“Never assume that loud is strong and quiet is weak.” ~Unknown

This quote seems counterintuitive, right?

For many years, I, too, scoffed at the idea.

Having dealt with social anxiety throughout my life, I know firsthand what it’s like to feel weak, powerless, and trapped because of it.

As a child, I remember clinging to my mom’s leg and using her body to hide from strangers. Then, as I got older, this shy behavior manifested into a fear of speaking my mind, interacting with others, putting myself out there, and so on and so forth.

My quiet and timid nature led to me being known as “the shy girl,” a label that followed me through my formative years and made me feel stuck inside a box of limitations throughout my adult life.

During these years, my shyness did nothing but hold me back from being who I wanted to be. It felt like a dark cloud hanging over me, and I couldn’t escape.

I refused to allow myself to fall victim to being shy. So I chose to do something about it.

Looking back, it’s been a long road to get where I am today, but I can honestly say that I’m a stronger person because of what I went through as a result of all of it. I’m thankful I went through the challenges that come with being a shy person because it forced me to make a choice: shrink or grow.

So if you, too, are dealing with debilitating shyness, here are some things that may help.

Challenge yourself.

Feeling stuck? Then it’s time to shake things up.

If you’re extremely shy then, chances are, you’re scared to put yourself out there. And why would you? Especially when your comfort zone is just so comfortable.

I know what that’s like because I’ve been there myself. It’s easier to live your life within the confines of what’s familiar because there are no risks and no surprises. But there’s also nothing to be gained from an unchallenged life.

From a young age, I recognized that my big ambitions were tethered on a short leash because of my shy nature. I was never going to reach any of my goals if I kept living my life in fear. And that thought alone scared me more than the thought of putting myself out there.

So if you want to take a step toward overcoming your shyness, then it’s time to step outside of your comfort zone. Do something that terrifies you. Challenge your limiting beliefs.

Think of an activity you’ve always wanted to do but never had the guts to try, and start there.

It’s terrifying, and chances are you’ll second-guess yourself throughout the entire process, but what you feel once you get through it will make all of the anxiety worth it in the end.

As you can probably imagine, social situations were a nightmare for me because of how shy I was around others. I didn’t want to be put on the spot.

So when the going gets tough, dig deep and push through it. Changing a pattern like shyness is no easy task, but if you don’t give up, you could end up with something amazing.

Because of my shy, introverted nature, I’m typically more comfortable being by myself and, as a result, I tend to withdraw from others.

Yet, despite those tendencies, deep down, I’ve always wanted to be a social person, somebody who’s confident in social situations and has no problem approaching people.

So I decided that I was going to practice.

Coincidentally, all of this took place when I left home and went to University in a new city, so the nights out on the town with my friends became a way for me to practice my social skills.

I’ll admit, at first I felt extremely awkward and uncomfortable. In the presence of large crowds, I would typically shrink down and avoid talking to others. Because these skills didn’t come naturally for me, it took some time for me to break away from those habits, but eventually, I did.

I continued to push myself to talk to strangers whenever I would go out with my friends. Granted, this was a lot easier considering that the people I spoke to were typically a few drinks in, but it still did the job.

Pretty soon, the thought of approaching someone and having a conversation wasn’t as scary as it once was in the past. In fact, I actually started to enjoy it.

I like to think of social skills like a muscle in the body. It may start out weak and exercising it can be painful, but the more you work out that muscle, the more it grows and the easier the exercise gets.

Shyness can be debilitating if you let it take over your life. So practice socializing, having conversations, approaching people and anything else your shyness holds you back from doing. While it can seem impossible to overcome at times, with practice, you can come out on top.

If I can do it, you can too.

After spending most of my life feeling like a victim to my shyness, I now appreciate that it made me stronger. That’s because, as a shy person, it takes so much more effort and energy to put yourself out there. It’s going against familiar habits and causing friction that, hopefully, results in change.

It’s easy to succumb to shyness, to stay within your comfort zone, and to be controlled by fear. And anyone who has pushed through and challenged those tendencies in order to live a fulfilled life knows that it takes a tremendous amount of work. It’s a constant uphill battle, but it does get easier if you’re willing to push through.

So challenge yourself, don’t give up and practice.

It’s time to own your shyness instead of letting it own you.