When I was young, I was a very shy kid. I would never talk to people that I didn’t know, I hated having to speak or do things in front of my class in school. I would always wait until all of my other classmates had done their presentations, perhaps thinking maybe somehow the teacher would forget about me. I would avoid having to meet new people in school. It’s surprising when I look back at how far I’ve come.

Now, I’m still very reserved, but I am not shy. This is not the official dictionary definition of shyness, but for me, shyness was a fear of people or situations. Being more reserved is just my natural personality tendency. So, overcoming shyness did not mean that I became some talkative, excited, extroverted person. It meant that I wasn’t afraid of new and unknown people or social environments. So, to overcome shyness, you have to understand the fears behind what is making you feel that way.

When I was 17, I got into some different styles of dance, mainly, bboying/breakdancing, popping, locking, and hip hop. I would go to places with my friends where I would see these dances and I wanted to learn to do them. Eventually, I would dance in front of others at a school event, or in a club in a circle. It was weird because I wasn’t shy or afraid to dance in front of others. I figured dance being so visual, I didn’t have to talk and the dance moves spoke for themselves.

I still may have had some fear of being on a stage, but I had learned to manage it. Once I got out there and was "doing my thing" it went away. Also, what helps with the fear of being on stage, is being on stage. Once you are out there and realize that you "survive." You can do it again with less fear. It also probably helped that where I come from, if you can dance at all in these styles of dance, people are impressed.

What I realized is that when I was putting myself out in front of others with a confidence in knowing what I was doing, the fear went away. When you know who you are and what you are talking about or doing, you don’t have to be afraid of how people may view you. Shy people may tend to overcompensate by pretending to be someone they are not, which actually fuels the shyness. You are afraid you’ll be "found out."

You may see someone that seems very extroverted and outgoing overcompensating like this by exaggerating, or embellishing themselves and who they are. They may actually be more uncomfortable than the reserved person even though it may not look like it from the outside.

Then, when I was 22 I read a book about being an entrepreneur and I was hooked. However, I realized quickly that a big part of being an entrepreneur is salesmanship. This was something that was very new to me.

My first business was trying to sell a kind of insurance add-on product for consumers and insurance agencies. I would make cold calls, try to walk into businesses, and sell my service. I was terrible at it and I was terrified. I hated doing it, and don’t miss it at all, but I learned from it. What I learned was similar to what I learned in dance, that I could walk into an office, be stared at weird, be "rejected," and still come out "alive."

Through this experience, I learned how to slowly put myself in uncomfortable situations that I was afraid of to see that my fear was generally irrational. It is a bit of a paradox, but one way of overcoming this fear is to simply put yourself in that situation you are afraid of and once you see that it’s ok, you are able to do it with less and less fear.

Around this time, I also got into reading a lot of books about business and personal development. What I learned was that we all have a lot of ideas or misconceptions in our head about how we view reality, and how people view us. This could be because of things parents said or didn’t say to us, from certain teachers or other influencers in our life taught us, or from going through hard things that happen in our life that leave a "imprint" on us.

I realized that a lot of my shyness was related to fears of being in a situation that hit a nerve from the past. This is not a personal example for me, but just a straightforward one. Let’s say that your parents always told you "you are a weird kid." Then, you may be carrying around a fear that when you meet others they are going to also see you as "weird."

These kinds of fears are usually irrational and inaccurate, but they can be the hardest to overcome because they are very personal. When I would feel these fears I would start taking a step back and examining, "where did this come from?"

After understanding that a lot of these fears were in my head, I was able to be in new social situations and simply be authentic and not be worrying about what the other person was thinking about me. Being authentic actually worked in my favor because most people really appreciate that.

It may not happen overnight, but start trying these things in your every day life, and see how it changes things for you.
Whether you are performing or just talking to people, find confidence in knowing who you are and what you’re talking about. Don’t feel the need to impress people by saying the perfect thing or pretending to be someone you are not. Join into conversations even when you feel reserved if you have something to say, rather than being afraid to talk.

Put yourself in some situations that you are afraid or uncomfortable in and see what happens. Join a public speaking group. Sometimes even small things help, such as, initiating a conversation with the grocery store checker when you are in line start to "open you up." It may be tough at first, but when you can put yourself in those situations you fear, and see that you "survive," you won’t be afraid in the future.
Understand the situations from the past that are creating the fears in your current life. When you can understand the "why" of your thoughts or feelings related to your shyness, you can do away with those fears and not let them control you.

Remember, being more introverted or reserved is fine. But don’t be afraid of other people or certain social situations because you are missing out on a lot of life if you live controlled by those fears.