In Part 1 of Shy Girls Guide to Dating, I talked about how the social anxiety of dating can be so overwhelming for many people (nearly 40% of the population claim to be shy) that just the act of talking to someone new can be daunting enough to completely discourage interaction all together.
Below, I offer distinct tips on how to navigate your shyness. Much of the tips focus on changing how you think. Reframeing, expanding your comfort zone and challenging distorted thoughts are all examples of changing your thoughts. Take these steps slowly, work them at your own pace and congratulate yourself along the way for taking baby steps toward your goal.
- Reframe: What’s so bad about being shy? In fact, shy people are commonly viewed as good listeners, humble, and mysterious. Embrace being shy, there’s nothing wrong with it. Imagine if everyone in the room tried to be the center of attention, the world would certainly be a chaotic, loud, and overwhelming place!
- Approach: Tackle a challenge vs. avoiding it. This is the hallmark for reducing anxiety. Positively influence your feelings by positively changing your behavior. This means going to events that make you anxious, staying for at least 45 minutes (usually anxiety will reduce after this time) and giving yourself credit for trying something different. Note how you feel before you go to an event and afterwards. Most likely you will have experienced positive feelings (reward) after attending an event (risk).
- Expand Your Comfort Zone: Do this in small steps. Ask a co-worker how their day is going, call an old friend, go out with a friend/family member with a goal of meeting one new person. Set realistic goals and start with a new behavior you could begin today. Building confidence by socializing can change your view of self, and challenge distorted beliefs that otherwise would increase anxiety.
- Challenge Distorted Thoughts: If you believe “No one will like me” what factual events in your life prove that thought to be wrong? Make a list of those events/facts that prove this emotionally driven thought is inaccurate. You will find yourself creating a new, “balanced” thought. Try new behaviors to test if your thoughts are distorted. A hint: black and white thinking such as “it’s good or bad,” “never”, “always”, “what if”, or any other extreme statements are likely to be distorted. Check out this article to identify which thoughts you may have that are distorted. Once identified, change distorted thoughts to factual “new thoughts” and your mood will change.
- Use Your Anxiety Effectively: Anxiety helps us to plan for situations, so channel it in an effective way. Problem solve for the different “what if” thoughts you may have. If you are thinking “what if I say something embarrassing” write out how you could realistically handle that situation. You will come to realize just how effective you could be in different situations. If you’re anxious to take someone out to a new restaurant- go there a few days before the date to see how parking is, try the food, and get comfortable with the place. All of this pre-planning behavior can reduce anxiety.
- Focus on the Positive: What can you gain from going to an event? Stay in the moment and try to enjoy the small things. Additionally, change expectations, give yourself permission to observe the party vs. expecting yourself to be a socialite.