Have you ever found yourself sitting at home on your own while your friends are out and thought, ‘What would it be like to be confident’? What would it be like to be able to go for that job interview (for that dream job), to walk through the doors of a new gym, to travel to a new country or to speak up in a crowd without a million thoughts going through your head.
Why is it so easy for some people but not for you?
What happens when you meet someone new? Whether it’s at a bar, or on a date or at an interview? Do you feel the warm glow in your cheeks, butterflies in your stomach, do you get a dry mouth and can’t find the words, or trip over them as they crash out of your mouth like an avalanche in no particular order only to look up to the person opposite who is staring with wide eyes of confusion, or worse, sympathy.
Maybe you’ve found a solution. A friend or partner who is super outgoing, the ‘life of the party’ who you can hang out with and hide one step behind so that people don’t see you and try talking to you.
Being shy sucks! I get it.
I was the shy girl, with only a few close friends at school. I went to university but never joined any clubs or went to any parties. I did some travelling around the world ensuring I kept safe in my shy bubble. I used to say my superhero name was ‘**Background Girl**’, whose superpower was to be able to blend in and hide in any situation! Sound’s cool, but it wasn’t. I was alone and scared and just wanted to be able to meet people and have fun.
I’d get those moments every now and then where I would be invited to party and I’d be so excited. I’d take extra time to prepare, make sure I had the right outfit, the right makeup, the right hair, leave with plenty of time so that I wasn’t late (or early). I’d picture myself laughing and talking to everyone. On my way I’d listen to music in the car, singing along (and sounding awesome!!), getting even more excited. Every now and then I’d have a thought. You know the one, the one that reminds you you won’t fit in? I’d start by ignoring them. Ignoring the butterflies, the other random thoughts that would pop in picturing all the strange faces, picturing me not knowing what to say.
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So I’d turn the music up louder to drown out the voice in my head saying ‘you’re shy, what are you doing?’, ‘you don’t fit in’, ‘I’d rather be home watching Friends’. Turning the music up even louder I’d be around the corner of the party, BBQ or gathering (this happened more than once!) and the thinking voice would get louder, the pictures more vivid.
Then the real nerves would start to kick in and I’d find myself slowing down rolling through movie scene after movie scene of me not being able to talk to anyone, of me being alone watching everyone else get along so well, of me struggling to make conversation, of people being bored with me, of me not fitting in and this would go on and on. Sometimes I’d push through and end up staying for an hour, maybe two before going home. That’s if I hadn’t already made an excuse not to even walk through the door in the first place, go home, get changed into my trackies, eat icecream and watch movies and ignore the tears of regret fall down my cheeks.
Maybe your story is similar, or very very different, or you may know someone who has experienced feeling like this. Either way, if you are still reading you probably understand something about what it means to be shy.
The thing is, you’re not alone and it’s not all bad. There are some great qualities to being shy but there are some not so great things too. It’s the times when being shy limits your choices, reduces your options and get in the way of what you really want that isn’t doing you any favours. And that’s what I want to help you with. So, I am going to share with you a couple of my new superpowers, ones I’ve learnt that can be great to have up your sleeve to get you moving and even looking forward to going out, maybe even a little more confident around people. But let’s not rush too far ahead.
What is shyness?
Have you ever played that game, the one where you are at a party, at the bar or off to the side, the game called ‘People Watching’? You know that thing that shy people say they do for fun because it’s way easier than actually going up and talking to someone. Well I used to be the best at it (no, really… I was!). I was the best ‘People Watcher’. I convinced myself over time that I loved it. I’d watch other people, try and learn their actions, imagine what they were saying and try and not get caught staring at other people who looked like they were having fun.
How was it that they always knew what to say, laughed so easily and seemed so interested and interesting? And so I’d study them, other people. Thinking that one day I’d be like them, one day I’d be cool, but until then, I’m a ‘People Watcher’. The thing I didn’t discover until years later is that it was actually more fun talking to people and I didn’t have to be perfect at it or get it right all the time. That other people said the wrong thing all them time too, would forget what they were talking about, wear the ‘wrong’ clothes. And do you know what? They just kept going. All the pretend stories going through my head of how things could go wrong rarely happened, and if they did, I’d handle it. But more on that later…
What happens when you get shy is that it’s an emotion, a feeling of shyness, an emotional state of not confident.
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When you think of a time that you felt really unconfident (just for a moment go to that place now), what happens? Did you shift your body? Did you notice your breathing change? Do you look up or down? Does your thinking go crazy fast?
