The Exact Steps I Took To Stop Being Shy And Start Being Self-Confident

 

I stood in the corridor of the stranger’s house, reeling.

I’ve pulled it off, I thought.

I’ve actually pulled it off.

 

I was in my third year of University in Edinburgh.

It was not long after I’d first worked in a bar – the place where I learnt how to talk to people I don’t know (which you can read about here).

 

But I still considered myself A Shy Person.

If you’re shy, you just are, right?

 

One Saturday night at some friend-of-a-friend’s house party, I stood chatting with two of my workmates from my part-time job at the local cinema.

Beth had a long term boyfriend. Anna and I were both single.

We were talking about self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth.

 

Anna was surprised to hear that Beth still had issues around that; she’d assumed that when you have a partner, all that stuff goes away.

Lady with ??s

I chipped in that it hadn’t during my last relationship, and that it was still a big issue for me.

“But Marsha,” said Anna, with confusion.
“You’re so fantastic!”.

I remember it to the extent that, almost 15 years later, I can still hear her Scottish lilt saying those exact words.

(B’t Marrsha! Yer soh f’nTAStic!)

As we continued talking, I realised from what Anna and Beth told me, that all the effort I’d put into faking my own self-confidence had worked.

 

I had spent the best part of the last few years trying to pretend to the world that I had more confidence than I felt.

  • When I walked into a party where I hardly knew anyone, I held my shoulders back and smiled beatifically, looking around the room.
  • When deciding what to wear, I went for the brighter, more zazzy clothes, hoping they’d do the work for me. (They usually did).
  • When I bumped into someone I hardly knew, instead of running away before they could see me, I made myself say hello and ask how it was going.
  • When I had to chat to someone I didn’t know well, I made myself ask questions, so it looked like I was super-involved in the conversation (however much I was blanking and freaking out inside my head).

 

At first I felt a bit like an actor within my own life.
But soon I got pretty comfortable with pretending to be the kind of person I wished I actually was.

When Anna explained that, to her, I just was that person, I had a crashing realisation:

I wasn’t only pretending to be confident any more.

I was confident.

 

I had spent my entire life thinking:

I am a Shy Person. I will always be a Shy Person.

This is as much as part of me as my brown eyes, alto voice and flickable earlobes.

(the eyes and earlobes run in my family)


So this realisation that perhaps I was no longer A Shy Person was a pretty crazy one to take on board.

 

I’ve talked before about how I still have moments of this shyness.

For instance, when going to an event where I won’t know anyone (you can read about one here).

 

But most of the time, I don’t have it.

And on those occasions when I do, I get through my freaking out by reminding myself that:

Historically, I always get through it, so I like will this time as well.

 

Amy Cuddy, in her incredible TED Talk (one of my favourites) puts it brilliantly:

“Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it”.

(Click here to tweet that!)


In other words, it’s not about pretending to be someone you’re not.
It’s about pretending to be someone you will be.

The pretending is what’ll make the change happen.

 

Over To You

Have you ever pretended to be more confident or comfortable than you felt inside? What effect did it have on the people around you?

 

Let me know in the comments! 

If you know someone else who would enjoy this story (and the idea of “Faking it until you become it”) you can share this blog by clicking on one of those little round buttons below.

 

Thanks for reading,

You rule!

 

PS want to know my best-ever client secret – and get even more advice, tips, plus stories that I won’t put on the internet? Come and join the Yes Yes Family – it’s free! Just pop your details in below:


Photo Credit: Ava R., Helga Weber & Mr. Greenjeans via Compfight cc, and the one of me by Sophie Harris.

44 Comments

  • Lorna

    Reply Reply July 26, 2013

    Hi Marsha. This article hits a soft spot for me. I am a recovering introvert. By nature I like quiet things–reading, cooking, gardening, working out. I used to tell myself I was an introvert and that was why I didn’t try to meet new people or try hard in social situations. A few years ago it was pointed out to me that this was a “limiting belief” as opposed to a fact. I was hiding behind introvert and allowing myself to be lazy by not interacting with the world. At the end I was only hurting myself. Has it been hard? Do I sometime revert to sitting in the corner? Sure. But I also know that it is just me holding myself back and when I meet new people and make new connections it enhances my life. So yes, fake it ’til you become it–or just recognize it is a mindset and you can shift whenever you choose.

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply July 26, 2013

      I’m so glad it connected with you. Thanks so much for letting me know.
      I think we all hold a LOT of limiting beliefs about ourselves. And – yes – ” recognize it is a mindset and you can shift whenever you choose” is a beautiful way to put it!

