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20 Ways to Overcome Shyness

Photo by Jordan Fraker. See more of his work here.

Can you remember the last time you stepped into a room full of strangers and felt that self-conscious and awkward feeling rush over you? Or that heart thumping moment when you wanted to ask someone on a date, but were too shy to do so? Or wanting to approach someone for business, but was too hesitant to actually do it? That anxiety in the pit of your stomach in social situations? Does it always feel like something is holding you back?


Regardless of whether you are introverted or extraverted, we can all relate to that feeling of shyness at some point in our lives. Socially, we tend to have the misconception that only introverts experience shyness, but that is not true. Shyness has more to do with being uncomfortable with one’s self, especially around other people.

This article is the result of collaboration between Amanda Linehan, an introvert, and Tina Su, an extravert. Together, we wanted to shed some light on the topic of shyness in a collective perspective from both extremes. We will also share the ways that we used to turn shyness into personal empowerment.

 

The Three Components of Shyness

According to Dr. Bernardo J. Carducci of the Shyness Research Institute, shyness has three components:

  • Excessive Self-Consciousness – you are overly aware of yourself, particularly in social situations.
  • Excessive Negative Self-Evaluation – you tend to see yourself negatively.
  • Excessive Negative Self-Preoccupation – you tend to pay too much attention to all the things you are doing wrong when you are around other people.

Can you relate? When you are experiencing shyness, can you fit your state of mind into one or more of the above categories? We sure can.

 

Why Do We Experience Shyness?

We all experience shyness differently and on varying degrees. However, root cause can be boiled down to one of the following reasons:

1. Weak Self Image

This is especially true to our experiences in high school. We would believe in the fallacy that our unique qualities were not interesting, cool or worthy of anyone’s admiration.We would try to fit in with everyone else, resulting in us not feeling like ourselves.

  • Amanda: Looking back I’m not even sure I knew what my unique abilities were, I just knew that everybody else seemed to be a cooler, more interesting person than I was, so I tried to imitate them…poorly.:)
  • Tina: I thought of myself as cool, because I was loud, and worked very hard at keeping that image. It was of course, a false image that I worked hard to keep. It was exhausting and I was exceedingly self conscious. Even though people didn’t view me as shy, but I felt shy most of the time with a lot of built up anxiety. Turns out, the ‘cool’ kids themselves have weak self images and wanted to fit in with everyone else.

2. Pre-occupation with Self

When we’re around other people, we become extremely sensitive to what we’re doing, as if we’ve been put on center stage. This creates anxiety and makes us question our every move. Our focus centers around ourselves and particularly on “what I was doing wrong”. This can cause a downward spiral.

  • Amanda: Coupled with a weak self image,I didn’t thinkIwas doing anything right! And this would start a cycle that I couldn’t get out of. What I understand now is that is that most people are not looking at me with the detail thatI was looking at myself.
  • Tina: I too was very sensitive to my every move around other people. My senses were heightened to the way I talked, walked, laughed, etc. My focus was on how to not screw up in front of other people, and this made me very nervous. What I understand now is that everyone is so caught up with their own insecurities that they hardly notice yours.

3. Labeling

When we label ourselves as a shy person, we psychologically feel inclined to live up to those expectations. We may say to ourselves, “I am a shy person, than it must be true that I am shy. This is how I am, and this is the way things are.” When we label something, that thing has the perception of being fixed and therefore we must live up to the expectations of the labeling.

  • Amanda: I was known by others as a shy person, or a quiet person, and this perception held me captive at times. People expected me to be a certain way and so I was. And knowing that other people regarded me as shy, in addition to my not wanting to be shy, resulted in great anxiety when I was with people. I really wanted to show myself to others when I was around them, but it was easy to simply go along with what others expected from me.
  • Tina: Deep down, I felt the anxieties from shyness often, yet, when I’m around people, I had to live up to the expectations that I wasn’t shy. My experiences with shyness would manifest in unusual ways, like when I’m ordering food, when I call someone on the phone, or speak to strangers. I would never let that side of myself show, but I do experience it. In those moments, I can hear myself say, ‘I am shy.’

