Rachel - Shy at School

Dear Shykids  I am 14 and am extremely shy at school. I am really outgoing when I am at home and when I am with my family. I am not very shy when I go to the mall or  movies either, but I almost never talk at school unless I am with this one girl which I have known since 4th grade. I have always been shy ever since I was little but it just keeps getting worse and worse. What should I do? I 
really want to overcome my shyness, but I just don't know how.  Rachel

Dear Rachel,  It sounds like your life is on track except for what's happening at school. I'm assuming that you're going to the mall and movies with friends and that's going okay. So what's happening at school that's making you pull back?

Sometimes the large number of kids in school can be overwhelming. The hallways can be maddening and the noise deafening. Kids sizing up each other's clothes and attitudes can be such a turn off, especially to someone who is shy and sensitive. On top of all that, you have the pressure of making sure you're prepared for class, showing up on time and being alert to the demands of each and every teacher. Does this sound like you? If it does, consider the following:

1. Make sure you have plenty of time in the morning to get ready for school so that you feel confident about how you look when you walk out the door. Give yourself a last look in the morning, congratulate yourself with a smile before you board that bus or hop in the car. Sound too perky and nauseating? Maybe so, but it can make a big difference in how your day goes, so do try it.

2. Stay focused on who you are with and where you are going. Some people have a real sensitivity to large numbers of people and noises and find themselves shutting down to avoid an overload to their senses. If this is happening to you, try to be selective in what you are shutting out so you are not shutting down completely.

3. Volunteer at school and join extracurricular activities. Most schools have dozens of other activities to select from - from chess to sports to

cultural events. Many shy kids don't join these because they are often focusing so much time on how bad they feel that there's no time left to spend time learning who they are and what they like. At 14, you are at the ideal age to explore who you are, what your talents are and what kinds of people you want as friends. Is there a volunteer group at school that helps the homeless or seniors? Join it. You won't find a more sensitive or compassionate group. When you participate in activities that interest you, you will meet people with similar interests. You will likely meet up with some of these people in class. And don't be too hard on yourself if you join something and find you have no talent for it or it's deadly dull. That's why schools have tons of activities - so that you can try them. If you don't like what you're doing, move on to something new.

4. Now that you're in class or the hallway and you see these people, you do need to SMILE and talk. One important fact that many shy people forget is that other people have feelings too. If you were approaching someone in the hall and they look scared, angry, disgusted, would you talk to them? Probably not. This may be how people feel about you. If you are smiling and if your eyes are saying that you're happy to see the other person, the conversation will be easier for you and them. Even if you're feeling your stomach churning, try to keep your face from showing it. 

5. Remember to keep your breathing even and calm. You'd be amazed how many shy people actually stop breathing, or take smaller breaths when under stress. It's hard to look happy when you're not getting enough air.

6. If these suggestions sound too forced or if you're saying to yourself, "that's just not me" keep in mind that it could be you. You can become a person who finds that smiling and relaxing attracts friends, that leaving the house feeling confident will make others feel at ease. You can become the person who has interests and talents and self confidence. You know that this is the person you want to be. Only you can make it happen. Start today with one small step, one volunteer assignment, one welcoming smile and show the world what is inside you. You deserve it and so does everyone around you. Good luck and let us know how you're doing.

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