Posted on

Overcoming Shyness After 40; Why Now Is The Right Time

Have you ever scheduled an interview, a date, or a meeting and needed to give yourself a pep talk before the big moment?  You took a deep breath and swallowed hard, telling yourself, “I can do this.”  Suddenly a wave of nervous energy crashed over you, and a familiar voice flooded your mind with doubt.  “What if they don’t like me?  I’m going to make a fool of myself.  I can’t do this.”  Then reluctantly, yet with a sense of relief, you canceled the event.  By not overcoming shyness you have missed out on countless life experiences as well as business opportunities.  You are not alone.

According to Dr. Bernardo J. Carducci, P.h.D., head of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast, about 40% of adults worldwide believe they are shy.  And as a result, they are less likely to advance in their careers and not surprisingly, have fewer social connections.  Does this scenario sound familiar?


Don’t Play Coy With Me!

At this point, you might be asking, “Was I born this way?”  That’s a good question.  While Scientists debate whether there’s a gene that causes shyness, Carducci does not believe people are born with it.  He writes, “shyness is characterized by three major features: excessive self-consciousness, excessive negative self-evaluation, and excessive negative self-preoccupation.  All three characteristic features of shyness involve a sense of self.  And the sense of self does not develop until approximately 18 months of age.”  And there doesn’t appear to be one single cause for this affliction either.  Perhaps your shyness stems from your temperament, personality, upbringing or a combination of all three.

Keep in mind; I am not referring to a social anxiety disorder.  That’s significantly more serious than being bashful.  If you hyperventilate or need to make a pitstop for adult diapers at the thought of attending a social or networking event, you should probably get some professional help.  I battled both shyness and panic attacks in my life.  And I assure you, they are completely different.  You can read about my struggles here. 

I’m not talking about introverts either.  They feel comfortable spending time alone and prefer solitary activities.  Timid people, however, long to interact and participate in activities and gatherings, but don’t feel capable.  So, what’s the secret to overcoming shyness as a mature adult?  You have probably tried to conquer it in the past or hoped to outgrow it by now, but shyness isn’t going away on its own.  Perhaps the time is right to consider a few new resources.


Podcasts: Keep Calm And Listen On

I listen to several podcasts on varying topics each week.  I find them to be educational and entertaining.  Whether in my car, on the treadmill, or cleaning the house, hitting the play button on my phone makes these mundane tasks seem more enjoyable.  Here are three highly rated podcasts that may help in overcoming shyness.  You can find them on iTunes. Plant Food For Shrinking Violets is a comprehensive catalog of resources for those seeking treatment for this problem.  Sponsored by The Shyness Institute in Berkely, California, this website is packed with helpful information.  You can find suggested books, research, therapists, training programs, meditations, and more.  Dr. Lynne Henderson, P.h.D., is the director of this research facility.  Listen her speak about shyness in the workplace in a fascinating radio interview here.


Hypnosis: You Are Getting Very Sleepy-

The fair-minded part of you may be intrigued by this potential remedy while your skeptical side may have a few doubts.  As it turns out, clinical hypnosis, self-hypnosis, and sleep hypnosis have been used successfully to treat everything from shyness and anxiety to asthma and irritable bowel syndrome.  Famous athletes and top business people have used this focused, guided imagery for years to enhance performance.

The British Medical Association has concluded that hypnotherapy is an effective treatment for phobias and anxiety-related issues.  While it does not work for everyone, it may well be worth a try.  The National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists can help you locate a professional near you.



Related Reading: Midlife Reinvention; Is it Time for a Professional Pivot?

 It’s never too late.  You don’t have to live your remaining years on the sideline and continue to miss out on social experiences and business opportunities.  What have you got to lose?  Overcoming shyness after age 40 is possible if you are willing to be open-minded and consider trying new techniques.  Or, perhaps you have already conquered this demon.  If you have, please help us all and share your secret in the comment section below.

Life is better when we lift each other up.

58 thoughts on “Overcoming Shyness After 40; Why Now Is The Right Time

  1. Excellent post! I grew up ‘shy’ with all the adults calling me ‘shy’, and while I know that was true to some point (situational shyness?), I now believe I’m an introvert instead. I love my alone time but have trouble with small talk, etc. It’s sometimes difficult to know the difference, but there is one.

