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  • Ran D. Anbar, M.D., FAAP,

Overcoming Shyness: 3 Tips for Improved Confidence

Improving your social interactions and self-assurance.

Overcoming Shyness: 3 Tips for Improved Confidence Therapy
  • By focusing on positivity and presence instead of self-doubt, one's feelings of shyness can be lessened.

  • Start small and work up through exposure to different social situations to help improve confidence.

  • Hypnotic techniques, including visualization, can help one remain calm during stressful social situations.

Approximately half of people in the U.S. are considered to be shy (Burstein et al., 2011; Young et al., 2021). Shy people tend to have exaggerated low self-esteem and are more likely to present themselves in social situations as incompetent and inhibited rather than in a favorable light (Bober et al., 2021).

Although they are related, it is important to distinguish shyness from social anxiety. While shyness is marked by discomfort that is short-lived, social anxiety takes on more debilitating symptoms and leads to fear and avoidance of social situations (Young et al., 2021).

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Shy people are typically less anxious in formal situations, such as speaking in public, but report similar anxiety as people with diagnosed social anxiety during informal social tasks, like conversations. Despite this, shy people function relatively unimpaired in social situations compared to people with social anxiety.

Shyness can be thought of as part of the continuum of social anxiety (Heiser et al., 2009). Shyness can turn into social anxiety if a person becomes increasingly insecure about their behavior or if they begin engaging in behaviors such as social avoidance.

Here are three personal experiences that demonstrate methods for overcoming shyness.

Shifting Perspective Using Positive Talk

As a recent college graduate (Mac Lancaster) who used to consider myself shy, I understand the feelings of social insecurity that can lead to timidity and even avoidance. During my junior year in college, I signed up for a summer study abroad experience in Athens, Greece.

I decided then and there that I wanted to be less shy so I could get the absolute most out of the interpersonal interactions I knew I would face during my upcoming journey.

Part of my shyness was feeling like what I had to say or how I presented myself was wrong, and the other person would notice. I reflected objectively and realized that I was the one thinking negatively about myself in situations, not others. I worked to catch distorted thoughts before they influenced my perception and replaced them with positive talk and affirmations.

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Overcoming Shyness: 3 Tips for Improved Confidence Virtual Therapy Appointment

I hypothesized that if I presented myself securely, others would think of me as confident.

Sure enough, appearing confident led me to have more consistently effective conversations that I felt good about during and after the fact. I recognized that confidence was a choice under my control, and I began conversing with the assumption that what I had to say was right (and if it wasn’t, the other person could simply inform me).

I made it a point to look people in the eyes and focus on the presence that a conversation would naturally bring. Rather than self-doubting, I centered my view around the positive aspects of myself that I could bring to a conversation.

I continued to surprise myself when I finally went to Greece, and my interactions with strangers and new friends were purely comprised of confidence. The more I stayed in the present moment with a positive view, the easier it became for me to be uninhibited by shyness.

Practicing Confidence

For me (Mary Kovic), shyness is more than just a feeling of bashfulness in a moment of casual conversation. It’s a procedure of emotions that overwhelmingly impact the way I interact with people.

It’s the anxiety leading up to a group hangout. It’s the tension caused by unnerving lulls in the conversation when I’m unsure what to say. It’s the inevitable shame that comes after when I’m re-analyzing the scene, dissecting the social faux pas I made.

Confidence is a skill much like any other. The more I practice, the stronger this skill becomes. And the only way to practice is to put myself in uncomfortable situations, knowing that I might experience these complicated emotions once more. The technique I utilized is known as exposure therapy.

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Exposure therapy is an effective form of cognitive behavioral therapy for people with social anxiety. This type of therapy works by repeatedly exposing a person to feared scenarios, leading to reduced anxiety as they become used to the scenario (Jefferson, 2001).

One of the first steps of exposure therapy is thinking up a fear hierarchy, where the bottom of the hierarchy consists of situations that cause the least fear and then working up to the ones that cause the most fear. Using the fear hierarchy, people can work their way through building a tolerance to different levels of exposure until they no longer fear particular situations (Kemp et al., 2023).

