Are You Too Shy To Succeed?

Are You Too Shy To Suceed?

When I was small, I was somewhat shy. I remember that once, when I was in first or second grade, my mother attended a conference at the school. The teacher felt that I was too timid and that some kids were taking advantage of me by getting me to watch their coats during recess while they played. I was too shy to stand up for myself and tell them that I wanted to play too.

I still remember how fear gripped me when I thought that I might have to confront someone publicly. It was a physical thing! My muscles tightened up, my stomach was in knots, and sometimes I even felt like I couldn’t breath. Once, I was actually so nervous that I got dizzy and almost fainted.

Fortunately, I outgrew much of my shyness by junior high, but even now I still feel slightly uncomfortable when I realize that I will have to contact a new individual face-to-face, or even by telephone. I’d much rather use e-mail to communicate.

Shyness is painful for anyone, but if you are a freelancer, being too shy can be a serious problem. Shyness can damage your freelancing business — because being a freelancer requires a certain amount of customer contact and self-promotion if you want to succeed. A business owner who is too shy could pay a steep price.

Luckily, for most people it doesn’t have to be that way. Shyness doesn’t have to hold you back. If you’re shy, you may be able to overcome it. Here are some ideas:

  1. Focus on what you enjoy. The excitement of excelling at something that you love can help you forget your nervousness about appearing publicly. In particular I’ve seen this happen with children who “forget themselves” as they get immersed in music, theater, or sports.
  2. Address the problem directly. For me, addressing the problem meant taking speech classes when I got to high school. I even reached the point where I could participate in speaking competitions. There are speaking programs, such as Toastmasters International, to help adults address the fear of public speaking.
  3. Keep it in perspective. It sounds weird – but what’s the worst that could happen if you blew it? There’s the possibility that you might be laughed at or humiliated, but the truth is that it’s equally likely that others won’t even notice your mistake. Our imagination about what could happen is usually worse than the reality of what does happen.
  4. Start with something small. If making a telephone cold call for your freelance business seems too daunting, try something easier first. Maybe you could make a customer service phone call to an established client who is satisfied with your work. After that success, the cold call may not seem as scary.
  5. Remember on past successes. Whether it is making a successful business presentation or successfully completing a cold call, remembering past successes can help inspire you to future success. These successes are “proof” that you can do it. If you succeeded in the past, then you can succeed again!

  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for additional help. For whatever reason, sometimes the fear may be too great for you to overcome on your own. If you’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work, then don’t be afraid to find professional help. There are therapists who specialize in helping people overcome phobias and social anxiety.

It’s actually natural to be a little bit nervous about meeting new people, making cold calls, or giving a presentation. That nervousness doesn’t have to keep you from succeeding, though.


Photo by tainara


  1. says

    Very insightful article. I, too, have been burdened with “shyness” my entire life. If it wasn’t for my husband being the complete opposite of me, I don’t know how I would have survived all the parties and corporate events. Ironically, since his deafness, we’ve experienced a role reversal.


  2. says

    Hi Joann!

    I’m glad that you weren’t too shy to leave a comment here! :)

    I always find it interesting how couples complement each other – what is a weakness in one is a strength in the other, and vice versa.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I hope that others will read this post and your comment and be encouraged.

  3. Timo says

    The weirdest thing happened to me this week: I was able to make two small presentations very easily in front of the audience of 50 people twice, but when there were for e.g. 5 people in a group, I just couldn’t find anything to say. Same thing might happen when I try to speak to someone without anyone else involved … so weird.

    But, the topic you wrote about is very important. I’m about to start my freelancing business sometime soon and this is one of the things I have been talking about – my shyness and the fact that freelancing is pretty much being in contact with clients. But … I have also adopted sort of “I don’t care” attitude towards my shyness … and also like you mentioned: if I blew it, so what!!

    I have been shy for all my adult life but eventually you just fed up with the whole thing and start finding alternatives in order to make a change. It’s not gonna happen fast but taking small steps is the best way to go.

  4. says

    Hi Timo and Dainis!

    Thanks for sharing your stories.

    Dainis, I think what you state is true . . . at first. Eventually, though, I’ve seen shy children totally transformed by participation in an activity.

    Timo – best wishes for your new freelancing endeavor.

  5. says

    Just found this article, I guess it’s a little old, but still holds true!
    I just started my freelancing business and I think I too am a little shy. So hopefully I’ll be able to grow out of it :)

    Thanks for your advice, Laura, great article!

  6. Friday says

    Just like Timo…I dunno why but when I am in front of 100 people I am calm and capable of talking but when I am in front of a group that consists of less 10 people I get anxiety attacks so bad…when I start I feel like my body taken over throughout a presentation and after I am done it’s like I just woke, and I have just blurred memory of what I said or did or what happened during my presentation. I am so shy…I am almost anti-social…it’s hopeless for me.


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