With every emotion there is a recipe we follow. Our unconscious mind is a super computer and it likes to run efficiently. So to make it easier it has recipes to follow that we learnt when we were very very young and it plays them through over and over again so that we get the same result over and over. This is great if it’s a recipe that works for you (think of something you do really well), but it’s not so great for recipes that don’t get you what you were aiming for.
It’s like when you first get an iPhone and everything works perfectly, and then there’s an upgrade and another upgrade and slowly the battery isn’t running so well and some of the features are glitchy, even with the upgrades there are glitches in the firmware. Even though the recipe doesn’t work for you now, your unconscious mind is still hardwired to run that old recipe, run the original program.
The more you run it the better it gets at it. For me to get to ‘shy’, I used to follow the most simple recipe. Like making lemonade, three ingredients… lemons, water and sugar = shy. Easy right! And being confident was way more complicated, I hadn’t learnt when I was young how to be confident so my unconscious mind picked up all these different ingredients and put them all together and said ‘ok, let’s see if this equals confidence’. Only it didn’t. It was just a big mess.
Everything you do to get ‘shy’ is part of your recipe. Some of it you might be aware of if you are really concentrating on it, like the way you stand is reserved, you might look down or away from people. So the opposite might be true if you were feeling confident, you might be able to adjust the way you stand to feel more confident, you might notice where you are looking, maybe how you are holding your head, what your hands are doing, how fast you are breathing etc. That’s a lot to be focussing on all at once, especially at the same time as having a conversation with someone. Then there is everything that’s going on that you may not be aware of. A lot of the recipe is hidden, like invisible ink.
One of the hidden ingredients is the thoughts that are running through your mind that you might not be aware of, like the winning racehorse, they are too fast to catch. Let me ask you this, when you are unconfident or shy, are you usually thinking about the best case scenario or the worst case scenario? The worst case, right? For me it was things like ‘What if I say something dumb’, ‘What if i’m wearing the wrong clothes’, ‘I’ll be boring and uninteresting and no-one will want to talk with me’, or ‘I’ll be bored’ or ‘They’ll be standing there nodding their head just waiting for me to shut up…’ ‘I’ll be embarrassed, humiliated, bored, alone..’ and on and on it would go like an endless loop.
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What happens in your unconscious mind is that everything you think about is like a movie being screened and you are the director, writer and star of your show. And your unconscious mind, like the best producer in hollywood, want’s to get you what you want so it seeks out a way to fulfill the movie, to make it real. Your unconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and what’s not.
To your mind, the movie playing in your head is as real as what you see in the world outside, as real as a water bottle you drink from, or coffee cup or tea cup. Your unconscious mind doesn’t know the difference. So when you think of all the stuff that could go wrong, you are unconsciously increasing the chances of that stuff happening. So if you’re screening things in your mind that go wrong, your unconscious mind will do what it can to make that movie reality.
The Tools For Overcoming Shyness
If you believe that you are unconfident or shy then your unconscious mind will play that belief as if it was as real as a bottle of Evian Water. Now I know what you’re thinking, ‘I’ll just be confident then and my unconscious mind will get me that’, and that’s true. However, remember the recipe. If you don’t have all the steps to follow in your confidence recipe, it will be close to impossible to just believe yourself to be confident for an extended period. Don’t get me wrong, just believing it will work for a while, but longer term and under stress it’s likely you’ll return to your core recipe, core programming.
So I hear you saying, ‘What’s the point?’, ‘How do I get over it?’. What can you do now that’s different to what you have done before? What do you need to hear now to be able to know that you can be the confident person that you want to be in your imagination?
Here are some things that you can do straight away that will help, some Superpowers!
1.) Keep It Simple
Part of the problem when we’re going through the loop of creating thought after thought, movie after movie thinking about all the things that could go wrong is that it triggers the feeling of overwhelm
Rather than re-acting with overwhelm… Start simple… Do one step at a time.
I have a friend who was a super nerd at school. He was the guy who knew everything about computers and nothing about being social, nothing about people and definitely nothing about interacting with people. When he got to about 19 years old he had had enough of being this way. He wanted to be able to talk easily with people and he wanted to be able to meet girls.
What I love about his story is that he kept it really simple. He made a plan and broke it down into really simple steps. The first step was he set himself a task to go up to 20 people each day and say ‘hello’. That’s it. Just say ‘hello’. Not start a conversation, not introduce himself (that wasn’t until week 2!) He’d walk up say ‘hello’, walk back to his seat and make a pencil mark in his diary until he had said hello to 20 people and then he’d go home, celebrating his success each time. The next day he went out to the same place at and repeated the exact same exercise but this time only saying hello to women. Seem’s too simple, right? How often do we try and make things too complicated?
