This 7-Day Extrovert Challenge Will Help You Overcome Social Anxiety

You're characteristically shy, independent, quiet (unless you have something very important to say), and slightly nervous around new people. You don't enjoy crowds, and you're most content when you're curled up with a book and a glass of wine at home. You, my friend, are an introvert . . . and I can relate completely.

Though I'm mostly content with my solitary lifestyle — I keep a close circle of loved ones but require substantial alone time — I also realize the importance of stepping outside the little box I've built for growth purposes. And let's face it: deep down inside, you realize it, too. That said, make the effort to bust out of your diligently constructed shell with this seven-day, totally doable extrovert challenge that will help you overcome your timidity. Each day's obstacle is a little harder than the last, starting off easy and building up to mildly difficult. I'd wish you luck, but you're not going to need it.

Monday: Compliment a total stranger.

Tell a complete stranger you're digging her shoes, hair, or outfit. The main rule of Monday's challenge is the person can't be a friend or acquaintance; she has to be someone whose name you're not even aware of. A simple, "Wow, your dress really brings out your eye color!" will do. You can smile and walk away, or stay for a 30-second chat about where she bought it. Your choice.

Tuesday: Ask a co-worker out for lunch.

Ask Lindsay from two cubicles down if she's interested in going out for Thai come noon. While you may be dreading all the small talk you have to make, you'll probably find yourself enjoying both the food and conversation.

Wednesday: Call a distant friend on the phone.

Your best guy pal from high school moved across the states a few years back, and the most you've done in recent weeks is send him a Facebook message. Be spontaneous and give him a ring after work. Don't ask him if he's available over text — just call, like the good old days. If he doesn't answer, leave a voicemail and tell him to return it when he can, because you'd love to catch up. And you would.

Thursday: Host a social gathering.

Round up a few of your friends and invite them over for Thursday night cocktails. As an introvert, you hate hosting events, but it's about time you swallow your shyness and invite people over. You're thinking, "Oh sh*t, how am I going to subtly kick them out come 9 o'clock?" First of all, make it 10. Second of all, don't be awkward about it — just tell them up-front you have a meeting in the morning, so cocktails will have to wrap up by a certain time. No big deal! It'll be fun.

Friday: Sign up to volunteer at a local charity.

Don't bring your boyfriend or your mom — this one needs to be done on your own, which is why it's a challenge! Sign up to volunteer at a charity of your choice for a good few hours. Yes, you'll be surrounded by fresh faces, and yes, you'll be just fine. (Bonus: you're making the world a better place!)

Saturday: Attend a public event.

The quirky diner down the street is hosting karaoke night — go! You don't have to actually sing, unless you're feeling especially brave. Hit up your town's craft show; get your dance on at the slinky jazz bar. Just pick an event, any event, and commit yourself.

If you want to up your extrovert game even more, attend a Meetup — you'd certainly have my admiration. I can't tell you how many Meetup groups I've joined, only to abandon the app in favor of my usual antisocial activities. If you're not familiar with Meetup, it's basically the mobile way to meet new people in real life. You sign up for groups, and these groups post events in a calendar, of which you should attend. The groups are organized by your interests, including photography, hiking, tech, reading, entrepreneurship . . . hell, I've even seen a group designed just for morning coffee! Don't be like me: join one or two (or three) and meet the people IRL.

Sunday: Go to a demanding exercise class.

This one is the most difficult for a few reasons: one, hard exercise is, well, hard; two, unless you're a fitness guru, it's really uncomfortable to fumble around on a workout mat in front of other people; three, it's totally challenging to let your anxiety go and focus. Not to mention, you're sweating and getting gross, and you feel like people are staring (do they know you're new at this?!). Talk about awkward. If you can't tell, exercise classes are basically the bane of my existence.

Which makes it all the more rewarding once you've completed a session. So, find a local gym and get your butt to a hot yoga class (yoga is usually offered on Sundays!). Shake off your fears of looking weird, because let's face it, pretty much everyone in that 100-degree room looks bizarre. It's been proven that yoga reduces anxiety, so it's extraimportant you try to make the best of it. Remember, go with the (zen) flow, and you'll be better than OK.