Shyness is a universal emotion that we all experience at times. It has many strengths, such as sensitivity, caution, thoughtfulness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and a tendency toward collaborative behavior.
“Ordinary shyness becomes a problem through negative life events, competitive classrooms with critical or unhelpful teachers, or overprotective or neglectful parenting,” says Lynne Henderson, author of The Shyness Workbook: Take Control of Social Anxiety Using Your Compassionate Mind.
“Compassion, both towards ourselves and towards others, can be a great help in overcoming the problems that severe shyness causes in our lives,” Henderson says.
It’s not our fault that we feel socially anxious: the brain states that produce these feelings have evolved over time to protect us. What we can do is learn to foster the alternative brain state of soothing and calmness, and to learn to apply our instincts of kindness and care — which, fortunately, we have also evolved, along with other mammals — to ourselves as well as others.
If you suffer from bouts of shyness, here are some ways you can enjoy the holiday season and take care of yourself and others at the same time:
Focus on kindness for yourself and others. Nothing reduces shyness like feeling warmth toward yourself and all beings. Take time out for solitude and reflection in between times of social interaction.
Be gentle with yourself when it comes to socializing. It’s natural to feel shy in unfamiliar situations or around people you don’t know well. Acknowledge your feelings of awkwardness and give yourself permission to take it easy. Initiate conversations with those who share a common interest or background, or invite others to join you for activities such as watching movies or going for walks outdoors.
Dare to be vulnerable. Dare to be the first to take the risk and say hi at the gym or the coffee shop. Taking that initial step can be intimidating, especially when meeting someone new for the first time. Start with something simple like a smile or an observation about the environment.
Reach out to anyone who is ill or homebound for any reason and tell them you hope they feel better soon. Small presents like books, cards, food, or flowers can make all the difference for people unable to leave their homes.
This is a great time to volunteer. The holidays can be an especially difficult time for individuals and families who are struggling with poverty or hunger. Take food to a local food bank in order to help those in need. By taking the initiative, you can make a difference in your community while also strengthening your own sense of self-worth and compassion.
Smile at everyone where you volunteer. Help out whenever you can. People will remember your enthusiasm and hospitality.
Donate used clothing to a local charity or church. Not only does donating your old clothes benefit those less fortunate, but it also helps the environment by reducing waste.
Be a leader in spreading warmth and compassion for everyone. If you know what it’s like to feel shy, then help others who feel the same way, but don’t know how to step out of it. Not only will your efforts help others, but you will also feel good inside too.
Remember: No one is perfect, and shyness does not define who you are. It is a feeling that will pass if you are patient and tolerant with yourself. Remember to enjoy the season, whether it’s going for a walk, listening to music, or baking holiday treats with friends; let go of any shyness and simply allow yourself to be in the moment. With the right attitude and outlook, you can be more social while enjoying the holidays.