Inspiring / Personal / Reflections

What is not trained gets atrophied (on developing my social muscles and overcoming shyness)

Any muscle gets atrophied without practice and the speaking one is no exception.

As a yet unrecovered shy I have always spent a quite big amount  of time on my own or when in company, barely participating in the conversations. This resulted in a dramatic lack of practice on my social skills and therefore in a crippled speaking skills (I speak on my own sometimes but this doesn’t count, the conversations with myself never have any unsuspected turn).

I guess it’s common for shy people to isolate themselves because they don’t feel comfortable around other people. I have always spent many hours alone, reading, walking with my earphones while I was daydreaming about a great social life.

I’m afraid this is counterproductive: first, because one spend so much time alone that the people skills one may have get crippled and second, because while fantasizing one lives a lie not realizing the importance of the problem.

Do some stretches

I am well aware of that, that’s the reason why I don’t allow myself to stay at home or on my own so much, I try to expose myself to social situations and try my best (sometimes) to interact with at least one person in the room. The more interaction with people, the less difficult it seems and the better you get at doing it.

I’m taking my shyness as my lack of flexibility, I try to stretch every day and some days I really see the improvement.

You are not a clairvoyant. Stop reading minds!

One of my problems when I am having a conversation with someone is that I am more focused in what the other person might be thinking about me and my interventions or my appearance than I am focused in what that person is saying, which is a problem because how on earth are you going to follow the conversation if your mind if “reading” the body language and what is said between lines? The only thing you should do is listening what the other person is saying and forget about all the rest! I tried to do this and it makes such a big difference.

Free yourself from absurd pride and perfectionism

Finally I must confess that one of the main reasons of my shyness is the lack of confidence in socializing. I know I am bad interlocutor, ergo I don’t want to show my poor performance to anybody. Here underlies a problem of perfectionism and pride. What is going on in my head is: I want to be a great speaker but since I am not, I don’t want anybody to perceive it.

Fear of critics? Maybe. But by not allowing yourself to do a mediocre performance there is no chance you will improve and become that great speaker you want to become.

Everyday work: avoid slackness

Overcome shyness is an everyday task. In the same way your muscles get flabby if you don’t work out, the social skills will be crippled if you don’t work on them.

In my case, I feel I am always working on it but each day I face a challenging situation I feel a bit anxious. If there is no improvement, there is stagnation and here is where I think I find myself: I improved enough to make friends and go unnoticed (and go unnoticed is a good thing when you have spent all secondary school being called “the mute”). But, let’s face it, go unnoticed is not good enough and I won’t resign myself to that anymore.

I’m determined to give the final push to overcome my shyness for ever and ever.

I already have set personal daily goals in this matter (I’ll let you know how they go when I have something to say in this regard).

But I ask you for help, what kind of activities I can practice (I’m already looking for a theatre course) or groups I can join? Any way to interact with people online? I’m going to move in a couple of weeks or so, that’s why I don’t want to bind myself with anything that requires my physical attendance to any particular place, unless the activity is really, really worth it…

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8 thoughts on “What is not trained gets atrophied (on developing my social muscles and overcoming shyness)

  1. Ohhh Maria, I totally know what you mean, I think we are the same sort of people and shyness is very hard to overcome…I’ve tried for 26 years now! I think I was improving but because now I work from home, it’s getting worst 😦 I can stay days in my home working on my laptop. I’m looking for any tips you can get from other people and of course skype together. 🙂

    • Glad it resonates with you, we are so many shy people out there… Let’s join our forces to overcome it! 🙂
      I experienced myself when I was in a more social environment, meeting more people… I felt my shyness were reducing but now, as you, I work from home and it’s so easy not meeting anybody during the whole day that I am getting rusty at talking to people 😀
      Anyway, I intend to practice a lot, you can join me and share our experiences. Chat soon! 🙂

  2. Great way to keep moving forward. I think i will start applying the same strategy, my social skills could use a good workout.
    It’s funny because i never thought you were shy. You seem to me like a wonderful outgoing lady. Then again, the internet allows us (the shy ones) to socialize without feeling the same amount of anxiety. 🙂

    • Hooray for internet then! 😀

      It’s definitely easier to socialize on the internet but if I’m able to show myself as I am through the internet I should be able to do it face to face and that’s what I aim to achieve.

  3. Great Post, Maria!

    You really have guts to share these details about yourself ! That’s the first step to being more social!

    I used to be VERY shy in secondary school as well and hardly spoke to anyone except a few select friends and almost NEVER with girls. But, around home, I was very social since I had the company of close friends and family. But, when I went to college I really opened up a lot. I was in a group of 15 people which consisted of 11 girls! In fact, once a girl from my secondary school saw me with my group on our way to college and came over and told me she is shocked to see me with so many girls !

    I think it is just a matter of forgetting about how you look/seem/appear physically or conversationally and just have fun talking/sharing tidbits of your life with others. That will do it. Also, once you start your travels, I guarantee that you will be more social and open. There were so many people I met here in Costa Rica who just walked over and talked. I also had a conversation partner to improve my Spanish and we just talked for an hour every day without any prior plans of what we would chat about.

    If you ever want to chat on Skype, feel free to ping me !

    All the very best to you ! Go flex your social muscles, it feels good 🙂

    Ciao,
    Ajay

    • I see you had a great time in Costa Rica, I’m happy for you. 🙂

      I’m really looking forward to start traveling because since I’m going to be on my own it will be a matter of surviving: I talk to strangers or I’ll loose my ability to speak completely!

      Thanks for sharing your experiences too, Ajay!

  4. Hey Maria,

    Being self-employed has really atrophied my social skills and I notice it a LOT when I’m thrown into social situations.

    I consider myself to be really shy as well. I’ve seen a lot of improvement in myself when I stop worrying about what others are thinking or feeling and just be completely present in the moment and aware of the person I’m talking to. In fact, I’m doing toastmasters tomorrow (ahhh! so scared) so I can break the passivity of being shy and those thoughts that makes me WANT to blend into the wall! Good luck flexing your social skills!

    Sending you good vibes,
    Mika

    • Hi Mika,

      This is one of the downsides of being self-employed but I guess we just need to put a bigger effort in keeping our social skills in good shape.
      Toastmasters! I’d love to join, I already went to one meeting when I was living in Cork but, here, in the city I’m living, there isn’t a Toastmasters group 😦 Oh, well, good luck with your speech!:)

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