In working on my shyness and social anxiety, I tried just about everything (I’m sure you have too). Some practices created great results, others were just so-so.
Looking back on my progress, there was one approach that really amplified my personal growth and came pretty late in the game. Had I learned and committed to this approach earlier on, I’m confident that I could have shaved years off of my work.
When I’ve worked with people in the past, they’ll often report that this one approach allows them to have massive control over their patterns of shyness and anxiety in a short period of time.
Mindfulness is the Answer.
If you frequent the Psychology section in your local bookstore or on Amazon.com, you’ve seen tons of books with “Mindfulness” in the title lately. There’s even a few magazines on the topic these days. Mindfulness meditation is nothing new, though. Mindfulness as we know it today has its roots in early Buddhist practice.
Mindfulness is simple.
Mindfulness is the moment-by-moment awareness of yourself, your body, your emotions, your thoughts, and your environment. It is being fully aware, non-judgmental, and without the anxiety that comes with striving, trying hard, and the obsession with ‘getting somewhere’.
It’s deceptively simple in theory, but can be difficult for those new to the practice (especially if you’re a particular competitive, goal-oriented person).
It is simply you noticing and accepting every breath you take, every good feeling, every time your mind wanders, every time you get angry, and those moments when you want to say ‘Fuck it!’ and quit. All of these things will happen in your practice. It is your job to welcome the frustration, boredom, and anxiety, just as you do the happiness, calmness, and the inevitable ‘A-ha!’ moments.
How Does Mindfulness Help Build Charisma and Reduce Social Anxiety?
Most people who suffer from shyness and social anxiety say that it’s something that “just happens to them” and is totally out of their control. It’s on auto-pilot. Even worse, many of us actually make our shyness our identity. That’s dangerous shit.
“I am a shy person. I am a socially awkward person”, you’ve been telling yourself and others for years.
Once you give yourself an identity label like this, your unconsciousness mind will latch onto this and act out all of the things that – in your mind – a shy, socially awkward person does.
Human brains have evolved to make it easier to repeat common thought patterns. Your negative identity stories are no exception. The more you tell yourself these stories and buy into the identity of a shy person, the more evidence your brain will give you that you are actually shy.
Funny how that works out, huh?
The shortcut seeking part of the human brain presents both problems and benefits for shy folks.
On one hand, it means you have been your shyness’s bitch for years and it’s completely running the show, completely under your nose.
On the other hand, you can teach your brain how to immediately defuse any shyness or anxiety flare-ups before they actually happen. This creates patterns of confident, charismatic behavior in its place.
Why Practice Mindfulness?
Practicing mindfulness allows you to learn to ‘step outside’ of your automatic shyness/anxiety pattern and be charismatic on purpose, as a matter of choice.
Instead Of Being Shy, Imagine Being Able To Choose To Be Charismatic
First, it allows you to observe what your specific type of shyness is. What is the sequence of events that has to happen for you to get triggered? Is it only certain situations, such as a loud nightclub, or are you generally shy all of the time? What specifically happens once you get triggered?
Second, once you are able to just observe your pattern, this gives you a measure of choice over your shyness. You learn to dis-identify with it as being who you are; instead, you will see it as a thing that just happens sometime, like sneezing or getting the occasional headache.
As you become more aware of how your shyness works, you will actually be able to change the course of things when your shyness starts to creep up.
It really comes down to choice and freedom. Having the choice to feel shy or not and having the freedom to act in a way that is more at ease.
Meditation Isn’t Just For Hippies.
This is technically ‘meditation’ but don’t bother with all that hippie-dippy nonsense you see people do when they meditate in the movies. You don’t have to go to some retreat on a mountain. You don’t need to wear linen pants, light devotional candles, sit cross-legged on a mat, or wear mala beads.
That’s silly business – don’t bother with this.
Meditation isn’t a big deal – this is just a really powerful thing you do to make your life better. That’s it.
Exercise: How To Use Mindfulness To Short Circuit Your Shyness
As I mentioned earlier, on-going practice of mindfulness meditation will give you insights into what specifically triggers your shyness and how it happens. For example, you may get a shortness of breath, followed by cold sweats, stuttering, and a mental message that says “You don’t know what to say. These people won’t like you”.
As you become more proficient with your mindfulness practice, you will start to notice the little ‘tremors’ that happen, that start the process of you feeling shy and anxious. The first signal may just be a tightness in the chest. Or blurred vision, cold sweats, or shaky hands. After this, all hell breaks loose!
As these happen, follow this pattern to bring calmness and confidence to the situation:
- Stop where you are or find a quiet spot to be.
- Plant your body firmly where you are. Open up your body language. Back straight and relaxed. Arms to your side. Chin up. Shoulders wide.
- Breath deep and slow, starting in your belly and slowly moving upward. Continue to do this for the entire time.
- Start noticing all of the triggers going off. Don’t judge yourself for having these. Step outside of it and simply acknowledge them. Keep breathing.
- Continue to breath deeply and stay mindful with your anxiety. Stay the course with this. Maintain your body language, smile, and notice how your anxiety has diminished.
- Step out into the world. Kick ass.
This is a powerful process for transforming your anxiety in real-time, folks. As you practice this exercise more, you will literally start to re-wire how your brain reacts to stressful, anxiety-inducing situations.
As we discussed earlier, your brain is literally programmed to put behaviors and reactions into ‘auto-pilot’ mode – make sure that your programs are powerful and create positive results for your life.
Wrapping Things Up
The reason why I stress mindfulness as a necessary element of your personal growth practice is because – despite your best of intentions – brute force, effort, and ‘working really hard’ alone will not cause much growth.
Lasting personal development happens with the learned awareness and radical self-acceptance that results from integrating mindfulness into your everyday life. It creates an inner experience of peace, playfulness, and acceptance of yourself and others.
At the most fundamental level, charisma starts with radical self-acceptance.
Once you stop judging yourself and start enjoying yourself, you will have a personality that is free from chronic social anxiety, passing judgment on others, and negative self-talk. In its place, you leave tons of room for a truly interesting, engaging, and warm personality to grow: the personality that is truly the badass, charismatic son-of-a-bitch you really are.
Find out how this works for you. Practice mindfulness for 10-15 minutes a day, gradually incorporating it into all parts of your life. Try the ‘Short Circuit’ exercise in challenging social situations that might trigger your anxiety and shyness. Test this out for two weeks and come back with your results, challenges, and questions.