  • Aimelie Ronquillo

    Reply Reply July 26, 2013

    Really great post. Back at my old job, I used to have to give training and presentations to big wigs and in the beginning, I would have to psyche myself up to walk in confidently and have a commanding presence. As time went on, it became easier and easier to give these presentations to the point where there was no real prep work on my part, and I would just walk in and start talking. Looking back on it now, I realized I faked it till I became it. 🙂

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply July 26, 2013

      Amazing! So glad you managed to benefit from that trick (like me, without knowing you were!)

  • Pam

    Reply Reply July 26, 2013

    Marsha, you ARE fantastic (Canadian accent) and make me laugh every time! That quote is perfect–it really resonates with me!

  • Tony Cowards

    Reply Reply July 26, 2013

    Great post, I used to be almost crippled by shyness (especially as a teenager) but little by little I gained confidence and nowadays I do stand up comedy, something which relies on an enormous amount of self-confidence which, like yourself, began faked until eventually it became real.

    I think a lot of confidence comes from being prepared for a situation, for instance, if you are going to a party find out beforehand who else is likely to be there, who you might be able to chat with, what they do, what their hobbies are, etc, have a plan, even if you don’t use it it’ll mean that you have something to fall back on if you start feeling nervous and lacking in confidence.

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply July 28, 2013

      Tony, yes!! I totally agree on the being prepared. I actually wrote two blog posts about this – one of which was about interviewing a stand up comedian!!
      You can read about it (and see a fine photo of me with Greg Davies) here.
      The second one is here.

      • Tony Cowards

        Reply Reply August 31, 2013

        Thanks for the links, very interesting and they ring true for me.

        I guess the preparation is a way of controlling some of the variables and making you feel more confident in the outcome, shifting the odds in your favour.

  • Cecilia

    Reply Reply July 26, 2013

    People are always surprised to find out that I was an incredibly shy child and that I still consider myself shy. I was so shy that I wouldn’t call a friend unless I met, knew and felt comfortable with each member of their family. Even then, it was a challenge.

    Things that helped me get over my shyness? Living in Germany for a year when I was in grade 9 which included a trip to a nudist camp in the former Yugoslavia with my friend Anke. When I got back home I realized that if I could talk to naked people in German I could muster up the courage to talk to clothed people in English. I realize that didn’t exactly answer your question but it did give me the opportunity to talk about naked Germans which I always enjoy. 😉

    Love your blog Marsha!
    ox
    Cecilia

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply July 28, 2013

      I LOVE THIS STORY!!

      With a story like that, who cares if you answer the question? Thanks Cecelia!

  • Andrea

    Reply Reply July 26, 2013

    Another great post, Marsha!

    I’m definitely one who has always considered myself shy. But during a rather strange social experiment in my high school pysch class, a popular cheerleader told me that I was intimidating and standoffish. I was floored! It was incredibly eye-opening. After that, I made a conscious effort to talk to people, no matter how uncomfortable I was. I found pretty quickly that if I just asked a lot of questions, I didn’t really have to do much talking! It was really the perfect way for a shy person to become instantly fascinating to other people – get them to talk about themselves! Hahaha! And, a big bonus is that after so many years of asking people questions, it actually became my job. As a coach, I essentially ask people questions for a living. It’s awesome!

    I feel like some part of me will always be that shy kid, and I really honor that part of myself. But it feels good to know that I can not only cope, but shine in any situation.

    Introverts Unite!! 🙂

  • Karl

    Reply Reply July 28, 2013

    I was horribly horribly shy as a child – afraid even to go into shops and buy things. I used to vomit every day before going to school. Then, over the decades, I slowly changed. I went to live in different places, I did a few things of which I was horribly afraid, and now I tend to come across as someone with a great deal of confidence. But I’ve been surprised recently by how quickly that can change. I’m currently WWOOFing in Italy and recently someone took a dislike to me and I just crumbled. I became this timid, voiceless thing from years gone by and it was really, really distressing. I’m getting over it now, and this new place I’m at is much more friendly, but I was surprised by how far I regressed because of – as far as I could tell – unwarranted provocation. I’m not sure what my point is. Perhaps that confidence hangs by a thread. Perhaps that behind every confident exterior is a trembling mouse, ready to scarper and self-harm at a moment’s notice. Or maybe that’s just me. Ho hum. Si tira avanti. x

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply July 29, 2013

      I think that situations like that are so uncommon when you’re a grown up, that they IMMEDIATELY throw you back into the person you were when it first happened, ie a little child.