My goal was to approach the top situation of my fear hierarchy. So, I threw myself into one of the most uncomfortable conditions I could imagine: I went to a concert by myself. Going into this, I knew that it was going to be hard for me, but I still wanted to make an effort to overcome my shyness.

When I was waiting in line outside of the venue, strangers stacked up and started combining and conversing with each other. I waited in that line for an hour, contemplating ways I could introduce myself to someone the same way I saw others doing so easily.

Eventually, I managed to talk to a stranger beside me. I started by talking about the band we were about to see. Being the initiator of conversations has helped me become more confident because it allows me to lead and be more prepared.

Practicing confidence doesn’t always mean throwing myself into the deep end. Starting small is how I developed the courage to tackle bigger feats like this concert. I made small talk with the waiter at dinner. I checked in with classmates before class started to see how their weekend was.

Once I realized I could hone this skill, I came to enjoy the challenge of overcoming my shyness. The more successful I have become at doing this, the less anxiety I experienced leading up to interactions and the less time I spent feeling shame afterward. Overcoming shyness can get easier with the help of both time and practice.

Using Hypnosis

By entering a hypnotic state of inward focus, people are more susceptible to suggestions either from themselves or others. In the case of overcoming shyness, hypnotic techniques can be directed toward achieving greater control during situations that normally may cause distress.

For example, you can visualize what it would look like to go into conversations with confidence. You can create a sense of realism by vividly picturing how you would like to flow through your social interactions with ease.

Overcoming Shyness: 3 Tips for Improved Confidence Therapy Appointment

When you imagine achieving a goal in your head, you create a mindset that will lead you to your desired result. In a way, such rehearsal in hypnosis is a form of exposure therapy in the imagination.

Additionally, hypnosis can help you remain calm, which can ease the stress associated with engaging in social interactions.

  • First, pick any physical sign—an anchoring gesture—that you can do with one hand (like a thumbs up or peace sign).

  • Using visualization techniques with a method similar to that described above, you can imagine yourself in a calm and safe environment of your choosing. When you’re there, engage every one of your senses to make it feel more real. Experience what your setting looks, smells, sounds, tastes, and feels like while simultaneously relaxing your body (from head to toe or toe to head).

  • Once you feel completely relaxed, make your anchoring gesture and tell yourself: “Whenever I use this sign, I can become this relaxed, even when I am not doing hypnosis.”

Through engaging in a regular practice of hypnosis, your anchoring gesture will become a powerful harbinger of calmness and confidence. You can lessen or even avoid feelings of shyness altogether.


Overcoming shyness is a journey that involves dedication, patience, perseverance, and a desire to venture outside of your comfort zone. By engaging in positive talk, practicing confidence through social exposure, and using hypnosis, feelings of shyness can be diminished.

Dealing with shyness can be thought of as a golden opportunity for personal growth, establishing vibrant social connections, and long-lasting self-confidence.

Ran D. Anbar, M.D., FAAP, - Website - Book -


Arzt, N., Patel, M. (2023). Shyness Vs. Social Anxiety: Understanding the Difference. Bober, A., Gajewska, E., Czaprowska, A., Świątek, A. H., & Szcześniak, M. (2021). Impact of Shyness on Self-Esteem: The Mediating Effect of Self-Presentation. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(1), 230.

Burstein, M., Ameli-Grillon, L., & Merikangas, K. R. (2011). Shyness versus social phobia in US youth. Pediatrics, 128(5), 917–925.

Heiser, N. A., Turner, S. M., Beidel, D. C., & Roberson-Nay, R. (2009). Differentiating social phobia from shyness. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 23(4), 469–476.

Jefferson J. W. (2001). Social anxiety disorder: More than just a little shyness. Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 3(1), 4–9.

Kemp, J., Benito, K., Herren, J., Brown, Z., Frank, H. E., & Freeman, J. (2023). Exposure to exposure: A protocol for leveraging exposure principles during training to address therapist-level barriers to exposure implementation. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 14, 1096259.

Young, C. M., Steers, M. N., Shank, F., Aris, A., & Ryan, P. (2021). Shyness and susceptibility to social influence: Stronger concordance between norms and drinking among shy individuals. Addictive Behaviors, 119, 106922.


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