How to Overcome Shyness

We’ve both experienced different variations of shyness, and through practice and increased awareness we have both overcome this. The following are tips that have helped us overcome this uncomfortable feeling.

shyness3.jpg
Photo by Lauren

1. Understand Your Shyness

Seek to understand your unique brand of shyness and how that manifests in your life. Understand what situation triggers this feeling? And what are you concerned with at that point?

2. Turning Self Consciousness into Self Awareness

Recognize that the world is not looking at you. Besides, most people are too busy looking at themselves. Instead of watching yourself as if you are other people, bring your awareness inwards. Armed with your understanding of what makes you shy, seek within yourself and become the observing presence of your thoughts. Self awareness is the first step towards any change or life improvement.

3. Find Your Strengths

We all have unique qualities and different ways of expressing ourselves. It’s important to know and fully accept the things we do well, even if they differ from the norm. If everyone was the same, the world would be a pretty boring place.

  • Find something you are good at and focus on doing it. An identifiable strength will boost your natural self esteem and your ego, helping you better identify with yourself. It is a short term fix, but will give you the confidence you need to break your self-imposed barrier of fear.
  • See how your unique strength gives you an advantage. For example, Amanda is a naturally quiet person who prefers to spend time alone. She learned that she listens better than others and notices things that others miss in conversations. She also discovered that her alone time has given her a better understanding of herself.

4. Learn to Like Yourself

Practice appreciating yourself and liking the unique expression that is you. Write a love letter to yourself, do things you enjoy, give gratitude for your body and its effortless functions, spend quality time getting to know yourself, go on a self-date.

5. Not Conforming

Trying to fit in like everyone else is exhausting and not very much fun. Understand that it is okay to be different. In fact, underlying popular kid’s public displays of coolness, they too are experiencing insecurities, self-consciousness, and awkwardness. Accept that you may not be perceived as the most popular social butterfly, and you may not want to be either. At the end of the day, being popular will not make you happy. Accepting your unique qualities can set you free.

6. Focus on Other People

Rather than focusing on your awkwardness in social situations, focus on other people and what they have to say. Become interested in learning about others, and probe them to talk about themselves. You can try pondering the question while interacting: What is it about this person that I like?

7. Releasing Anxiety through Breath


Anxiety and fear can feel overwhelming if you are practicing to become more assertive in order to overcome this fear.

  • One simple technique to calm this anxiety into manageable bites is taking deep breaths with your eyes closed, while concentrating on just your breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly while clearing out all thoughts.
  • Another technique is from yoga: counting as you inhale and then as you exhale. Slowly leveling out your inhale and exhale duration. Example, 4 count for in and 4 for out. Once your breaths are leveled, add an extra count during your exhale. This means slowing down your exhale by just a tad as compared to your inhale. Continue for a few minutes until you are comfortable, than add another count to your exhale. You can easily do this in the bathroom, or in a spare room of when you need it.

8. Releasing Anxiety through Movement

One way of viewing anxiety is that it is blocked energy that needs to be released. We can release this energy through physical movement.

  • Exercises like jogging or walking will help to re-channel some of the blocked energies, but also helps by pulling you out of the situation and shifts your state of mind. This refreshed state of mind will help by adding perspectives to things.
  • Another effective technique is a simple muscle meditation/exercise. Sit down or lie down. Bring awareness to every part of your body, starting from your toes and moving up your body to the top of your head. At every part of your body, tighten the muscles at the center of awareness for 3-5 seconds, and then relax. Repeat this until you get to the top of your head. Remember to breathe.

 

9. Visualization

Visualizing yourself in the situation as a confident and happy person helps to shape your perception of yourself when you are actually in the situation. Close your eyes, sit back somewhere relaxing, listen to some relaxing music, imagine yourself in a scene or situation and see yourself the way you would like to be. In this scene, how do you feel? What do you hear? Do you smell anything? Are you moving? What do you see? Get all your senses involved to make it real.

