Dear Dish-It: I'm Scared @ Parties
When I go to parties even when I know everyone I feel scared. What can I do?
Have you ever watched a movie called The Rugrats? Maybe you've noticed something about Chuckie Finster, the redheaded kid. There are times when Chuckie does not like to play in the sandbox with other kids. Chuckie is shy. Lots of kids and adults are shy. Maybe you are one of them.
Shyness means to feel a little scared when you're around other people. Just about everybody feels shy sometimes. If you're the new kid in class or you go to a party in a strange home, it can make you feel shy.
Nobody sits around and says, "Well, I think I'll be shy today." It is just something that happens. It can just sneak up on you. You might feel fine practicing your soccer kicks, but you feel nervous when the coach comes over to give you a few pointers.
But being shy isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's OK if it takes you a while to feel comfortable with new people and new situations. In fact, it can even be helpful to be a little shy. When you're shy, you may spend a little extra time observing the scene before jumping right into it. And you're unlikely to talk to strangers, which you shouldn't do anyway!
What Causes Shyness?
Some kids are born shy and more sensitive. Sometimes even babies act shy. Have you ever seen a baby hide his or her face from a stranger? On the other hand, another baby might kick, smile, and wave at everyone, even strangers.
But if you weren't shy as a little kid, it's still possible to be a shy person. You might have learned to be shy because of experiences you've had at school or home. And sometimes you only feel shy for a short while, like the first time you get on a new school bus. This type of shyness often goes away after you get adjusted. For instance, after a few days, you'll probably have a seat you like to sit in and you'll get to know friends on the bus.
Can Shyness Be Serious?
Sometimes, people become so shy they are afraid to do simple things in life. For example, they won't go to a restaurant because they are too nervous to order and pay for their food. Some people are so shy about meeting new people that they rarely go outside. Doctors and psychologists often can help the person work through this kind of shyness.
If your shyness is keeping you from doing stuff you want to do, talk to someone about it. Parents, teachers, counselors, and doctors are all good people to turn to. Talking about your shyness may help you get over it. Or your friends or parents may tell you that they, too, have the same shy feelings and what they do to feel less shy. If you still feel really shy, your mom or dad might take you to see a psychologist. He or she can help you figure out how to feel more at ease around people.
Six Ways to Shake Shyness
Having a shy style isn't necessarily a problem. It's perfectly OK to take time to warm up to new people and situations. But shyness blocks some people from being as comfortable or sociable as they'd like to be.
Some people want to feel less shy so they can have more fun socializing and being themselves around others. Here are some tips for overcoming shy feelings:
- Start small with people you know. Practice social behaviors like eye contact, confident body language, introductions, small talk, asking questions, and invitations with the people you feel most comfortable around. Smile. Build your confidence this way. Then branch out to do this with new friends, too.
- Think of some conversation starters. Often, the hardest part of talking to someone new is getting started. Think of conversation openers, like introducing yourself ("Hi, I'm Chris, we're in the same English class"), giving a compliment ("That jacket looks great on you"), or asking a question ("Do you know when our report is due?"). Being ready with a conversation starter (or a few) makes it easier to approach someone.
- Rehearse what to say. When you're ready to try something you've been avoiding because of shyness — like a phone call or a conversation — write down what you want to say beforehand. Rehearse it out loud, maybe even in front of the mirror. Then just do it. Don't worry if it's not exactly like you practiced or if it's not perfect. Few of the things more confident-seeming people do are perfect either. Be proud that you gave it a go. Next time, it'll be even better because it will be easier.
- Give yourself a chance. Find group activities where you can be with people who share your interests. Give yourself a chance to practice socializing with these new people, and get to know them slowly. People who are shy often worry about failing or how others will judge them. Worries and feelings like these can keep you from trying. If self-criticism plays a role for you, ask yourself whether you'd be this critical of your best friend. Chances are you'd be much more accepting. So treat yourself like your own best friend. Encourage yourself instead of expecting to fail.
- Develop your assertiveness. Because shy people can be overly concerned with other peoples' reactions, they don't want to rock the boat. That doesn't mean they're wimpy or cowardly. But it can mean they are less likely to be assertive. Being assertive means speaking up for yourself when you should, asking for what you want or need, or telling other people when they're stepping on your toes.
- Most of all, be yourself. It's OK to try out different conversational approaches you see others using. But say and do what fits your style. Being the real you — and daring to let yourself be noticed — is what attracts friends.