From the outside, I appeared confident. I was achieving courageous feats for a young Indian woman, including being one of eight women (out of a group of 300) to complete a Navy Diving Course. However, in social situations, I found overcoming shyness impossible. I suffered from constant doubts and anxieties, always thinking that “people are going to judge me because I am going to say something stupid or wrong”.
Then, I was faced with a situation that required me to either speak up or go down a road that I did not want to. When I was about 22 years old, my parents began to discuss who they were going to find for me to marry, which is customary in India. The thought of having to spend my life with a stranger was the catalyst for me to finally choose to have courage, speak up and stand my ground. This experience proved that I could overcome shyness, voice what I wanted and that speaking up did not make my life worse. It empowered me to make it greater.
Now, a certified FAA Commercial Pilot, I have learnt that with determination and pragmatic tools, anyone can learn how to overcome shyness and find a more empowered self.
The key elements to overcoming shyness are:
1. Ending the self-criticism
Most shy people use judgment, self-criticism and self-doubt to stop themselves. This has to end.
Achieve this by: Replacing self-criticism with self-gratitude. Ask yourself if you are willing to be your best supporter instead of your harshest critic. Any time doubts or critical thoughts creep up, actively choose self-acknowledgment and self-gratitude instead. It takes practice, but if you commit to ending self-criticism for good, you will.
2. Take charge and choose what is right for you
Only you know what is right for you, so it has to be you that takes action. If you take charge and are clear about your goals, you will be amazed at who and what will show up to support you.
Ask yourself: “What do I truly want for my life and future, and what is one action that I can take today that brings me closer to that?”
3. Go beyond your comfort zone every day
There will be times when you think you can’t achieve something, or you are not sure if you can choose it. If you are willing to stretch yourself and be uncomfortable, these are often the moments when you will have a breakthrough and create more for yourself than you initially imagined.
4. Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know
Your unique way of understanding things is your greatest strength. You don’t have to learn everything from schools or experts.
My mother was a stay at home mum most of her life. One day she decided to start a business, even though she had never run one before. She knew she was good at persuading people, so she decided to pitch to a company to market their product. She hired professionals to help her create a pitch, which she pitched and got the account. Then she hired professionals to do the advertising for the product. Two years later she was running an advertising agency of her own with two offices.
Ask questions, learn as you go and hire other people. You don’t have to know everything to create what you know is possible.
5. Practice true leadership every day
A leader is not someone who has followers, controls everything, speaks the most or has all the solutions. True leaders empower themselves and others to create more. Leaders acknowledge the contributions of each team member. When people know you are invested in them, they will continue to contribute fresh ideas and energy.
Ask your team: “What is the question people should be asking you, that no one currently is?”
6. Commit to being yourself to the best of your ability
Be willing to know who you are, no matter how different from others that may be. Define success on your terms, give it your best and do whatever it takes to create what you desire. Validation doesn’t come from other people.
Ask yourself: “If I were truly me and there was no one else around, what would I choose?”
Overcoming shyness isn’t about magically feeling confident and never being uncomfortable or uncertain. It’s about being willing to do it anyway. Choose one bold step a day, and you will be surprised at how you can overcome shyness and make things happen!
About Smriti Goswami
Smriti Goswami is a communication mentor, life and business coach, and a certified facilitator of several Access Consciousness special programs. She is a certified FAA Commercial Pilot, experienced glider pilot and co-owner of Mumbai organisation, ArtEscapades. A committed advocate for women’s empowerment, she offers individual consultations and classes around the world, empowering people to think out of the box and follow their dreams. Find out more at Right Voice For You.