The Will Ferrell Guide to Overcoming Shyness

Overcoming Shyness

Chazz Michael Michaels: “Mind bottling, isn’t it?”
Jimmy MacElroy: “Did you say mind bottling?”
Chazz Michael Michaels: “Yeah, when things are crazy and it’s like your mind is trapped in a bottle…”

– Blades of Glory

Overcoming shyness can feel like you’re trapped in a glass cage of emotion, right?

You’d like to hang out with the “cool people” or just be more outgoing, but you can’t bring yourself to do it.

Believe it or not, comedian and movie star Will Ferrell says he used to feel that way too. Despite the fact he’s now one of the most successful comedic actors of all time (seemingly with no inhibitions), he admitted he was once “painfully shy.”

So how did he change?

Well, in this post I’ll tell you, but you might not like the answer.

The technique Ferrell used is not exactly for everyone. On top of that, I think it’s only part of the solution to fully overcoming shyness.

So in addition to revealing how Will Ferrell went from shy to Superstar, I’ll give you some bonus tips to overcome shyness so you no longer feel like you’re taking crazy pills.

Overcoming Shyness the Will Ferrell Way

Frank the Tank: “We’re going streaking through the quad and into the gymnasium. Come on everybody!”

– Old School

In 1933, famous psychologist Albert Ellis pioneered a technique called the “shame-attacking exercise.” The idea is you challenge yourself to do something so intimidating that after you’ve accomplished it, your shyness in that area no longer haunts you.

Will Ferrell did this in college. He forced himself to do crazy things in public to desensitize himself from his shyness.

Here’s an example he gave in an interview with People Magazine:

“In college, I would push an overhead projector across campus with my pants just low enough to show my butt. Then my friend would incite the crowd to be like, ‘Look at that idiot!’ That’s how I got over being shy.”

Now that’s pretty extreme. If you can bring yourself to do something that drastic, more power to you.

The thing is, and I’m just being honest here, I don’t feel it completely works. While it can help you be more outgoing than you were before, I think it still leaves shyness as a big part of your life.

See, even though Will Ferrell now performs for millions of people and seems comfortable in the public eye, he still displays signs of shyness.

For example:

  • In an interview where he was “just being himself,” he was described like this: “Ferrell is not what you expect. He has a soft, friendly face, impeccable manners but is softly-spoken, obviously shy and definitely happier hiding behind his less retiring characters.”
  • About Saturday Night Live, Ferrell has said, “It literally took 5 years to not be afraid to step out on that stage.”
  • On his Twitter stream he once wrote, “I’m shy at first, but once I’m comfortable with you, get ready for some crazy s..t!”

So while the shame-attacking exercise may have changed Ferrell from a publicly shy person to a privately shy person, I believe he’s still shy deep down. Especially when he’s not able to “hide” behind his zany antics.

So what’s the full answer?

What do YOU have to do to fully overcome shyness in your life?

Well, here are some Will Ferrell inspired tips based on proven methods on fully overcoming shyness

4 Shake & Bake Tips To Overcome Shyness & Stay Classy

1. Get Out There Gradually to Transform Yourself

Mugatu: “As a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, so must you become, Derelict!”

– Zoolander

While it was pretty extreme, Ferrell had the right idea by doing crazy things in public. He was at least getting himself out into the real world and facing his fears. You need to do the same. Break out of your comfort zone and attempt talking to more people in more situations. You don’t have to start as big as Ferrell did, but do something.

2. Improve Your Conversation Skills

Ricky Bobby: “I don’t know what to do with my hands.”

– Taledega Nights

A great source of fear for many shy and socially awkward people is feeling they just don’t know what to do in social settings. They’re uncertain of how to start a conversation. They’re highly self-conscious of their gestures and body-language. By learning some basics of social etiquette, you gain a higher degree of confidence around others.

Want To Overcome Your Shyness & Insecurity?

I put together some extended training on how to beat shyness (…and stay classy) that goes beyond the tips in this article.

It’s the exact same strategy I used to stop being quiet and nervous around people so I could finally make some genuine friendships.

Click here to check out the training

3. Build Self-Esteem

Ron Burgundy: I don’t know how to put this, but I’m kind of a big deal.
Veronica Corningstone: Really.
Ron Burgundy: People know me.
Veronica Corningstone: Well, I’m very happy for you.
Ron Burgundy: Um, I’m very important. I have many leather-bound books, and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.


Feeling good about yourself is a critical component of overcoming shyness. When you like yourself and feel certain of your own worth, you learn how to not care what others think.  And because you don’t fear upsetting people or saying something “wrong,” you act naturally and spontaneously. The thing is, unlike for Mr. Burgandy, true self esteem comes from within, not your achievements or possessions.

If you’d like to learn more about building confidence and self-esteem this way, I talk more about it in my Confidence And Connect Series. You can check it out here.

4. Get Your Thoughts Right

Buddy: “This place reminds me of Santa’s workshop, except it smells like mushrooms and everyone looks like they want to hurt me…”

– Elf

One of the key things you need to know about overcoming shyness is most of the subconscious fears keeping you silent are over-exaggerated and just plain wrong. For example, you might think if you speak out in a group, you’ll say something silly and everyone will make fun of you.

Two things about this particular line of thinking:

  1. This is unlikely unless you’re in high school. Most adults are civil and won’t be so immature.
  2. Even if you do get teased or people have a negative impression of you, so what? They’re judging you on one short interaction and don’t know who you truly are.

Do you see how the fear is irrational? The problem is, knowing this intellectually usually doesn’t help. In the moment, your emotional fear overpowers your logic. On top of that, this all usually happens without you consciously realizing it.

So the first step to fixing irrational thinking is being aware of it. By first being aware what’s going on upstairs, you can then begin to address your unhelpful thoughts and beliefs.

Ron Burgandy: “You stay classy San Diego.”

– Anchorman

Want To Remove Shyness & "Inconsistent Charm?"

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  • Case Study - How I Overcame My Shyness
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