

Remember what you did as a kid when some adult gave you a lecture about something? Most of it probably went in and out without leaving much lasting impression – nobody likes to be lectured, so why put up with your own negative self-talk? Deal with your self-consciousness and negative self talk that way: once it begins happening, become aware of it, let it be, and then let it go – let it drift away just as you did as a child.

If you fail or make a mistake, allow any sense of negativity to pass on. We all make mistakes and we make them all the time. Move on. Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself. Life does go on.

Many years ago, someone told me that ‘shyness is pride,’ and this makes a lot of sense to me – caring how other people see you reveals a certain self importance, perhaps even a kind of narcissism. Perhaps the most important and helpful thing to do would be to ask yourself, ‘why do I care?

Photo by Dannerzz

11 thoughts on “Turning Shyness into a Strength”

  1. Hi Mark

    You’ve made some vary interesting points, I Agree with you about owning shyness. For many years I considered myself shy and it was not until I gained ownership over it, That I could control it.

    What I learned is that – I just need space alone from time to time. When I do come out of my cave I have more to give, now I see myself as more of an introvert…

    But in saying that ,In the words of Kanye west, all people are shy, Am just the first to admit. I think this is vary true.

  2. I think people mix up being introverted with being shy. Introversion means needing time alone to ‘recharge.’ It’s not that you back away from social encounters, but that you find them rather draining and need more ‘me time.’

  3. As a DISC distributor I’ve come across several shy people who had amazing strengths. Shy people tend to be more careful, exacting, neat, systematic, tactful, open-minded, have balanced judgment, stable, consistent, and patient.

  4. Hi Mark,

    You’re article really hit home with me.
    I’ve always had negative feelings about my shyness. People I’ve known treated it like it was a fault, accusing me of not having a personality. I envied people who were extroverts. And I assumed noone else had shyness to the same extent, and caught up in my own, failed to acknowledge theirs.
    I’m trying to make it a point to smile more and consider other people’s shyness.
    I will also give your idea of ‘owning up to shyness’ a shot.


  5. Mark,

    It seems that shyness has a negative connotation in our modern society. Nothing could be further from the truth in my opinion.

    I like shy people because you know that when they are comfortable with you they will open up.

  6. Hey Mark,

    Great insight here, “shyness is something which, to some extent, you have created.”

    Everything in our minds we have created. All thought, ideas, perspectives, and filters, are all our creations that help us interact with the world. But we tend to believe that those ideas and perspectives are the truth, when really they are just something we have come up with.

    When you open up to the perspective that there are many perspectives, you begin to see that realities are malleable, you’re not just stuck with one.

    I think you did a great job illustrating this. Nice post Mark.


  7. Enjoyed this post a lot. Not because I’am shy, but because I’m not. Understanding people’s shyness better is helpful. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that we have all should see things from the same perspective. I started a blog called http://www.onemonthman.com to actually risk public shame. Quite the opposite of being shy I guess. I’ve failed to follow through so often I felt the need to just challenge myself in a public way so I do so in my blog. I’ve been surprised how many people have faced thought the same thoughts I have as well. I’ve gotten a lot of support, check it out if you get a chance.

  8. Hi Mark

    I’m glad to have come across your post. I think that people who are shy and perhaps who aren’t as vocal as others are the ones that people do listen to when they do have something to say. When you speak when you have something important to say I do think it gets noticed.


  9. Being shy really hits close to home. I totally agree that it is looked down on in this culture, or at least that’s my perspective as a shy person. It seems people are always interested in what I’m thinking or doing, and I just need some time to myself.

    Although it’s never enough time to myself. Might be time for a change. Now if only there was a great resource on line for that….

  10. I really appreciate this article helping me to see my shyness in a whole new light, even though he called me a narcissist at the end, (ha ha). ;D

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