It’s entirely normal to feel shy or experience some anxiety when you try something new or enter a new stage of life, whether that’s starting a fresh academic year, moving to a different city or country, or living on your own for the first time. Although shyness is normal, stepping out of your comfort zone and shaking off the social anxiety can help you make the most of your time at uni.

Ever felt a bit embarrassed introducing yourself to someone new? We’ve all been there. But you never know, you could have just introduced yourself to your new best friend! Overcoming social barriers opens the door to connections that can last well beyond your university years and turn into lifelong friendships. Not only that, embracing new experiences and stepping out of your comfort zone means you won’t miss out on fun opportunities or important life moments. Whether it’s getting involved in Welcome Week activities, attending a social event at the Faith Centre or joining a society, university offers fun, sometimes once in a lifetime opportunities that you won’t want to miss out on.

We’re not saying it’s easy, but overcoming your shyness and taking a chance on new experiences will no doubt make you a more resilient, confident version of yourself. To help you make the first step, here’s our top five tips for how to get out of your comfort zone. 

1. Start by scribbling down your worries 

If you’re scared to speak up in class or start a new gym class with strangers, try thinking about what’s making you fearful and write it down. On paper your worries aren’t usually as bad as your brain makes them out to be, so don’t trust all those anxious predictions.  

2. Know that everyone around you feels the same way 

You’re not alone! University life is full of opportunities to meet new people and it can be easy to forget that the person sat next to you might be feeling the same way you do. Remember, emotions like nervousness or embarrassment are temporary and everyone around you is in the same boat, so why not reach out? 

3. Accept that not everyone will be your new best friend 

Whether you’re joining a study group or moving into a new houseshare, it’s unlikely that everyone will have the same interests, hobbies or even sense of humour as you. That’s OK! Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have much in common with the first person you meet. As you put yourself out there and meet more people from all walks of life, you’re bound to ‘find your tribe’ and discover friends that you’ll have in your life for years to come. 

4. Analyse your thinking 

Your thoughts affect your feelings. If unhelpful thoughts lead to distressing emotions, it’s time to tackle them head on. Instead of thinking about what could go wrong, why not consider how you’ll feel if everything turns out great? Focusing on the positive possibilities will help you to conquering those initial fears, offering a chance for personal growth and unexpected horizons. 

A student speaking to a Wellbeing Adviser

5. Get help if you need to 

It’s normal to feel shy or nervous about social situations at times, but when anxiety is stopping you living your life as fully as you want to it’s important to do something about it. If you’re looking for peer support, Rafiki, the Students’ Union’s listening service that’s led by students, for students, is here if you’re experiencing any problems while you’re at university. The Uni also offers lots of support to help you care for your wellbeing, whether that’s self-help ‘tip’ sheets on how to conquer common problems or one-to-one appointments with our friendly advisers. Head to our website to learn how we can help. 

Need a bit of backup?  

Our friends at the Clifford Whitworth Library have pulled together a reading list with their top recommendations of books and videos to help you tackle shyness.

We hope this blog helps you to overcome shyness and dive into situations that make you nervous, like group projects or social events taking place on campus or online. Student life is full of fun opportunities and the chance to meet new friends, and every step you take to get out of your comfort zone will make your university experience better and more memorable. Remember, you’re not on your own!