What is Extreme Shyness and 5 Tips for Overcoming It

Working on social skills is key to overcoming extreme shyness. But there are more tips you can follow to overcome shyness. Learn about them here.
What is Extreme Shyness and 5 Tips for Overcoming It
Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 01 August, 2022

Wanting to and not being able to: this is one of the common sensations for those with extreme shyness. Those who live this way feel that they’re the ones who are left watching from the other side of the street as their friends have fun playing soccer while they imagine themselves running after the ball.

Extreme shyness becomes a real ordeal because it limits their enjoyment. Let’s see what it is and what you can do to live a more spontaneous and free life if you believe you may be extremely shy.

What is extreme shyness?

For those who feel extreme shyness, exposure to other people is distressing because sometimes it takes visible forms, such as trembling, voice cracking, sweating, and feeling faint. Thus, in order to avoid this discomfort, people often withdraw more and more into themselves.

In addition to genetic causes, it sometimes originates in the experience (their own or someone else’s) of a stressful situation that was experienced as a traumatic event. Parenting style is another environmental factor that hinders adequate social interaction: very authoritarian or overprotective parenting styles threaten children’s security and confidence.

In general, this avoidance behavior is usually determined by certain limiting beliefs and thoughts about ourselves that often reflect low self-esteem. People who are extremely shy often don’t believe they are capable, valuable, or interesting. This is also often reinforced by very high demands that are difficult to meet.

Finally, the fear that “no one will talk to me,” or “I will get too nervous and end up alone” ends up becoming true because of the self-fulfilling prophecy. We get nervous and run out of words because we have been reinforcing that idea. Everything becomes a vicious cycle from which we can’t easily escape.

Sometimes, extreme shyness is not just shyness, but is part of something more complex, such as social anxiety. However, it’s important not to pathologize or label before being sure of the complexity of the situation.
Shyness is a serious problem when it takes away people’s ability to enjoy themselves.

We think you may also enjoy reading this article: How to Stop Feeling Intimidated When Dealing with Others

5 tips to overcome extreme shyness

Overcoming extreme shyness can be quite a challenge for those who experience it. Therefore, in many cases, it’s recommended to seek professional help so that they can accompany us in the first steps.

Some of the tips or strategies on which we work to address extreme shyness are the following:

  1. Remember that nothing is forever. It’s important to believe in ourselves and to trust in the possibility of change. Perhaps we were shy for a long time and we felt bad and we were limited in fulfilling our desires. However, that can change.
  2. Find a “way” that feels right. No one says that to stop being shy it’s necessary to go to the other extreme: to be the life of the party or to become the most extroverted person in the group. Instead, abandoning the shyness that limits us should allow us to interact at ease and to feel confident and comfortable with ourselves. It’s about allowing ourselves to be the way we want to be, to know ourselves, and finding a way of being that represents who we truly are.
  3. Seize opportunities. Many times, imagining a feared situation becomes an excuse to stay at home. However, it helps a lot to overcome that inertia and just go out, interact with people, and boycott those thoughts that confine us. This way, we will be able to see that it’s possible that our fears were wrong and that nothing bad happens.
  4. Expose yourself gradually. This goes hand in hand with the previous point. You can start by taking small steps. For example, decide to participate in your small workgroup instead of in front of the whole class. Or, accept a small outing with two or three classmates and not with the whole extended group. This way, you can take your time and determine your comfort levels while slowly increasing your tolerance of larger groups.
  5. Work on social skills that encourage contact with others and allow you to communicate. For example, learn how to give an opinion, give constructive criticism, refuse a request, and accept an invitation.
Grupo de amigos.
Going out in small groups at the beginning will give you encouragement and confidence to continue interacting.

We think you may also enjoy reading this article: 4 Tips to Help a Child Who Suffers from Social Anxiety

With shyness, everything becomes a calculation

Extreme shyness collapses our world. Suddenly, everything becomes a calculation of risks we would be exposed to.

This is not only how we turn down an outing with friends, but, as we grow older, also retreat to remote jobs where we don’t have to interact with anyone. There is always some excuse that protects us and we use them as a defense mechanism. In reality, these defense mechanisms are often our biggest prison and weakness.

Working on extreme shyness is key to be able to enjoy life so that experiences are an opportunity for enjoyment and not for torture. It’s up to you to move forward!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Wagner, M. F., Pereira, A. S., & Oliveira, M. S. (2014). Intervención sobre las dimensiones de la ansiedad social por medio de un programa de entrenamiento en habilidades sociales. Behavioral Psychology/Psicología Conductual22(3).
  • García, R. R., Flores, R. A. E., Gutiérrez, A. C. P., Rojas, M. A. Á., & Agraz, F. P. (2008). Ansiedad social en estudiantes universitarios: prevalencia y variables psicosociales relacionadas. Psicología Iberoamericana16(2), 54-62.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.