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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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