Overcoming shyness is no easy feat. Those of us who experience it are more than familiar with the sweaty palms and cotton mouth when we meet someone new or do something outside of our comfort zone. While we certainly don't think it's a negative trait, it's when it starts to border on social anxiety and prevents you from everyday interactions that it needs to be addressed and overcome, if possible. According to Psychology Today, around one of two Americans claims to be shy, and it's on the rise. Social anxiety disorder is also an extremely common psychological condition, with around 15 million Americans suffering from the disorder, making it the third most common psychological ailment after depression and alcoholism.
So how do you conquer shyness before it results in isolation, loneliness, or even depression? To find out, we asked nine successful women one question: What is your number one tip for overcoming shyness and boosting your confidence? Each of them was handpicked by the Create & Cultivate team to be featured on the first-ever "Create & Cultivate 100 list" in conjunction with iconic footwear brand Keds that honors and champions trailblazing women who've become a symbol of female empowerment. Keep reading to learn their top tips and get inspired!
Constance Zimmer, Actress and Director
As an Emmy-nominated actress who plays the power producer Quinn King on the popular Lifetime series, unREAL, it's easy to think Constance Zimmer has the same tenacity and confidence in real life. Holding multiple titles such as actress, mom, director, wife, and advocate, she certainly has a lot of balls in the air, but that doesn't mean she always has it all under control. Zimmer shares her personal strategy for managing shyness, and it starts with being comfortable in your own skin.
"Find at least one person who you are comfortable talking to, and stick with them, as they will draw others to you. Don't feel like you need to try to connect with everyone in the room. Quality over quantity. Confidence comes from being comfortable in your own skin. The minute we try to pretend to be something we are not, we lose our sense of self-worth. You are enough."
Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power, Co-Founders of Clique Media Group, Parent Company of MyDomaine
When it comes to power couples, Katherine Power and Hillary Kerr top the list. The former ELLE editors officially disrupted the DNA of print fashion magazines in 2006 when they fused the traditional medium with the web and went digital. Power and Kerr co-founded Who What Wear, offering elevated and curated content around fashion, celebrity, trends, and shopping. From there, they created parent company, Clique Media Group (CMG) and launched successful sister brands Byrdie and MyDomaine in 2013. More recently they launched Obsessee, a social-only site aimed at the gen Z generation.
While that's an exhaustive career list in itself, Kerr and Power also launched a hugely successful Who What Wear for Target collection and have co-authored three books: Who What Wear: Celebrity and Runway Style For Real Life, What To Wear, Where, and The Career Code. After all of this success, you wouldn't expect shyness to be part of their personalities, but it's a trait that impacts all of us, no matter what end of the success spectrum you stand.
"I am definitely shy and socially awkward, and I'm not sure I have figured out how to overcome shyness in a social setting or the workplace. When it comes to work, being confident about what you do—by doing your research and knowing what's going on in your industry—is the key to a successful group discussion. When it comes to feeling more comfortable in a social setting, is it wrong to say that a glass of wine can go a long way? Just be careful not to overdo it." — Katherine Power.
"Whenever I start to feel shy, I just remember that everyone feels that way at times, and that fact usually calms me down. If I'm still feeling shy, I usually will just ask questions. People generally feel comfortable talking about themselves, and that will break the ice or give us something in common.
For boosting my confidence, it's really just about looking polished. I make sure my hair's on point, my clothes are wrinkle-free, my lipstick's not smudged on my teeth, and my shoes looked cared for. By paying a little extra attention to my appearance, the result is I feel like I have a suit of armor on, and can face whatever's coming my way." — Hillary Kerr.
Jaclyn Johnson, CEO and Founder of Create & Cultivate
After she founded Los Angeles–based marketing agency (NO SUBJECT) in 2010 (servicing clients from Westfield to Microsoft) Jaclyn Johnson took the leap of faith to launch her own company, Create & Cultivate, and never looked back. Now the must-attend conference is a sell-out across the country empowering other women in their entrepreneurial endeavors. But despite her success, shyness affects her just like the rest of us. This is how she handles it.
