We all have that social butterfly friend: the one who talks to professors with ease, charms boys and is the life of the party. She always raises her hand in class, chats up people in the elevator and just exudes confidence all the time. She’s the outgoing one, and you have no clue how she does it.
Whether you’re shy or just introverted, being outgoing doesn’t come easily to everyone. But putting yourself out there doesn’t have to be so nerve-wracking! Read on for tips from an expert and fellow collegiettes so you can socialize without anxiety.
Are you shy or introverted?
Contrary to popular belief, these words aren’t synonyms! “Shyness is something you can overcome if you want to,” says Sophia Dembling, Psychology Today blogger and author of the upcoming book, The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World. “It's about fear. Introversion is about preference and not only is it likely that you don't want to get over it, but researchers believe that introversion is hardwired into us.”
Introverts are more internally-focused. Being around a ton of people can be exhausting for them. Introverts aren’t always shy, though. They just draw from internal energy, rather than getting it from other people.
Here’s the difference: shy girls may really want to be outgoing, but find it difficult because of anxiety. Introverts may feel fine keeping to themselves. But Dembling says our society rewards the more outgoing people. So whether or not you want to be outgoing, you might still feel the pressure.
“Society rewards outgoing people with what they want because it's very easy to see what they want,” Dembling says. “They want attention, so society gives them attention.”
So what’s a quiet girl to do?
For Johns Hopkins collegiette Vanessa, becoming more outgoing required a specific environment. After noticing that she felt more comfortable in smaller groups in high school, she deliberately chose a college that was smaller. “I knew a big school wasn’t going to work for me,” she says. “I needed an environment where I wouldn’t have to feel pressured to be heard in a giant group.”
For Vanessa, putting herself in situations where her quiet demeanor would not work against her helped her to acclimate and become more comfortable so that she could eventually feel that same comfort in larger groups. So to start off, choose small classes and join small groups when you can. Ease yourself into conversations and social situations until you get more comfortable by reaching out to others and letting your voice be heard. Gestures as simple as introducing yourself, asking or answering a question, or offering your opinion will help you get used to putting yourself out there.
Unfortunately, you can’t go from quiet to outgoing overnight. But the little things can help a lot. Try just making eye contact and smiling at people on your way to chemistry. Make small talk in the Starbucks line. Enlist your friends to introduce you to people—working off of your friends’ outgoingness is the easiest way to meet new people without the pressure of having to initiate the conversation by yourself.