Shyness — social anxiety or awkwardness, staying quiet around others, being hesitant to speak up — if you’ve experienced any of this, you are not alone! With some studies revealing that 40 to 60 percent of adults admit to developing some form of “shyness” in their lives, shyness, for the most part, seems to be a learned phenomenon.

Some experiences and situations can take us down the road to becoming more withdrawn or hesitant in expressing ourselves. I’d always naturally been a little shy, although I had not let it stop me from creating a successful translation service business. But, when I experienced a distressing physical change after a surgery, where I was diagnosed with vocal paralysis, it led to years of being desperately withdrawn. My ability to communicate was completely dismantled; my voice became erratic and I could not finish a sentence without my voice cracking, squeaking or disappearing. I became afraid to speak to anyone for fear of making a fool of myself.

After an unsuccessful attempt at therapy, and trying to heal my voice in the outside world, I took an entirely different perspective. My new principle was this: Change the way I talk to myself first and see what follows.

With this shift, I was able to harness my shyness as a powerful catalyst for creating greater confidence and empowerment in both my inner and outer communication. Today I speak easily, run workshops, can talk for hours and I no longer experience vocal loss or strain.

Here are three easy steps to use shyness as a springboard to greater inner and outer communication:

Change Your Inner Dialogue

Until I made this commitment to change, most of the thoughts I had of myself were incredibly negative and judgmental. These thoughts were how I continuously overpowered and undermined myself, making me afraid to talk to people or hesitant to go places. Rather than give in any longer, I made a conscious choice to change my reaction and stop believing those thoughts. One tool that helped me reduce the power of the criticisms was saying, “Interesting point of view; I have this point of view,” to the thoughts and feelings as they came up, repeating it as many times as required until the thought no longer dominated. When thoughts and feelings are just interesting, they lose their significance and their hold diminishes. Another easy way to change things when those thoughts come up is to just say, “Stop!” Reaction to judgments and negative inner dialogue occurs when we decide they are true, and we have to align with it or fight against it to overcome it. You can make a simple, conscious choice to change your inner dialogue and not let it win.

Gift Unlimited Kindness, Gratitude and Acknowledgement to Yourself

As you stop the unkind thoughts and feelings, begin to replace them with kind inner feedback, gratitude and self-acknowledgement. It may not seem natural or easy at first, but it can become so! If you have done something well, or you receive appreciation from others, don’t dismiss it — acknowledge it. Learn to recognize all that is great about you, and don’t wait for others to give it to you first.

Each day ask questions that keep your attention on your greatness:

What is right about me that I am not getting?

What is different and great about me that I haven’t been willing to acknowledge until now?

What can I be grateful for about me and my life today?

What am I capable of that I have never considered?

Every time you increase the kindness, gratitude, recognition and trust of you, it will overtake the weeds of negative dialogue and self-doubts.

Take Action — and Don’t Give Up

Every moment where you could withdraw or avoid communication or connecting with the outside world, is also an opportunity to take a different action and surprise yourself with what you are capable of. As I worked every day on the way I talk to myself, I realized the resilience and determination I actually had within me. This revelation gave me extra confidence to keep going and rise above my shyness, even the parts that have been with me my whole life.

If you think you are afraid talk to people, do it anyway. If you are hesitant to go somewhere, what unexpected thing could occur if you go? Make small changes. Any action to stop negative thoughts and feelings, or choose a conversation or situation you would normally avoid, will begin to change things. Trust yourself that no matter what shows up, you can handle and even enjoy it. You might surprise yourself with just how quickly shyness will leave and no longer hold power over you.

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