Don't Let Shyness Spoil Your Holidays
Experts offer tips to overcome shyness, especially during the holiday season.
The holidays are looming, and many shy people are dreading the season's
numerous social events. But you don't have to let shyness spoil your holidays.
WebMD spoke with experts about what you can do now to prepare.
Understand Your Situation
Storyteller Garrison Keillor is admittedly shy and exhibits a fondness for
shy people and their predicament in his writing and his radio show, A
Prairie Home Companion. The radio shows has a mythical sponsor --
Powdermilk Biscuits -- "made with whole wheat that gives shy persons the
strength to get up and do what needs to be done."
An essay in Keillor's book Happy To Be Here is entitled ''Shy
Rights: Why Not Pretty Soon?'' In it he asks, ''Would anyone dare to say to a
woman or a Third World person, 'Oh, don't be a woman! Oh, don't be so Third!'?
And yet people make bold with us whenever they please and put an arm around us
and tell us not to be shy."
"You can't just tell people not to be shy," says Bernardo J.
Carducci, PhD, director of the Indiana University Southeast (IUS) Shyness
Research Institute, New Albany, Indiana. He knows firsthand; he counts himself
among the "successfully shy."
"Shy people have an excessive self-preoccupation and concern that others
are looking at them and judging them. It's like walking around with a mirror
all day long. They don't realize that many other people are just as
uncomfortable at parties as they are."
What can make the problem even worse this time of year is that feelings such
as love, joy, grief, and anxiety get exaggerated during the holidays, says
Jerilyn Ross, LICSW, president of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America
(ADAA). "It's normal to feel these extremes."
Conditioning for the Holidays
Just as you wouldn't run a marathon without advance preparation, don't go to
Conditioning begins with having effective coping techniques to deal with
feelings and paying particular attention to good, healthy habits. "Get a
good night's sleep, take a yoga class, exercise, and eat right," she
She also advises prioritizing. "You don't have to say 'yes' to every
invitation." Prioritize. Select what you really want to do. If the
invitation is from a co-worker you don't like who drinks too much and is having
a party at a bar, say 'no.'"
But don't avoid all social gatherings. "Each time you go to a party and
confront the fear, it gets easier," says Ross, who is director and CEO of
the Ross Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders in Washington, D.C. "It's
like building a muscle."
Carducci says many people fear making small talk, yet it's the starting
point of all relationships. Do your homework before the party. "Read the
newspaper; be able to talk about current events or sports or movies. Then
practice by discussing these things with your family or with people in your