Being a painfully shy introvert has its bonuses. You get a lot of reading done. Sometimes, your quiet contemplativeness makes people think you’re mysterious and sexy. You never run out of themes for pity parties.

But that’s about it.

I’ve struggled with being shy most of my life. And did I mention that social awkwardness was a by-product?

I remember being at my husband’s holiday party and feeling super anxious. I said hi to people but stuck close to my husband, afraid to engage further, convinced they’d think I was boring. We left early because I was so miserable.

I was a total drag.

So I decided it was time to stop living in a state of fear. Life was no fun (they call it painfully shy for a reason) and I was done with missing out on connecting with people.

It’s been a few years since I’ve made that decision and I am so grateful I did. Now, when we attend a get-together, I enjoy talking to people. The relationships that have developed since making that decision are the best I’ve ever had.

There are still times that I have difficulty approaching people I don’t know, but I usually push myself to do it and end up very happy that I did.

But where do you start? Do you volunteer to be emcee at your best friend’s upcoming wedding? Probably not. Here are a few practical tips I followed to pull myself out my shell.

Don’t talk to strangers. Yet.

Don’t try to go from wallflower to life of the party overnight. The thought of that probably makes your heart race anyway – and not in a good way.

To start, make a point of talking to someone you’re acquainted with but don’t know very well. They’re familiar, but you still have to work to engage with them and build a relationship.

Get out of your environment

Home is cozy. It’s yours and you don’t have to talk unless you want to. But if you want to get out of your shell, you first have to get out of your environment and hang out with … other people. Scary, I know.

No really, I know.

But it’s the only way to meet people. Unless you want to start hosting dinners at your house, then go for it. But you can’t hide in the kitchen all night.

Get passionate

Would you rather talk with Emeril Lagasse about pork fat or Dave Ramsey about debt snowballs? That’s a trick question.

I would say both because of their passion about their respective topics, which draws people in (or repels them, which works out well for you in the end).

Sharing your passion with others, be it travel, cooking or simple living makes it easier for you to open up and more enjoyable for the person talking with you.

Tell a better story

One of my fears was that people would come say hi, then walk away because I was just so boring.

If you have a deep desire to come out of your shell, chances are your story might not be so hot. It’s ok. It’s never too late to change.

Life doesn’t have to be extraordinary all the time, but you should definitely start sprinkling in moments of awesomeness where you can.

Take dancing lessons, learn a new language, travel, volunteer, take up a new sport, move into a school bus. Sign up for something that sounds fun but scares your pants off.

Start living your life as the amazing story that it is. Once you feel truly alive, it’s hard to hide it. Relating to others is a natural by-product.

And really, what have you got to lose? Fear? Anxiety? Time with your cat?

Trust me, you’ll be better off with less of that.