Spending time with your boyfriend should be enjoyable and relaxing. However, extreme shyness can get in the way of having fun -- for both of you. Perhaps you feel self-conscious about your body after having children, or you worry about letting your guard down if you have been hurt in a previous relationship. It may help you to know that you're definitely not alone when it comes to feeling shy. Over half of all Americans consider themselves to be shy, says professor of psychology Bernardo Carducci in the article "The Cost of Shyness" for "Psychology Today." Extreme shyness may develop into social anxiety, which affects around 15 million Americans, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America in its website entry "Social Anxiety Disorder." Find ways to get over your shyness with your boyfriend to prevent it having a negative effect on your relationship.
Shyness can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Worrying about your self-consciousness often leads to even greater feelings of anxiety and shyness. Force yourself to think positively about yourself and your relationship. As soon as a negative thought enters your mind, replace it with a happy one. Remind yourself how much your boyfriend cares about you. Visualize yourself as relaxed and confident when you are in your boyfriend's company. Help negative thoughts stay away by focusing your attention on him. Listen to what he is saying, observe his body language and notice his facial expressions. This will help you ignore what is going on inside your head, says psychologist Jeremy Nicholson, M.S.W., Ph.D., in the article "How to Reduce Dating Anxiety" for "Psychology Today."
Simple relaxation techniques may be very effective in controlling your shyness. Taking a few moments away from your boyfriend when you feel yourself becoming anxious will give you time to collect your thoughts and do some breathing exercises. Inhale and exhale deeply, focusing your attention on each breath to divert attention from anxious thoughts and feelings of shyness. Relax your body by tensing and then loosening your muscles, for example by making a tight fist with your hand and then letting it go limp. When you go back to your boyfriend, you will feel calmer and less anxious.
Managing Your Expectations
According to the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast in the post "How Do I Overcome Shyness?," shyness with a partner often stems from high levels of self-criticism. Putting unreasonably high expectations on yourself will only increase your existing feelings of anxiety. Nobody expects you to be perfect. Learn to manage your expectations by reminding yourself regularly of your good qualities. This is likely to be difficult at first, but it will get easier over time. Write down as many of your good qualities as you can think of on individual pieces of paper. Place them all around your home -- on your pinboard, on your bathroom mirror, inside your closet door -- to serve as constant reminders of what a capable person you are.
Sharing Your Anxieties
For your relationship with your boyfriend to last, you need to be honest with each other about anything that is bothering you, and that includes your shyness. If you are extremely shy around him, he is likely to have picked up on it already. Don't worry that he is thinking badly of you. He is probably concerned and wants to help in any way he can. You can help him by telling him you are trying to work through your shyness, and that he is not to blame. Ask for his support and understanding while you try to become less shy. Talking to him will take a huge weight off your shoulders, and if he reacts in a positive, reassuring way, this will be of comfort to you.
You may learn to control your anxiety and become less shy around your boyfriend, but don't expect to turn into an extrovert overnight. Nor should you want to. Your shyness is part of your personality, and this is what made your boyfriend want a relationship with you in the first place. He may even find your shyness endearing. Remind yourself that he loves you for who you are and wouldn't want or expect you to make drastic changes to your character.
C. Giles is a writer with an MA (Hons) in English literature and a post-graduate diploma in law. Her work has been published in several publications, both online and offline, including "The Herald," "The Big Issue" and "Daily Record."