10. Affirmation

Words can carry incredible energy. What we repeatedly tell ourselves, gets heard by our unconscious mind, and it acts accordingly. If we repeatedly tell ourselves that we are incapable, and too shy to do anything, we will become increasingly aware of evidence to back up this ‘fact’, and our actions will always match what we tell ourselves. Similarly, if we repeatedly tell ourselves that we are capable, confident, and wonderful human beings, our unconscious mind will likely surface the awareness that gives evidence to this new ‘fact’. While, we can’t lie to ourselves, positive visualization and affirmation are helpful in placing us along the road of positive thought patterns.

11. Do Not Leave an Uncomfortable Situation

When we leave shy situations, what we are really doing is reinforcing our shyness. Instead, face the situation square in the face. Turn the fearful situation into a place of introspection and personal growth. Become the observer and dig into yourself, answer the questions: why do I feel this way? What caused me to feel this way? Can there be an alternative explanation to what is happening?

12. Accept Rejection

Accept the possibility that we can be rejected and learning to not take it personally. Remember, you are not alone and we all experience rejections. It is part of life and part of the learning process. The key lies in how you handle rejections when they come. It helps to be mentally prepared before they happen:

  • Never take it personally. It was not your fault. It just wasn’t meant to be. The scenario was not the best fit for you.
  • Find the lesson – what did you learn? There is a lesson ingrained in every situation. And through these life lessons lies the potential for you to become a better person, a stronger person. Nothing is lost if you can find the lesson. See these as the blessings in disguise.
  • Move on. Recognize that when you fall into self-pity, you are not moving forward. Nothing will be changed from your self-pity. When you start to recognize this, it becomes clear that only energy is wasted while we feed to our problem-seeking ego. Pick yourself up, dust off the dirt and move on to the next thing. Try again, try again, try again. It will pay off!

13. Relinquish Perfectionism

When we compare ourselves, we tend to compare ourselves with the most popular person in the room or we compare ourselves with celebrities we see on TV. We set excessive expectations by comparing ourselves unreasonably to people unlike ourselves and wonder “why can’t I be that?” We carry with us a vision of another’s perfection and expect ourselves to fit that exact mold. And when we don’t fit, we beat ourselves up for it, wondering why we are such failures. You see, the problem lies in our emphasis on fitting into a vision we have created in our minds, which is not us. Let go of this perfect image, create visions of yourself out of the Being from who you are, naturally; and let that expression flow, naturally.

shyness2.jpg
Photo via g2slp

14. Stop Labeling Yourself

Stop labeling yourself as a shy person. You are you, you are unique, and you are beautiful. Can’t we just leave it at that?

15. Practice Social Skills

Like any other skill, social skills can be cultivated through practice and experience. The more you put yourself out there, the easier it becomes next time. If you have a hard time knowing what to say, you can practice what to say ahead of time.

16. Practice Being in Uncomfortable Situations

Sometimes, it is not the social skills we lack, but rather the lack of self confidence that we may succeed, and a heightened fear that we will fail. Placing yourself in these uncomfortable situations will help to desensitize your fear towards the situation. The more you force yourself to face it, and to experience it completely, you will realize that it is not that bad after all. It may be hard for your ego to accept at first, but quickly you will find that you can just laugh and enjoy it.

17. The Three Questions

During social settings where you may experience nervousness, periodically ask yourself the following three questions. Doing so will distract yourself from more self-destructive thoughts. Make it your mantra:

  1. Am I breathing?
  2. Am I relaxed?
  3. Am I moving with grace?

18. What is Comfortable for You?

Going to bars and clubs isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. Understand what feels comfortable for you, and find people, communities and activities which bring out the best in you. You can be just as equally social in settings that you connect with on a personal level, than the popular social settings. You don’t have to be doing what “everyone” else is doing. Besides, everyone else isn’t necessarily happy, despite your perception as such.

19. Focus on the Moment

Becoming mindful of what you’re doing, regardless of what you’re doing, will take focus away from the self. When you are having a conversation, forget about how you look, focus on the words, fall into the words, become absorbed in the words. The tones. The expression. Appreciate it and give gratitude for it.

20. Seek and Record Your Successes

As you overcome this condition we’ve been labeling as shyness, you will have many wins and realizations about yourself. You will gain insights into the truth behind social scenarios. You will start to view yourself differently and come to recognize that you can become comfortable and confident. When these wins and realizations happen, make sure to keep a notebook and write them down. Keeping a journal of your successes will not only boost self confidence, but also shift your focus towards something that can benefit you.

