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Overcoming shyness is like making a cup of tea.....fancy a brew?

Updated: Jan 7


Cup of Tea


How to overcome shyness?


A commonly asked question and one which I suspect, comes with the hope of simple and prescriptive instructions. Indeed, you only have to 'overcome shyness' into your search engine and up pops a myriad of articles, blogs, social media posts, all telling us what we should be doing.


Now I'm not suggesting they're all talking nonsense, not all all. They all contain useful and valid content. However, rather following a defined list of actions, my own experience and my work with clients suggests overcoming shyness is rather more like making a cup of tea - it will look different for each and every one of us. There are of course commonalities but we all have our own unique background, narrative and experiences of shyness so it stands to reason, how we overcome it will vary too.


Take the simple act making a ‘cuppa’. The constituent parts can differ vastly from person to person yet it's still a cup of tea. Common factors will be a ‘tea’ of some variety, a vessel to drink it from and a liquid in which to steep the tea. Aside from that, it’s open to interpretation……


  • Vessel – cup or mug? Bone china? Glass?

  • Tea – leaf or bag?

  • Type –Black, Green, White, Fruit, Herbal infusion, Oolong?

  • Brand - PG. Tetley, Twinings, Yorkshire?

  • Temperature – hot or iced tea?

  • Sweetener – none, low calorie sweetener, sugar?

  • Sugar – brown, white, sugar lumps, granulated?

  • Milk? - skimmed, semi-skimmed, full cream, oat, almond, soya?

  • Teapot used?

So many differences but it’s still a cup of tea….. get my gist! '



Making your perfect 'cuppa'


Shyness is on a continuum; for some it's mildly uncomfortable but for others, it's excruciating. Whatever your experience, I'm assuming you're reading this due to a level of distress. It's completely normal and understandable that to ease such distress, we want a quick fix. Indeed, that may work for some, but in my experience for long lasting results, we need to do some ground work first.... get our foundations set if you like.


Step 1 - understand your shyness

The first stage is understanding your shyness, and I mean, really understanding it. Not just how uncomfortable it feels, but exposing the underlying contributory factors so you can see what is going on. If things are left unattended they'll keep playing out, but when you can 'see' it - you then have the opportunity to change it.


Underlying factors might include:

  • Upbringing

  • Disability/Ability

  • Low self esteem

  • Appearance

  • Trauma

  • Role Modelling

  • Core beliefs

  • Society

  • Culture

This list is not exhaustive by any means and rather than one factor, it may be a combination so take some time to consider what contributes to your shyness. Remember, there is no right or wrong, it's just how it is for you.


Step 2 - understand the perpetuating factors

By this I mean, what is keeping you stuck? This is likely of course to include external factors, perhaps being labelled by others as shy for example but thinking internally, what is it you are doing that perpetuates your situations? This broadly falls into 3 categories.


  • Cognitive - Are you thinking negatively and constantly worrying how others perceive you?

  • Emotions - Feeling you are 'lesser than' others in some way, not good enough?

  • Behaviours - safety seeking behaviours i.e. escape, avoid, hide. What are your actions when feeling shy?


Step 3 - understand factors for change

Now you have an appreciation of how your shyness came to be and what keeps it going, you can look at what 'ingredients' can help you change that.


This might include:

  • Recognising and changing negative thought processes

  • Identifying and challenging unhelpful core beliefs

  • Stopping safety seeking behaviours and introducing new ones

  • Establishing/changing your support network

  • Practicing self-compassion

  • Keeping expectations realistic

  • Raising your self esteem

  • Understanding how anxiety works and how to manage it

  • Setting goals

Again, this list is not exhaustive. It will be unique to you and likely be a blend of 2 or more factors and perhaps even, different factors for differing circumstances - we're not necessarily shy all of the time.


Step 4 - practice, practice, practice.

In order to make a cup of tea, we've got to put the kettle on! It's no different with overcoming shyness. We can spend all day thinking and reflecting and that's an important part but if we want change, we have to DO something differently.


Unfortunately, this is where so often things stall and understandably so. Change can feel scary which is why it's so important to get our foundations straight first rather than hurling ourselves headlong into things, becoming completely overwhelmed. However, keeping the constituent parts separate will not make us a cup of tea, at some point we have to put it all together to get the final result.


Like anything worthwhile, overcoming shyness for me took time, effort, experimentation and, if I'm honest, some dodgy tasting cuppas at times but boy was it worth it. Although not too palatable at the time, those not so nice cups of tea were an essential part of my journey to getting to the right blend for me.


If you'd like support overcoming shyness, or know someone who does, drop me a line today and I'll put the kettle on!

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