Shy isn’t binary. There’s not a clearly defining line in the sand, where on one side, there are shy people, and on the other side, there are outgoing and gregarious people. Even if you have lots of friends, or don’t balk at walking up to a stranger and striking up a conversation, if you think you’re shy, then you probably are. It’s more of a state of mind.
The good news is, if you’re not happy with that state of mind, you can change it. The central question is how? It’s actually easier than you might think.
Breaking out of your shell is an iterative process. The biggest secret is simply that you don’t want to do too much, too quickly. If you step too far outside your comfort zone in one shot, then you’ll wind up scaring yourself and do more harm than good.
A far better approach then, is to treat your journey out of shyness as a series of small steps, where the journey is a lot more important than the destination.
Here’s an example:
If you don’t have a lot of friends, start by opening yourself up to the possibility of making more.
Let’s say you’ve always wanted to try whitewater rafting, but that’s way outside your comfort zone.
Start then, by going on a hike. Just drive to a secluded location, filled with natural beauty, and start walking. Bring your camera so you can snap some photos of all the beautiful hidden vistas you find.
No matter how secluded the location, you’ll invariably run across other hikers. Work up to striking up conversations with them. After all, you’ve already got something in common, right? You’re both here, in this strange and wonderful place, and something as simple as that can be your starting point.
That serves as a kind of gateway. Before you know it, you’re out in new places, you’re meeting new people, and you might even start planning trips with your newfound friends. That’s good stuff, and before you know it, you have “pushed your own envelope” well beyond where it was when you began your journey.
Again, because shyness isn’t binary, you can choose to stop whenever you want. Whenever you’re happy with your progress.
To build on the example above, if you reach the point where you’re planning and taking regular hiking trips with your newfound friends, then there’s nothing that says you have to keep pressing forward.
On the other hand, if you really want to take that whitewater rafting trip, then it’s a short hop from planning hiking trips to, say, planning a day trip that sees you planning a tubing trip down a calm section of river. From there, you’re only a half-step away from planning a guided rafting trip through some class one rapids.
After that, you’re as good as there.
The most important thing then, is to do it gradually. In stages. Push your envelope in small steps, one little iteration at a time. If you do that, you’ll be pleasantly shocked at how quickly you can move well beyond whatever your current comfort zone is. All you have to do is choose to start. If you can muster up the courage to take that first step, it gets much easier from there.