It's normal to be a bit shy or to have low self esteem but if you wish you were a little more confident, there's things you can do to ease yourself out of your shell.

Sometimes people are born timid, while others become shy because of experiences they had

Am I shy?

Do you feel nervous when you're:

  • With people you don't know very well (specially of the opposite sex)
  • At parties
  • Meeting new people for the first time
  • Talking to strangers
  • Talking to people in authority, like teachers or policemen

Do you find it hard to:

  • Look people in the eye
  • Ask people for information
  • Think of things to say when you're in a group
  • Act natural with new people
  • Give your opinion or assert yourself

Did you answer 'yes' to over half the questions?

Then you may well be shy.

And that's fine! Shyness is very common. About 40% of us would describe ourselves this way. It's only a problem if shyness stops us doing stuff we want to - like getting noticed or achieving your potential.

Why are people shy?

Sometimes people are born timid, while others become shy because of experiences they had, maybe in childhood. For example, being told not to show off or talk to strangers.

Other people become shy because they experience things that make them wary - like being rejected, ridiculed or ignored. As a result, self-esteem gets lowered, so they start to avoid the things that made them feel bad - like social contact with other people. Then it becomes habit.

What's the problem with being shy?

Shy people are often loyal, thoughtful, conscientious - great friends. Imagine the world if everyone was pushy and loud. So there's no problem being shy - if you're happy.

But shy people can be lonely and isolated. Or end up being sidestepped, not getting asked out, not getting that pay rise or that uni place. They may end up always settling for second best.

How can I stop being so shy?

It can be daunting but if we want to be good with people, we need to practice. That's it.

Go easy on yourself. You wouldn't expect to pass GCSE Maths without working at it. No one becomes a dazzlingly popular, assertive person overnight.

Start slow. Find a bunch of friends or family, then make sure you get a word in edgeways. Next, try asking a question at the end of a lesson or even putting your hand up in class.

Wait until you're confident here before taking the plunge with strangers. You could start with shop assistants - asking about the clothes their selling, making eye contact and smiling. When it comes to social situations, try asking people about themselves and get them talking. This takes the pressure off you.

You can do this. If you suffer knock-backs, pick yourself up and try again. No one gets it perfect every time. There's more info on our page about making friends that might be useful.

Most important: be happy with yourself. Your own approval is more important than anyone else's. So write that list of all the things you're good at - even trivial things. You don't have to be a loudmouth to succeed.

BBC Advice factfiles are here to help young people with a broad range of issues. They're based on advice from medical professionals, government bodies, charities and other relevant groups. Follow the links for more advice from these organisations.


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