    1. Thanks, Julie. I grew up shy. I always wanted to participate, but just couldn’t bring myself to do it. This is distinctly different from being introverted. Being alone and being lonely are not the same.

  2. I’m not a shy person but I love all of this information, Jen! I’m going to pass it on to many of my friends.
    All the best,

    1. That makes me very happy, Nancy. Thank you for sharing. I would love it if this post helped the people who really need it.

  3. Hypnosis! Fascinating! I’ve always wondered about hypnosis, much like you say it’s intriguing but of course always with mild apprehension.

    1. Hypnosis is very interesting. It can be used to help people quit smoking, eat better, and reduce the symptoms of things like asthma and IBS. What a great alternative to medication. Thank you for sharing you comments.

  4. I like to think of it more as working with my introverted nature. I am not really shy, more that I just re-energize with time to myself. Great links.

    1. Thanks, Karen. Nothing wrong with being introverted. That just means you like your alone time.

  5. Really great and detailed post! Thank you for this sharing knowledge, I found it really helpful.

    1. Thank you, Ernest. I am so glad you found it helpful. That is great to hear.

  6. I also think that the best time for doing anything at all is yesterday. And today is the second best time!

    1. Ha! I have to say I agree whole-heartedly, Aleksandra!

  7. Very interesting! I know many people who are sidelines people. They do not remove them selves away from parties or large groups but they don’t interact a lot either unless it is a one on one. I thought them shy but now I don’t.

    1. Well, Haralee, I suppose those people could be introverts or shy. If I see someone hanging out on the sidelines, I try to engage and get them talking. It’s a bit easier to tell which type of person they are at that point. Shy people always seem so relieved that I started the conversation. I remember how difficult it was to be bashful. It was quite stressful at social gatherings.

  8. Interesting post Jen! Shyness has never been a problem for me, but i use self hypnosis for sleep and to stop an arrhythmia of my heart. Brenda

    1. Thank you kindly, Brenda. I am so thrilled that hypnosis worked for something as serious as an arrhythmia. Wow! That is awesome.

  9. I think I’m slowly transitioning from an extrovert into an introvert – it started when I hit 40!

    1. Hello, Kim. I find that to be true of many of the 40+ extroverts I know. They seem to ‘mellow’ or prefer more alone time than they once did. Maybe it’s just part of the aging process.

  10. I have bouts of shyness, no doubt. This is all very good information.

    1. Thanks, Michelle. I still, every once in a while, have a bout of shyness. It’s an ongoing struggle.

  11. Hi Jen this is a very helpful and informative post thank you. At almost 60 I have always struggled with self-doubt and self-consciousness. However, since I turned 50 I try very hard to overcome this and feel I have succeeded. I still fell a little overwhelmed in large gatherings but I have learned to appreciate who I am which is a big factor I think.

    1. I understand, Sue. I know so many people of all ages who struggle with shyness. Keep working on it. It gets a little easier every time you do!

  12. Great post! I especially appreciated your explanation of the difference between being shy and being introverted–I’m definitely the latter. And what a great compilation of resources to help–I’m sure this post will help a lot of folks. P.S. I’m a real believer in hypnosis–I used it to quit smoking and it helped me kick a 2-3 pack a day habit 33 years ago!

    1. Wow, Roxanne. Quitting 2-3 packs a day seems like it would be impossible. Hypnosis is so helpful for so many people. I hope your words encourage others to give it a try. Thanks for the comments.

  13. I am an introvert who also used to be shy. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been letting go of things that no longer (or never did,) serve me. Shyness is one of those things. It keeps you from fully participating in and enjoying life.

    1. Hi, Jennifer. Letting go of the things that don’t serve us is incredibly important as we grow older. We might as well embrace and enjoy the years we have left. Thanks so much for sharing.

  14. Hi Jen, I agree that we are not born shy. I was you basic outgoing kid until about age seven, when life got complicated and I became shy. It’s a tough but worthy battle. I love that Twitter screen-grab!

    1. Thanks, Linda. I overcame my shyness in my late teens. I was tired of the way it made me feel. I still struggle from time to time, but it has gotten easier as I get older. You’re right; it is a worthy battle.