"Not everyone is going to be the Jennifer Lawerence of their office, and that's totally okay. But if being shy is preventing you from speaking up in meetings, taking credit for your own ideas, or advancing in your company, you need a bit of practice. That's how you start with anything: practice. So set confidence goals for yourself and hit them. How? Actually write them down, tell someone else on your team, and hold yourself accountable. Slowly but surely, every time you raise your voice, your confidence will grow."
Zelda Williams, Writer, Actress, and Director
Full disclosure: Writer, actress, and director Zelda Williams (for those who don't know she's also the exceptionally talented daughter of late comedian Robin Williams and producer Marsha Garces Williams) isn't shy. But with her experience in the public eye, she certainly has some solid advice for overcoming it and boosting your confidence in a social setting.
"I'm not shy, so I wouldn't have advice for people who are. Even after the world got involved in my family's loss, I found I didn't go into situations afraid of what people think, because whatever their thoughts, they'd have them no matter what I did. But if you're in need of a confidence boost, I always suggest one glass of something strong and a little inner reminder that posture is one of the first impressions anybody makes. Straighten up, don't drop your chin, and you'll already look more confident than you feel! Sort of like that old trick where if you force yourself to fake laugh for a bit; eventually it's so absurd it becomes real. Believing you can be more confident is half the battle."
Cleo Wade, Poet, Artist, and Speaker
"And even if you are late, so late that it hurts, so late that frankly, you are embarrassed, you can still show up." This is just one of the many powerful poems and impactful prose that poet, artist, and speaker, Cleo Wade shares with her 200K plus followers on Instagram. The New Orleans–born New York City native knows how rare it is to be a poet in 2017, but that hasn't stopped the 28-year-old from "making things with words. Sometimes as poems. Sometimes as paintings. Sometimes as public art installations." Cleo also models and collaborates with major brands, is in the process of writing her first book, and sits on the creative council for EMILY's List.
"Always remember that you are worthy. Always remember that the world needs your voice. And always, always, always, remember that no one, not a single person in the entire universe, can be you, better than you can. You got this."
Nicole Byer, Comedian, Writer, and Actress
Nicole Byer is the epitome of bold, strong, and powerful. The comedian, writer, and actress is the star of semi-autobiographical comedy Loosely Exactly Nicole on MTV, which has broken every typecast mold you can imagine. Just like her on-screen character , Byer doesn't suffer shyness in her real life either, but she does have a few sage words of advice for those who do.
"Oh, boy. This is a tough question. I'm not shy. Maybe each day you do a little something outside of your comfort zone. The saying 'fake it 'til you make it' is important. You can change the way you think for the better."
Hannah Hart, Digital Influencer, Actress, and Author
With 3 million followers on YouTube and over 5 million followers across her social platforms, it's safe to say many of you have heard of the inimitable digital influencer Hannah Hart. She produced and starred in Lionsgate's feature-length comedy Dirty 30, and is also producing/starring in her own upcoming series for the Food Network. Her first book My Drunk Kitchen spent six weeks on the New York Times best-seller list, while her second book, Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded, also landed on the best-seller list this fall.
"My tip for boosting confidence is to remember that everyone feels as nervous as you do. Confidence is just about how you handle it on the outside."
Lauren Paul and Molly Thompson, Co-Founders of The Kind Campaign
If it's your mission this year to be a little nicer, then familiarize yourself with Lauren Paul and Molly Thompson. The co-founders of internationally recognized nonprofit, The Kind Campaign bring awareness and healing to the negative and lasting effects of girl-against-girl bullying. Their inspiring global movement brings awareness to their plight via documentary film, in-school assemblies, and educational curriculums. As victims of bullying in middle and high school, the girls used this firsthand knowledge to launch the campaign and empower other young women to take charge and be confident.
"Every single person in the room has a story. Every single person in the room has insecurities. Every single person standing in that room was once a middle school pre-teen, walking their hallways. Your boss was once too a scared, confused kid. And even now as, adults, every single person in that room just wants to feel loved, validated and accepted by their peers."