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Life Opens Up When You Do

“Life opens up when you do.”  While you wouldn’t expect to gain a valuable life lesson from a toothpaste commercial, Crest may have a point.  As a particularly shy person, this is an idea that has taken some getting used to.  What’s wrong with clinging to your friends at a party and hoping you don’t have to make small talk with the guys on the other side of the room?  Is it so terrible that I have no desire to start a conversation with every person I happen to share an elevator ride with? 

Actually, it sort of is.  Although shyness is associated favorable personality traits such as thoughtfulness and being a good listener, it can lead to loneliness, depression and self-criticism that negatively affect your personal and work lives.  This is extremely evident in the life of a college student, which consists of parties, classes with participation grades, and the never ending internship and/or job hunt.  At a time in our lives when endless opportunities present themselves every day, we collegiettes need to grab the bull by the horns and take advantage of all the good things coming our way.  However, I know as well as anyone that for a shy person this is much easier said than done.  But don’t lose hope!  Just like any other challenge, shyness can be overcome. 
Many psychologists subscribe to the cognitive therapy approach to dealing with shyness and social anxiety.  This just means that once someone is able to appreciate their shyness as a personality trait rather than a character flaw, he or she can begin to think about situations differently and become more comfortable with new people and experiences.  The only time shyness becomes a problem is when it prevents you from living the life you want for yourself.  Shyness becomes easier to master when you take baby steps.  For instance, for one week I resolved to smile at a stranger or two every day on my way to class.  Then, I might work my way up to striking up a conversation with someone on the elevator (I definitely haven’t gotten there yet). You never know who you’ll meet, or what the day will bring.  Shying away from potential opportunities only leaves you stuck where you are, which ends up snowballing into the aforementioned loneliness, depression and self-criticism, which nobody wants.  Every once in a while, the stars will align, but only if you’re ready for it to happen.
So here’s my point: you are way too amazing, pretty and smart (I mean, we do go to U of M) to deprive others of your overall awesomeness.  If you’re shy, that’s totally okay, because it’s a part of who you are.  But there is definitely an advantage to being able to put that aside when need be and live the life you’ve imagined for yourself.  So go brush your teeth with some Crest toothpaste, open up, and life will too!

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