  15. Great post, Jen. When I was little I was very shy, but I chalk that up to losing my dad when I was three and being shy of all men and many strangers. My mother worked with me and by high school I was more eager to meet new people. Becoming a teacher certainly cured me of any remaining shyness and to this day I will get up and read aloud to groups, give talks, and though I might be a bit nervous, I’m no longer shy.

    1. Hi, Beth. Thanks for your response. I was so shy when I was little. My mother couldn’t really help me because she too was shy. Thankfully, I learned how to overcome this in my late teens. I’m glad becoming a teach helped you. That is a big accomplishment!

  16. Loved this post! I work in PR and one of my clients is a hypnotist (Chris Jones of AGT who hypnotized Howie Mandel to shake hands) so I know first hand how beneficial it can be! You can check out his Youtube:

    1. Thanks, Alexandra. Hypnosis is amazing! I will certainly check out Chris’ YouTube video.

  17. I don’t consider myself to be a shy person…but I definitely have my shy moments! Thank you for sharing this extremely interesting information!

    1. Thank you, Donna. I always wondered what non-shy people thought of shy folks. It must be hard to identify with this struggle if you’ve never experienced it. Although, most of the outgoing people I know say they have their shy moments, like you.

  18. Oh how much I relate to this! I’ve always been shy, and it has affected my ability to make friends. With my husband in the military and us moving around a lot, my shyness makes it hard to reach out and meet new people. Now that my oldest has started school, I’m trying to set a good example and conquer my fears of rejection so that she can grow up with more confidence than I did. I don’t want her to be afraid going to a new school and afraid to put herself out there and meet friends. When my husband deployed, I told myself, just go to one Family Readiness Group meeting. You’re going to be uncomfortable, but I guarantee you won’t regret it. And I didn’t. Since then I’ve started putting myself into these social situations where im not comfortable, and most of the time at the end of day I feel so empowered for facing my fears. Thank you for sharing these different techniques!

    1. Hi, Tiffany. I am so glad you are making strides toward your goal. The good thing about putting yourself in uncomfortable situations is that you realize later the nervous anticipation was far worse than the actual experience. It does get easier over time. Try a few of the techniques and resources in my post and let us know how they helped. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Hi Jen,

    I’m 54 and this article made me cry. I can’t ever remember not being shy. Any friends I have are because of my husband who loves talking to everyone and anyone. He retired from the military last year and we moved back “home”. He has several old friends he spends time with but I’m realizing I just don’t have any of my own friends and I don’t know how to put myself out there to make some. I’ve looked up a lot of groups that look fun but I just can’t make myself join because I know I won’t know what to say and I just don’t think I’m interesting enough for people to want to get to know. I’ve also been told I don’t look very approachable but I don’t know how to change that. Can hypnosis help people change the way they feel about themselves or the way they behave? I’m willing to give it a try but not sure how, or if, it would work. Thank you.

    1. Hi, Jane. I am so sorry you are struggling with this difficult issue. Please know you are not alone. Hypnosis may work by itself, but you might want to try cognitive therapy with hypnosis as I have heard great things about the combination of the two. I would encourage you to stop thinking so much about the situation you are in and more about trying to help another shy person in the room by introducing yourself and starting a short conversation. Most people are not naturally outgoing, they just make themselves talk to others and their discomfort eases a bit. It will get easier with practice, but it won’t get any better unless you take action. Please try at least one of the suggestions in my post and let me know how it goes. Good luck to you, Jane.

  20. Again great tips! I think I’m more of the introvert, social anxiety realm. It’s very hard to make friends or do business sometimes.

    1. Thanks again, Rena. It’s so nice to hear from people right after they read a post. Please don’t give up or feel too frustrated. Take baby steps and you will do fine.

  21. Great post Jen. I was a shy child who took time to get to know other children. I remember I stood on the outskirts at parties and family gatherings almost as if waiting to be included. My sister on the other hand jumped straight in while I looked on. At the same time I was rather cheeky!

    I was bullied for some years in high school and almost became mute. I barely spoke; did not feel anyone was remotely interested in me. I have learnt to be bold and step out of my comfort zone. It has been painful as I am a self conscious who is concerned with what others think.

    In a nutshell I refused to allow my shyness to hold me back. I had to take uncomfortable steps such as speaking and singing in front of a large audience. Was I nervous? Yes! Do I still get nervous? You bet I do – my stomach flips but I do it anyway.

