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shyness; shy; stress; relax; confidence; friends; negativity; positive; thinking;

We are not all the same. Some people seem to be 'out there' and in the thick of things all the time. Others seem to be alone most of the time and 'on the outer.' Most people are a mixture of the two.

Some people find it difficult to talk to other people most of the time. Some may be comfortable talking to friends, but find it really hard to talk to people they don't know. Most people find it really hard to talk to a group of strangers while others love nothing more than being on the stage in front of lots of people.

To find out more, the website Reachout has many great topics about managing problems with friendships and other worries including


Contents of this topic

How shyness starts

How outgoing you are or how shy you are depends

  • in part what you were born like (your temperament),
  • in part by what others in your family are like (what you learn to be like)
  • in part by what your experiences have been (how much practice you have had in talking to others).

If you had a bad time when you had to talk in front of other people once – maybe they laughed at you or ignored you – you might be shy if you have to talk with them again, even if you are not normally a shy person.

It's okay to be shy

There are advantages in being a quieter type of person.

  • Shy young people often do well in school because they get on with their work rather than socialising.
  • They are not likely to get into trouble for misbehaving.
  • Adults often like them because they seem easy to look after and get along with.
  • Other teens often like shy young people because they are not bossy or aggressive and are often good listeners.

Being too shy

But… being too shy can mean:

  • being unhappy or lonely
  • not getting the chance to practise social skills
  • feeling 'invisible' in a group or class
  • feeling stressed which may lead to health problems like headaches, digestive disorders or depression
  • missing out on opportunities.

Can you become less shy?

Shyness is often about fear – fear that others might not like you, or that you will say something silly. These negative thoughts can stop you from talking with others, so that you don't practise talking to other people, and you get to feel even more shy. Sounds like a circle – a 'vicious circle'.

Many very shy people can learn how to talk with, and enjoy being with, other people much of the time, though often they still feel uncomfortable some of the time.

Reachout has a topic that might be useful Overcoming shyness.

What shy people might say to themselves

Shy people often tell themselves a lot of negative things like, "I'll sound stupid if I speak". Shy people can feel really self conscious, and think negative things are going to happen like, "no-one will like me, and they won't want me around". They need others to accept them before they feel okay about themselves. This can leave a shy person feeling left out and lonely.

To make changes you need to fight off that negative self-talk and practise being with others.

Being more positive

Shy people need to recognise that negative 'voice in their head', and try some positive self messages instead.

  • "I'll sound stupid" could become "No I won't, I know that what I am going to say makes sense".
  • "She won't want to talk to me" could become "She might like me to be friendly".
  • "He will ignore me because I am not an interesting person" could become "if he ignores me it is because he is rude, not because I have a problem".
  • "I will go bright red with being so worried" could become "others go red and I don't think they are stupid, so why should someone judge me".


The most important way to change how you feel is to practise! Think of something that you would really like to do and practise how to do it.

  • Next time those self doubting messages pop into your head, tell them to go away - that you've only got time for positive messages.
  • Write them down. Put them in a list. Add to it whenever you think of it.
    • You might like to scrunch up the list or burn it after a time, getting it out of your life in a symbolic way.
  • Try relaxation exercises, they can help you manage negative thinking, by making you more aware of it – read the topic Stress - learning to relax.
  • Tell yourself positive messages about yourself everyday, several times a day. It will be hard at first but it will be worthwhile. Make a list of positive things, keep this list somewhere you will see it daily. Keep adding to it.
  • You could try joining a club which is about one of your hobbies or do some voluntary work. Even if it is hard to go along the first time you are likely to meet people who are interested in the same things as you - so you will have something to talk about - and you can just concentrate on what you have to do for a while until you feel you are ready to reach out to others.
  • Don't forget that others might be shy too. A person who seems a little distant may in fact be shy too, and just waiting for you to start talking first.
  • Listen to what other people say to start a conversation and then maybe practise a bit on your own. Often it helps if you can start by saying something about a general topic, eg "What did you think of the test we had" or "Our football team did well on the weekend." Or even something about the weather.
  • If it's really hard to talk to people and you find you're getting tense, try some deep breathing.
  • Maybe it would be a good idea to get some counselling as well - for people who are very shy it is hard to do it on your own. Your school counsellor may be helpful for you.

Making friends

  • Friends can come from anywhere. You might already have people in your life that you like and think that it would be good to get to know them better. Why not ask if they would like to catch up for a movie or coffee?
  • Getting out and joining a social group or sporting team is a good way to meet people. Check out the topics on the Reachout site about Exercise.
  • You might make friends online. The internet is a great place to communicate with people, but there are some dangers with meeting someone you have met on the Internet face to face.

Get some help

Kids Helpline  1800 55 1800 

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor or other health professional.
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