      The other day, I got pulled over by a police car, because I crossed a pedestrian crossing on my bike. It was totally fine, I apologised and admitted it was stupid (I had done it right in front of them), and they let me off with a warning. But afterwards, I felt shaken in a way I haven’t since I was a kid at school, getting told off by a teacher.

      Hope WOOFING is going well. i Bloody LOVE your blog.

  • Sonja Keller

    Reply Reply July 29, 2013

    Great post Marsha! I appear confident to most people, but underneath I am quite shy. I resonated with your article. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply July 29, 2013

      Aw, thanks, Sonja!
      I definitely have spent a LOT of my life feeling like that. But I have also taken a lot of confidence from the fact that people assume I *am* confident even when I’m not feeling it. I think it helps build your armour!

  • Tabi(tha)

    Reply Reply July 31, 2013

    This so resonates with me. When I did my coach training my supervisor told me I had a natural way of asking really deep questions. I developed that as my safeguard to freaking out in social situations and never thought it would help me as a coach!

    It was a huge surprise for me to one day actually realize that I was confident. I didn’t really know what to do with it as I’d spent so long thinking I wasn’t.

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply July 31, 2013

      Tabi(tha), I *totally know what you mean about not knowing what to do with it!
      And I did the same with asking questions!! One of the things clients always say to me about networking is,
      “The thing is, I just hate smalltalk”,
      to which I always reply,
      “So do I. I just don’t do it”

      Asking deep questions both gets you out of social situation freak-outs AND helps you avoid dreaded chat about the weather and the canapes!

  • Lois Olson

    Reply Reply July 31, 2013

    Marsha,

    For me it depends on the day and situation as to whether I feel confident in social situations. I do feel that way generally whenever it is a work-related meeting. But when it’s purely social, suddenly I’m at a loss for words. Or when I do speak, to me it sounds random and awkward.

    What I’ve been learning though through it all is that by speaking up, introducing myself, and finding a common subject to talk about, is brave for me. And I’m choosing to celebrate that rather than focus on the fact that I have no exit plan while talking with others.

    Oftentimes I feel like the lead character Dr. Brennan in the TV show, “Bones.”

    I’m not sure that answers your question necessarily. For me, I’m learning to push myself outside my comfort zone to do things that stretch and grow me while still allowing myself to be me, the quiet introvert that loves deep conversations and pondering. One way that helps me do that in social situations is to ask people about their stories, the work they’ve chosen, how they’ve gotten into their industries. I find their stories so fascinating that before long, I forget I’m nervous and just enjoy the journey.

    I’m definitely a work in progress still but it’s so nice to know there are others out there that struggle with the same thing.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply August 6, 2013

      Louis, I *LOVE getting people to tell their stories! I actually run a

      Wouter Monden

      Reply Reply August 6, 2013

      A couple of years ago, I went for a long run in the mountains in Portugal. The views were fantastic, the weather was great but there was thing about the run I did not enjoy one bit. Homeowners all had nasty guarddogs they barely fed and trated badly. That way, they kept them pissed off and ready to attack at any moment.

      I hate dogs. Well, I like dogs, but I hate them when they’re coming for me barking like, well, mad dogs.

      At one point I had to cross a bridge and at the other end were four dogs waiting for me. I could turn back but that would mean running another 8 kilometers on top of the ten I had already done.

      Then I remembered taht dogs can sense your fear. So, if I could trick them into thinking I wasn’t scared at all, they’d leave me alone. So, I carried a long, shouting at them to piss off, that they were annoying. Whilst doing that I tried to look as angry as I could.

      It worked. They still barked but they didn’t come near me. One of them followed me, keeping a few meters distance all then time. I actually enojoyed that and he ran with me for about 100 meters until we came to a roundabout.

      When I came back, I sat down and realised that if I can pretend I am not scared of dogs so convincingly, I probably wasn’t that scared at all.

      • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

        Marsha Shandur

        Reply Reply August 6, 2013

        I LOVE THIS STORY!

        Thanks, Wouter! Next time I am faced by scary dogs, I’m TOTALLY going to try this!

    • kristen

      Reply Reply March 7, 2014

      Thanks so much for writing this post! I sometimes wonder if there’s anyone on the planet more shy than I am. This is a problem because I am a musician (a solo singer-songwriter- because I’m too shy to connect with other musicians) and there is nothing that would bring me more joy than to share my music on a large scale. I’ve been kind of in limbo lately, torn between what I know I’m here to do and finding the courage to actually do it. I may not be able to be more confident overnight, but I can certainly pretend until I start to believe it.

