Shyness can feel crippling. Sweaty palms, heart beating too fast, mouth dry… it’s all too easy to avoid situations that make us feel that way. However, studies have shown that we can learn to stay cool under performance pressure. They found that all the participants’ bodies reacted to the stressful situation in very much the same way: the difference came from the fact that the people who were more socially anxious paid more attention to their bodies and magnified that response; perceiving it as greater than it actually was.
It seems that you can create a crisis of confidence by overreacting to your own normal heightened alertness. So you should also be able to teach yourself to react to those bodily messages differently – they aren’t signs that you’re failing, but that you want to do well and your body is ready to help. Professional performers report the same symptoms before they perform and some see their nervousness as a source of energy and commitment to whatever they do: they care enough to worry about it.
We can encourage the body’s self-calming process with techniques such as shaking joints loose and conscious breathing, and to keep reassuring ourselves that we can make a choice in how we react to our anxiety and shyness.