    1. Hi, Phoenicia. I was shy as a kid and was picked on too. My early school years were difficult until I forced myself to interact with people. Things got progressively better after that. I’m glad you had a similar breakthrough. Being shy is no way to live! It’s too painful.

  22. Although I can have my shy moments (I don’t care for limelight), I’m the one who just plopped down next to a Korean War vet in the mall and thanked him for his service, chatting away. So my default it to look around the room and think: who looks more uncomfortable than me? and then go chat with them. I figure that helps both of us!

  23. Hi Jen. I’ve never been shy or timid. I think I was born an extrovert! But I appreciate you sharing with us the difference between shyness and being an introvert, as I think that too often we do not make that distinction.

  24. I am an introvert. Very interesting stuff here. Hypnosis is not something I would have associated with help in these areas.

    1. Hi, Cheryl. Hypnosis can help people deal with many problems ranging from bad habits to traumatic phobias. Just another tool to consider if you need it. Thanks for your comments.

  25. This is such a great post dear, I am not even 30 yet 😉 but agree when you say it’s never too late! Plus, liked you shared on the difference between shyness and being an introvert as many fail to differentiate between two.

    1. Thanks for your kind comments, Sushmita. Yes, there certainly is a big difference between a shy person and an introvert. I appreciate your input on my post.

  26. Who knew that you can partake in hypnosis sessions at YouTube? You learn something new every day.

    I think I would rather hang out with those owls in that photo than attend a networking or social event – how’s that for introversion? Having said this, you now have me wondering if I am not quite the introvert I make myself out to be. I don’t mind spending time alone but, all things being equal, it’s not really true that I prefer solitary activities. The number of participants is key: if it’s 2-4 I’m good, but if it’s more than that I’m in distress.

    1. Hello, Andrew. That’s interesting. The number of participants is key for me too. I am comfortable with one, two or three people or a huge crowd. I am a little distressed when I’m in a group of about 4-10. I feel like all eyes are on me. Everybody is different, I guess. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  27. Hi Jen, I must say I loved this post. I grew up a very shy person except to the people who were close to me. All my life I wanted to go to Paris, but was so afraid of doing things by myself and having to face meeting people I didn’t know. In my 40’s I began to take a step towards living that dream and set aside a little savings account just for that purpose. Seven years later I took the plunge and booked a tour by myself to Paris! It was the best thing I ever did. I was like a new person. Doing that gave me the confidence to put myself out there and talk to people I didn’t know. I made some great friends on that trip who I grew close to. My Husband is not a traveler, so I had no choice but to go out there and do it myself. I did not want to be the person who at the end of my life wished I would have done this and that. For me it took baby steps to gain the confidence and I believe it took me till I was in my forties to realize that I was an ok person and could do and be anything I wanted. I just wanted to share my story, so that other women can overcome shyness and go out and follow their dreams.

    1. That is such an inspirational story, Lori. Thank you so much for sharing it with others. I am so pleased you got to go on a trip of a lifetime. It is so crippling to be shy. I cringe thinking about my formative years when I was paralyzed with fear every time I was face to face with new people. You can change if you decide to. That is the moral of the story. It is NOT easy, but doable.

  28. These seem like some really great resources for overcoming shyness! I also love that you distinguished between shyness and introversion…I am an introvert myself but most people would not describe me as shy!

    1. Thanks, Jennifer. I believe shy people need these resources if their shyness is causing them emotional pain or frustration. And you are so right about introversion being different from shyness. Not the same thing. I am grateful to have your input on such an important topic.

  29. These are great resources! As a introvert who works with the public (what, what?!) these will come in handy!

    1. Hey, Rachee. Wow! An introvert who works with the public? Pretty cool…if not challenging for you. I’m pleased you found some helpful tips here. Thanks for sharing.

  30. I’m not a shrinking violet and I’m not as shy as I used to be (I used to blush a lot and hated that too) Now I just focus my attention on things and occasions that interest me and stay within the edges of my comfort zone and I’m doing well. I don’t really want to be the star of the show – but being involved is better than being a spectator.

    1. Hello, Leanne. I totally agree with you. Being involved is better than being a spectator. That is something to think about when we want to avoid social situations. Thanks for sharing your experience. That helps us all.

Comments are closed.