Move to the Front: Overcoming Shyness at Work and Life

Move to the Front: Overcoming Shyness at Work and Life

Countless times during my early undergrad days, I found myself being too shy to ask questions during class. It hurt me academically, and caused me to have to spend way more time researching things that a simple question to my professor would have answered. What if he already went over that point? I found myself thinking after zoning out for a few minutes and needing to ask a clarifying question. What if my question is dumb? I’d often times think, questioning even the legitimacy of my inquiry.  Other times I’d fearfully think, what if he doesn’t call on me and I look foolish raising my hand?

For the introvert, sometimes it feels like shyness (or being timid) is a part of who we are, but the fact of the matter is that it isn’t. Oftentimes shyness is a result of our upbringing, with family members labelling us as shy and it being like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Let me take a step back, though, and say there’s nothing wrong with being shy, but if it begins to have a negative effect on your work, school, or personal life, then it’s time to make moves to fix it.

The 5 Step Process for Breaking a Shyness Habit

  1. Think of a situation where your shyness negatively affected you
  2. Determine what makes you shy or timid in that situation
  3. Think of a trick to help eliminate that obstacle
  4. Every time you’re in that situation follow the trick
  5. Continue until you’re more confident in that specific situation

In my case, I used these steps to overcome my shyness in asking questions in class. After thinking deeply about the reasons why I was afraid to ask questions, I realized the fear of looking dumb in front of my fellow classmates was a key de-motivator for me. I decided that the only way to eliminate this obstacle was to force myself to sit in the front row each day. This made it so I knew the teacher could see me when my hand was raised, and I wouldn’t have to see my classmates if I felt my question might be stupid.

I still remember the first time I tried this. My shy, introverted self didn’t want to sit in the front row, but I knew this was the only way to fix my problem. So I sat there and when it came time for me to ask a question, I raised my hand and got called on. My question was answered and I felt great. The next session I did the same thing, and slowly these affirmations that asking questions wouldn’t harm me continued to build my confidence.

All these years later, as I take my MBA courses, I still use this technique to help me participate in class; you would have no idea that I struggled with this issue if you saw me today. I also continue to use these steps to help overcome other areas where I may feel timid, whether that be networking at work, speaking up in a large meeting, or giving a presentation in a room full of strangers. Overcoming our fears and worries is essential to growing in our careers and, really, all aspects of our life.

Try this out the next time you find yourself exhibiting self-limiting behavior. You may have had years of negative reinforcement, so take the time to give yourself small wins by repeating these steps again and again. In the end, I hope you’ll realize—like I did—that just because you’re introverted doesn’t mean you need to be timid or shy.

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