      Cheers,
      Kristen

      • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

        Marsha Shandur

        Reply Reply March 7, 2014

        Kristen, the fact that you’re able to play music *at all* shows me that you’re not the shyest person on the planet!
        I’m so glad you’re into the idea of ‘faking it until you become it’. Remember, it’s not just “believe”, it’s actually BECOME. If you need further convincing, please watch the Amy Cuddy TED Talk (below) for evidence of how this works!

        One of the joys of the internet is that you can do a lot of sharing of your music from the comfort of your bedroom. You can start with audio only, then maybe progress to videos. Somewhere out there, your dream fans are just waiting to hear from you! And remember, it’s you responsibility! (see here for more on that: YesYesMarsha.com/responsibility.

        Here’s that TED Talk:

    • Nivedha

      Reply Reply June 10, 2014

      Hey, Marsha, thank you so much for this article! It just opened my eyes to a lot of things. 🙂

      • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

        Marsha Shandur

        Reply Reply July 26, 2014

        Nivedha, what a wonderful thing to say! Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know.

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply July 20, 2014

      Fantastic article,

      I find that there is a link between what your body is doing, and what your mind perceives.

      Walking into a party with your shoulders back, head up….much better than the alternative.

      I’ve been using Amy Cuddy’s power posing technique for 6 months….also been recommending it to my clients, it’s been helping with social trepidation.

      What you’re doing is very important, keep it up. 🙂

      • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

        Marsha Shandur

        Reply Reply July 26, 2014

        Thanks, Jeff! What lovely things you say!

        YES, I am totally with you on the shoulders back, head up. My one is that I say to myself, “Walk like a pop star”, which is the short form of, “If you were Madonna, how would you walk into this room?”

        (am I dating myself?)

        And re Amy Cuddy – LOVE her. This is me me, about to go onstage at World Domination Summit, where I am doing the Wonderwoman – I did it for five minutes onstage, and backstage had been doing arms in the air triumphant!

        Marsha Amy Cuddy Pose at WDS 2014!

        (photo by Erno Hannink)

    • Elizabeth

      Reply Reply September 16, 2014

      Thanks for this article! I am in nursing school and I get told over and over that I’m too quiet, especial in the hospital for our clinicals when I’m working with patients. I haven’t had one professor who has never told me this. I always want to tell them, yes I’m quiet! Don’t tell me something I don’t already know! But I’m trying really hard to work on confidence. I have a hard time with small talk and even though I may feel confident I don’t think others see me as confident because I’m quiet. It’s such a struggle! I have the hardest time in new situations, but I am trying to work on it. My professors always say to be more confident, but they never tell me how. So this article helps a lot. Thank you!

      • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

        Marsha Shandur

        Reply Reply September 18, 2014

        Hey Elizabeth!

        I’m so glad you found this helpful. It’s definitely hard when lots of people tell you something you know already! Have you read Susan Cain’s book “Quiet”? I know a lot of people who’ve found this to be a game-changer. If you have any more questions, do ask away!

    • Irres

      Reply Reply November 18, 2014

      Hi,thanks for sharing, I am master student in University of Edinburgh. I really am shy, so that I feel that I couldn’t come along well with my classmates. I nearly am frustrated somehow. Especially when I am in a group, and everyone is talking. 🙂 I am now still struggling with this issue.

      • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

        Marsha Shandur

        Reply Reply December 6, 2014

        Hey Irres,

        I’m so sorry to hear that you’re struggling. I hope this helps – and that you’ve realised that it’s ok to make eye contact with people, and that this is more likely to have them speak *to* you.
        I’d also suggest joining clubs where there might be socialising in smaller groups, eg of 3 or 4 people. That can help, especially when you’re all talking about an interest you have in common – plus you’ll get the chance to get to know those people over time, which also makes it easier.
        Edinburgh has a LOT of clubs, so hopefully you’ll find the right one, even if it means trying a few!
        Good luck and all the best!

    • izamartinez

      Reply Reply February 27, 2015

      Wow this really help. Thanks for this article. I had the same problem I was a shy person and everyone keep telling me which it got annoying at some point because I kept thinking I am not, but then again I kept question myself if I was. So I began to try to be confident, but at some point I dont feel like I was. Im usually more free and talkative at home and at school it was difficult I mean around friends I was myself, but when it was time to meet new people and pair up into groups I didn’t know how to break the silence. I felt awkward and really wanted to break my shell, but I didn’t know why I couldn’t be myself. I think sometimes I could tell when I’m nervous to speak to people because my voice tends to be more softer I don’t like when that happens right then im sure people notice how not very confident I am. It’s just really hard for me I always try to tell myself be more confident, but I back down. Thank you for this article it help a lot!:)

      • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

        Marsha Shandur

        Reply Reply March 2, 2015

        Hi Iza!