By week 2 he’d say ‘hello’ and also introduced himself. Week 3 say ‘hello’, introduce himself and give a genuine compliment. Week 4 say ‘hello’, introduce himself, give a genuine compliment and then ask a question (he didn’t have to wait for the answer, he just had to ask the question). Each night marking down each person he did this with and when he got to 20 women, he’d walk home celebrating. By the time he got to week 6 he was a lot more confident and nowadays he is the person everyone watches in a room, the person people want to speak with. All because he kept it super simple. Took baby steps and celebrated each one.
2.) Your Mind Is A Tool. Use It To Your Advantage!
Ask any of the top athletes, they get it. They use their thinking to their advantage. If you were to step into the Australian Institute of Sport, sit amongst the most successful people in Hollywood or meet Olympic athletes, many of them will attribute controlling their thinking and specifically visualising their successful completion of a race or outcome as their most powerful Superpower! Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, boxing icon Muhammed Ali, actors Jim Carrey, Oprah Winfrey, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Will Smith to name a few, are amongst visualisations greatest advocates.
Visualise the best case scenario. Visualise what you’re going to do for every moment from when you leave the car to when you walk up to the door to when you walk through the door, you say hello, make eye contact, smile and greet the first person at the party or gathering. Play through the first steps. Getting it right at the start is the best as it sets you up for more success. When you get the start right the rest will follow. You can’t control what other people will say or do, so control what you say and do, you and your thoughts.
How do you want that situation to go? Who do you want to be in the moment when you’re walking through the door to the interview, when you are walking up to a first date, the first impression… how do you want that to go?
Melisa Grigg - Head Coach & Trainer
Melisa was stuck in sadness for 15 years, hated her job, was overweight and her relationship had just ended. Melisa inspires people with her story and now teaches how she sorted her life out. She worked out how to be happy and how to lose over 30kg of body weight. In simple steps she teaches how you can stop procrastinating, find confidence, stop being so sad and finally start to find true meaning and purpose in your life.
This is the part we leave up to chance so many times. We get dressed in our best suit, look the part of the job but forget to rehearse in the movie of our mind what our first impression will be. Our unconscious mind will create whatever we choose for it to create, we just have to choose. So go ahead and start choosing. Think through how you want the interview to go. What time to do you get up, what will you wear, what will you listen to, what will you think in preparation on the bus or tram or car? Are you listening to music that pumps you up or calms you? Imagine yourself about to open the door or pushing the button to the elevator. As you’re walking to the office what are you thinking, what is the movie playing in your mind’s eye?
Play it through as if you are there, as though you are actually doing it, feel what you are feeling, see what you’re seeing, hear what you’re hearing. The more vivid it is, the more real you can picture it, the more your unconscious mind will aim to fulfill that picture, your movie. All your unconscious mind wants to do is to fulfill the picture you’ve created.
Gold Medalist Skiier Lindsey Vonn says “I always visualise the run before I do it”. In an interview with Mind Body Green she said “By the time I get to the start gate, I’ve run that race 100 time already in my head, picturing how I’ll take the turns”.
Visualising is really another way of simplifying. When you’re faced with a lot of data, like when you are at a party with a whole lot of people having different conversations in a different environment, prepare for it like an olympic athlete and visualise your entrance. How do you want it to go? Picture it like rehearsing a play so that when you are in the situation your body and thoughts go on auto-pilot and you can focus on who you are talking to and not how you are feeling.
Lindsay says she plays it through 100 times. What if you did the same? Before you go to bed, when you get up in the morning, on the bus or the tram or the train. Running through your movie, preparing for the interview, date or other situation. But now doing it a little different to before. This time imagining the best case scenario, not the worst.
Now the first time you do this are you going to be perfect?
You might not be and that’s ok. This is like learning anything. Imagine learning to tie your own shoelaces when you were two or three. The first time you were probably able to do it but after taking three steps your shoelaces were undone. Instead of getting upset you cheer and get excited because you get to take another shot at it, yay!! And then you do it again, this time your shoes stay tied for 10 steps. And you tie your shoelaces again and over time you got better at it so that now you probably don’t need to think at all while you are doing it, it’s automatic.
So keep going, keep it simple and notice all the things you are doing great. And guess what!? The more you notice the things going great, the more great things will happen and if you get stuck on what to say, don’t worry about it, it happens to the best of us. Just keep going. You’ve got this!
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