When I was a teenager, I was afflicted with something much worse than acne or obesity. I had it worse than kids I knew with learning disabilities and physical disabilities…at least it felt that way. What did I have? I was shy – painfully quiet. I couldn’t talk or even function if more than one other person was in the room. My face would turn red, I would get dizzy and my hands would sweat. Naturally quiet women have it tough.
Those people out there who have never suffered from debilitating shyness have no idea how unbearable it can be. If you are a shy woman reading this, I know you will identify with the following list of life struggles you deal with on a daily basis.
Some people think you’re a B#!@h.
For some reason, quiet equals she-devil in many minds. People assume that because you are quiet, you think you are better than them. That is far from the truth. In fact, you are probably envious of other people because they can actually speak up.
Some people will try to take advantage of you.
Men seem to know that you are too quiet to cause a big ruckus or slit their tires if they do you wrong. They also know that you avoid conflict like the plague which means they can walk all over you without fear of consequence.
Asking for help is a challenge.
Even when you really need help, it is challenging to ask. Just the thought of speaking up to say you need something makes you rethink whether you can do it on your own after all.
Every phone call is torture.
You praise the genius who invented the text message. Now, why won’t everyone stop making actual telephone calls? You don’t know what to say, and you are convinced that your voice sounds like an alien.
People tell you to speak up.
Just when you are proud of yourself for actually muttering a word or two, someone has to interrupt asking for you to “speak up. We can’t hear you.” Even though you are quite familiar with those words, they completely shut you down. Instead of answering in a louder tone, you just shake your head and say “never mind” while avoiding eye contact and looking at your lap.
People tell you to quiet down.
Even worse than someone telling you to “speak up” is someone telling you sarcastically to “quiet down.” Do they really think you don’t know that you are quiet? Does it somehow make them feel better to rub salt in the wound?
People always think there is something wrong.
“What’s wrong?” is a question you hear on a daily basis. Apparently not yapping your mouth around the clock means that something is terribly wrong. Nothing is wrong except that you are incredibly shy.
Public speaking is your biggest nightmare.
You actually have nightmares about being on a stage in front of hundreds of people. You wake up in cold sweats and lay awake the rest of the night. Even watching public speaking on television gives you anxiety.
People forget you are in the room.
You sit on the sidelines without saying a word until people literally forget you are in the room. Have you ever had anyone turn the light out on you? Sometimes you may wonder if you actually are invisible.
You DREAD the icebreaker game.
Every time someone announces the start of a meeting with a fun icebreaker game, you immediately start sweating. What fool invented that game anyway?
You hate working in teams.
You can never get your ideas across because it is too hard to speak up, so you just let the team run with terrible ideas. The rest of the team probably thinks you are incompetent, but you really aren’t at all.
First dates are awful.
Who are you kidding? All dates are pretty awful. Small talk with someone you barely know is painful, so you end up staying single most of your life. Your crush will never know you had feelings for him because you’ll never act on them.
Job interviews are the worst.
Quiet people should not have to work. They should be allowed to stay at home in quiet solitude. You feel as though you’ll never get a job as anything but maybe a computer programmer where you sit in front of a computer all day without having to interact with anyone. But even then, you’ll have to make it through the interview process. You’ll have to somehow overcome the paralysis that will inevitably set in as soon as the door closes and you are expected to speak.
There is a way to overcome shyness, at least a little bit. With time and effort, you can break through. It took me years to overcome my painful shyness. While I am still on the quiet side, I now routinely get in front of crowds to speak, do live webinars on camera and speak to high profile people every day. I still hate talking on the telephone, though. Maybe some things never change.
Here are a few tips to help overcome that debilitating shyness.
Stop self-sabotaging. You really are your own worst enemy. Try to quiet that voice that is constantly telling you how awful you are or that you’ll never be able to change. Instead, focus on your strengths. Make a list of all the things you do well and recite it anytime you start to feel insecure or anxious.
Choose your friends wisely. Shy people tend to have fewer friends because of their social anxiety. This means that the people you let into your inner circle must be the cream of the crop. Avoid bullies and anyone that doesn’t fully support you and what you have to offer.
Don’t let one bad moment ruin your whole day. It is really easy to distort reality and think that your shyness ruined an entire event when it likely wasn’t a big deal to anyone but you. Get out of your own head. Move on with your day.
Make a gratitude list. It may sound silly, but it is nearly impossible to be afraid or anxious when you are grateful. Even as bad as you feel sometimes, you probably have it a lot better than some others out there who may not even have food to eat or a bed to sleep in. Keep things in perspective. Make a list of everything you are grateful for. Include everything from your health and your relationships, to the food on your plate. Any time you start to feel nervous, read that list out loud. I guarantee it is a powerful tool to immediately boost your confidence.
Suffering from shyness is a real struggle. Day to day interactions can be nearly impossible as a naturally quiet woman. But shyness doesn’t have to keep you from being successful in life. It shouldn’t hold you back in your relationships. If you are shy, try some of the techniques that worked for me. And if you know a naturally quiet woman, cut her some slack now that you know the daily struggles she faces all the time.
How many of these struggles can you relate to? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Melissa Ricker is a nuclear engineer and a professional freelance writer specializing in career growth, technical writing and online entrepreneurship. She writes a blog, Engineered Motherhood, for working mothers who need help balancing career growth and time management.