As a shy, introverted person, I find it hard to do things sometimes. Easy things, which other people seem to have no trouble with.
Striking up a conversation with random strangers.
Going to lift weights at the gym.
Self publishing or self promoting at all.
A lot of times, I face the prospect and decide, no, I couldn’t possibly. I can’t put myself out there.
Research suggests I’m not alone — nearly half of us adults here report being shy. And I’m gonna be honest — it’s holding us back.
Why do we hesitate?
Because we’re afraid. Afraid of the fallout, afraid of what people will think of us, afraid that we’ll do it wrong and look stupid.
It’s intuitive. As a species, we’re typically risk-averse.
That means way back when, if we resisted new types of food, or stayed hidden instead of confronting the predator, or didn’t try to jump out of trees, we stayed alive.
But it’s 2019. We’re not facing life-or-death situations, we’re literally just trying to drag our dang selves to the gym to learn deadlifts, or make a new friend, or any other random small thing which might make our lives better if we weren’t so afraid.
How can we start trying new things? How can we convince ourselves that there’s no danger, only opportunity, waiting around that scary corner?
Test the worst case scenario.
We hesitate because we’re filled with doubt. Sometimes that’s a good thing, and stops us making fools of ourselves. Sometimes it’s the biggest obstacle in our way.
When you’re a perfectionist, it can be hard to start for fear of never being able to achieve the flawless result you want. Therapists recommend using something called “Hypothesis Testing.” It means you face your worst fears.
What’s the worst that can happen if you show up two minutes late to a meeting? Find out.
What’s the worst that can happen if you submit that report without giving it a tenth proofread? Find out.
This works because it’s only a teeny tiny step. It’s a way to get your toes wet in the world of imperfection without suffering the full consequences. You can try a scary thing and see what happens. Probably, the world doesn’t collapse and you’re able to carry on living, with a little more free time, or a little less stress.
And it works for other things, too.
Switch on Beast Mode.
Yesterday evening, I’d read about this volunteer group which jogs to a nearby outdoor site, performs a volunteer act like creating a path in a park, or building a wetland habitat, and then jogs back.
I desperately wanted to go — it ticked off both self-improvement goals of exercise and community involvement — but I was terrified.
I stared at my computer screen for a quarter of an hour, just thinking of ways it could go wrong for me.
What if it was full of professional runners?
What if I was too weak to lift a shovel?
What if everyone already had friends and nobody would talk to me?
I thought about the principle of perfectionism I’d read about and thought, “I’m just gonna do it.” For twenty mad seconds I filled myself with courage and bravery and told myself it was just going to be one evening, and if it sucked nobody had to know about it.
I hit “attending” on the online event.
The worst possible case scenario was that I’d hate it and never go again. All I would have lost would be one evening, probably sitting at home watching TV. When I thought about it that way, it wasn’t so bad.
And when the time came, I dragged myself into my running clothes and went out there.
How to do this at home.
You can do this with any skill, any event, any stranger.
Too afraid to make new friends? Tell yourself that just for half a minute, you’re going to speak to that person at the bus stop.
What’s the worst that can happen? And isn’t the best-case scenario worth the risk?
You’re the only thing holding yourself back, and you’re the only thing that can propel yourself forward. You don’t have to change your entire personality — just be brave for twenty seconds and watch as you can achieve things you’d never dreamed of trying before.