        Thanks so much for your lovely comment. I’m so glad you found it helpful.

        It’s SUPER-frustrating, isn’t it, when people keep telling you you’re shy and you don’t think that you are!

        Two quick things:
        (1) As far as breaking the silence is concerned, I think a LOT of people find that hard – and asking a question is a good way to do it because it takes the pressure off you! (more on that here yesyesmarsha.com/questions

        (2) As far as the quiet voice/shy thing – remember that we’re all thinking about ourselves more than anyone else, so it may just be that you imagine that people think that. Also remember – people will always follow your physical cues, so even if your voice is soft, you can make your body language confident and that’ll make a difference (more on that here: yesyesmarsha.com/awkward)

        Hope that’s helpful! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a note 🙂

        xxyyM

    • Callum

      Reply Reply March 9, 2015

      Reminds me of the old saying “the whole worlds a stage and we’re just actors” or as michael mcintyre puts it “who shall take the lead in this bullshit production”. It’s a very well made point and I don’t mean to take a shot at it, but isn’t this a primitive, narcissist and social path thing to do. This is the type of thing that school bullies, relationship user’s and cooperate CEO’s do to hide the fact that they don’t want to be seen as anything weaker than human in front of their peers. Again I don’t mean to take a shot at a well made point but I feel that if this is used irresponsibly it could be quite dangerous. much love.

      • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

        Marsha Shandur

        Reply Reply April 2, 2015

        Hey Callum,

        I don’t think it’s dangerous or bullshit. It was a method that served me incredibly well and helped me stop being shy – which I hated – and start feeling more confident – which I liked a lot more.

        If you’re happy being quiet and shy, brilliant! Keep at it! This blog is to help those people – like me at that age – who are not.

    • Catie Hilding

      Reply Reply May 21, 2015

      I pretty much did exactly that, too. My parents were both very involved in our community growing up; my dad is in HR and my mom is in organizational leadership and between them we went to plenty of events with lots of strangers and important people (mayors and leaders of unions, etc…) and I tried so hard not to be the scared little kid hiding behind mommy’s skirt for too long and it carried over into adulthood. Although I still sometimes feel like I’m going to throw up at large events, I have the skills now to push through and like you say, history has shown me that my odds of getting through it are pretty good.

      In June is my companies 100th anniversary party and we’re having this big fancy gala with customers and vendors and board members. Thank goodness I have the confidence to carry me through it!

      • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

        Marsha Shandur

        Reply Reply May 30, 2015

        Yes! It’s all about faking it until you become it, right?
        (even when you feel like you never quite became it)

        Hope the gala was/is fun!

    • paru

      Reply Reply October 17, 2015

      Hey Marsha,
      I have been doing this all my life.But never thought it in this way.Your article was a real eye opener.Now I really feel more confident(I have had lots of practice in faking ..haha).Thank you so much!

      • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

        Marsha Shandur

        Reply Reply October 17, 2015

        Hey Paru! So glad you found it helpful. Thanks for letting me know!

    • Gloria

      Reply Reply March 14, 2016

      This blog is really helpful! I was horribly shy when i moved back to the USA. Fortunately, I’m immigrant from West Africa. At first, i didn’t know how to approach people, i was afraid, i had no confident to getting involved with people, i mean making friends, joining a conversation etc.. Most people described me as a hard worker, but the specific thing i always thought about is to free myself from the shyness. I couldn’t. Back to my first year in college, i found that i was a little confident. I raised hand in class, i talk to my friends, but i shy away from other people i don’t know. Most importantly, i don’t know where to start from (relax myself, and free from my shyness). I have been doing a lot researches. Practicing step-by-step. But it’s getting better than before. I want to have knowledge on what it takes me to. Beside, I work in a small office, but sometimes, i tend to avoid people.
      Reading your blog, is really helpful.
      And thanks so much for sharing this with us.

      Cheers!!

      Gloria

      • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

        Marsha Shandur

        Reply Reply March 14, 2016

        Thanks, Gloria!

        I’m so glad you find it helpful. And WELL DONE on such a brave move! I moved just from London to Toronto and found it really hard – I think you’re doing amazingly well! Remember, it’s all about faking it until you become it 🙂

        Good luck!

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