In your younger years would you most likely be clinging to your mom’s leg? Did you kind of bob your head behind those in front of you when the teacher was looking for a volunteer? Still doing that now?
Shyness and overpowering self-doubt are apparently very common, and they can be paralysing. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t deal with this issue that is trying to stunt you. You don’t have to be paralysed by shyness. There is every expectation that you can shine the image of the One Who created you.
From social gatherings, to business meetings, to your one-on-one relationships, if you want to break free from shyness, function better in relationships and be more comfortable when you are around people then read on. The Bible is not silent on this issue. In a world where relationships are everything, you must remember that you are set apart for the Lord and can stay true to who He has made you. Here is how to begin dealing with shyness:
It’s more of a mindset than what you do.
From someone who can’t really remember ever being shy but knows what it is to lack confidence as almost always the most junior elder in any setting, I’m about to open it up for you. What you are going to read is the approach of people that make a difference, go after their calling and have blessed relationships.
This is an approach that if adopted will help you in different aspects of life.
Set realistic expectations.
Everyone wants something different. One person may want to be the centre of attention, whereas someone else may just want to be comfy in a business meeting or visiting friends.
As you learn this, it is important to be very clear about what God wants and what it looks like. The goal here is to get you to understand who God says you are and how He wants you to connect with people.
You are made in God’s image and likeness. You are created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared before for you to do. Your citizenship is in heaven. You are more wicked than you ever thought, but more loved than you ever hoped. You are a savour of life to those who are being saved, and death to those who are perishing. You deserve hell and God’s judgement, but because of God’s grace to you in Jesus death and resurrection you have been made a child of the living God.
Focus on sharing.
By far, the most effective thing to grasp in overcoming shyness is to switch your focus from self to others.
Remember the last time you were in a situation and you were nervous or shy? I’m sure your focus was on self: how you looked, what you were going to say, how different you were from everyone else, if what you just said was stupid or not.
People that stand-out are concerned with the interests of other people, not just their own. Paul writes, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil 2:4). Paul says our focus should be out, not in. Sure, it’s important to be aware of how you are being perceived, but people are impacted by how you make them feel. In order to benefit those around you focus on sharing with them, something of the mind of Christ that is in you.
Next time you are in an uncomfortable position, shift your focus to someone else and ask yourself how you can help them or minister to their lives.
Be interested instead of trying to be interesting.
Asking questions and genuinely caring about what the person says immediately gets you out of your own head and makes the person feel care for. Paul cared about people in Acts 17 and Jesus had compassion on the non-believing crowds in Matthew 9:36
Be careful not to cross-examine, but just show a curiosity about their world. Actually listen to their voice and less to that voice of hesitation in your head.
Your goal is to genuinely connect with others made in the image of God. In order to do that you must build a comfortable bond with them. When you discover more about someone, connect your similar interests to create that bond. “Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Phil 2:3)
How will you start to be more interested in people? Will you ask them about their job, their taste in music, or an experience they had? What they thought of a sermon?
In Christian community, we are all gathering because we acknowledge we are sinners. That is why we came to Christ, because we are not good enough not to come to Christ. Consider Paul’s estimation of Christians, “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.” (1 Cor 1:26). So there is no need to pretend.
The Bible calls for the kind of vulnerability that confesses sin to one another (James 5:16).
You can be open by being honest when you are nervous, being honest about wanting to make new friends, about struggling with pride. How can you open up to people?
Be realistic about yourself
At the root of most shyness is pride. Proud that others won’t think of you as wonderfully as you want them to; pride that doesn’t want others to know that you are a sinner; Pride that doesn’t want others to think they are better than you, or look down on you. God’s word says, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgement” (Romans 12:3).
Remind yourself of the gospel. Realize that whatever you are is by God grace, it should be a humbling experience and strike at the root of much of your shyness. You are saved, not because of anything you did, but purely because of the good pleasure of the Father. You are saint and sinner at the same time. The universe does not exist to make you look good, but to magnify God. Preach to yourself rather than listening to your pride.