You might find this hard to believe, but I was a shy youngster. I know, right? This guy, no self confidence?! Well it’s true – there were times where I’d be sat in class almost having a panic attack at the thought of being asked a question in front of everyone. I craved to just be alone and feel shielded in my own company, away from the exposure.

I’m different now. Completely different. Where I used to cower at the thought of interaction, I now seek it out. All those anxious and panicked feelings I’d get with meeting new people – they’ve been replaced with excitement and wonder. It wasn’t an easy path to take, but getting over shyness was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Self confidence

It’s a weird concept, self confidence. There are fine lines everywhere waiting to trip you up, it’s a bloody minefield. It’s so easy to be self confident but be described as “cocky, arrogant, self-inflated, pretentious, egotistical, narcissistic” and ample other not-so-nice adjectives. Normally, though, the people calling you these things are either jealous or they’re only self-confident through being nasty and feeding off the micro power-trips over the years. We all know the type – they’re the people we see who have to be that little bit louder than everyone else. They much prefer negativity in conversation and their smiles never quite reach their eyes. These people are poison.

I’m not aiming to change the world here or offer you some kind of instant cure for shyness. Take it from me, though, confidence can be learnt.

Fake it ’til you make it

I did this for what seems like years. Without this, the inertia of becoming confident would have been too high and it would have never gotten anywhere.

Self confidence has everything to do with just trusting yourself and not scratching away at closed social circles and trying to peer inside to see if they’re validating you – forget them! It’s about knowing that you’re doing your own thing, for your own reasons, and that both your actions and reasons are right for you and your circumstances.

Now…I’m getting dangerously close to these shitty self-help posts and books you get. “YOU ARE POWERFUL” and “BE YOURSELF – YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL”. That’s all bollocks, ignore all that and don’t buy the books.

I faked confidence for a long time. I did it so much that social situations almost felt like an out of body experience for me – like I was watching myself interact with other people from afar. Frankly, I think that was some kind of defense mechanism, but whatever – it worked. The situations still irked me, but the speed at which I got over it once there increased every time. Now when I arrive at a party I’m somewhere between “Erm, hi…I’m erm, I’m Mark” and “I’M HERE BITCHES! LET’S DO THIS!”.

Force yourself

You won’t like this. If you’re anything like me then you’ll hate this at first. You have to force yourself to engage and interact with people if you’re going to get over shyness. It’s not something you can think your way out of, in the same way you can’t think yourself into being a pianist; you just have to do it and practice.

I used to just talk to people behind the counter at a shop, or a fleeting comment to someone as we queued up. Start small, as they say. One time I got ahead of myself and cracked a shit joke in front of two people. It failed and that took me back 3 weeks. Sad times.

You’ll get to recognise the feeling of interacting with people, though. I hate to sound so cheesy but these little interactions are great, and the more you do it the more you’ll want to. For bonus points try complimenting one random person a day. I don’t mean “nice tits love!”, I mean genuine things. Someone told Kate they loved her hair a month or so ago and it made her happy all day, it’s a cool thing to do!

Compliment one random person a day. I don't mean 'nice tits love', I mean genuine things. Click To Tweet

Accept the change as it happens

Sooner or later you’re going to realise that the self confidence is there, and you’re going to have to let the old habits die off. Killing a habit is hard, but it’s proven to be a lot easier when it’s replaced with a new habit. That’s essentially what you’ve done with your mindset at this point. Just accept that you used to be shy, you’re snapping out of it, and you’re better off for it.

I can’t remember when exactly the “Eureka” moment was for me, somewhere between leaving high school and sticking my face all over YouTube, probably.

I hated being shy, I really did. It’s such a hindrance to everything, and it’s very compounding – it mixes with doubt and anxiety and it makes a fun-leeching cocktail that is very hard to swallow. Please don’t let it. The last thing you want when you realise your time on this planet is almost up, is regrets.

Shyness mixes with doubt and anxiety and it makes a fun-leeching cocktail that's hard to swallow Click To Tweet

Anyway, if you’re feeling shy – come and speak to me:

And finally, thanks to Vicki of Honest Mum for giving me a digital kick up the ass and getting me to write again!