What are some of your moments of shyness? What did you do to overcome them? If you haven’t overcome them, why do you think that is the case & what can you do about it next time? See you in the comments! :)




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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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354 thoughts on 20 Ways to Overcome Shyness

  1. Lola

    I’ve struggled with shyness my whole life since elementary and remember it got so bad that my parents had to record me reading at home so my teacher made sure i could actually talk! I am a jr. In high school now and feel as if i have improved somewhat from my elementary and middle school days but i obviously still get called shy. I hate that word and hate being called shy or quite because I’m really not! But when i’m put in social situations like presentations, group discussions or meeting new people, i get anxious and start thinking of negative thoughts of being judged and not fitting in.
    My friend is not shy and not afraid to speak up and she even said when she first met me she thought i was very quite but now that we’re close, she says how i’m really not and how i actually talk quite a lot and how fun i can be if i be myself. I really want to be able to show people how i truly am without having this phobia of speaking up.
    I’ve actually cried various times and get really mad because of being fuatrated and annoyed if the label i’m given. I get anxious easily in public situations and wish i can take some anxiety pills or something or get help because i dont want to be like this any more. It makes me upset that this is holding me back from many possibilities i could have had if i wasnt scared.
    I do try and push myself and stay motivated but my mind takes over me and start thinking of the negative. I keep telling myself “its all in your head” and realize how i’m overthinking about it and exagerate about the situation. When i get embarrassed, which is most of the time in social situations, i blush and turn very red. Since elementary! All my life i have been turning red and have been called out on it and even laughed at. When i’m waliking to class & theres a lot people walking the opposite way, i start panicking if i start to think about it and just want to get out and flee and feel as if everyone can tell something’s wrong with me.
    I just want to be normal and feel like this is holding me back from who i really am and want to be. I really hope i get rid of my shyness and sicial anxiety in the future or even next year? Either way, this article was very helpful in staying motivated and pushing myself so i can become the person i want to be. I hope all of you who also struggle with this issue get to realize how you’re so much more and in hopes of improving and being the person you want to be and being confident in who you are! :)

  2. Anuj

    Hi, i am A shar and 26 years old. i am famous for being quite. i find very difficult to speak to strangers specially in social gathering. yesterday i had to face group activity and i could nt perform just because of my shyness. i am feeling that shyness is holding me back. i just dont want to shy when i face a bautiful girl :)

  3. Thumper

    Just wanted to say thank you. I am about to turn 23 and the past 3-5 years of my life I have spent time taking notes and reading on how to be happy. You seemed to have hit every point. It is amazing how powerful our minds are. I am an awesome unique individual, whom happens to be very good looking, however I spent many years trying to conform, which lead me down a bad path. I am may be awkward, I may be weird but I can only be myself and I can either embrace my awkwardness (uniqueness) or hate myself and continue to be miserable.

  4. Isthiak Ahsan

    Hey Tina,

    you just wrote down everything I feel in words. In your post I found my self-portrait. I’ll try to follow the steps given to overcome. You didn’t just identify the problem, but also try to give solutions. I appreciate it.

    Regards, Isthiak

  5. Hello Tina,

    I just discovered your blog and I really like it! I could really relate to this article. When I was younger I was pretty shy and it was holding me back from making contact with people easily.

    I recognize a few points in your list. My biggest one was fear of rejection. I have always been afraid that people wouldn’t like me or would rejects. The fear of this was making me shy. During the years I learned to be confident in myself and not be afraid of rejection. My big “aha” moment was when I realized that you can’t be liked by everyone in the world. There are always people who don’t like you..

    If you put enough effort/love/time or whatever into building a relationship with somebody and they still reject then they are not worth it.

    Thanks for this article. Your blog is an inspiration for me and my girlfriend. We just started a self development blog 4 months ago. Keep up the good work and I’ll connect with you on social media and subscribe!

    Cheers,

    Bastiaan

  6. Jordan

    When I was an adolescent, I was pretty shy, but as I got older it started to go away. Part of it was because my self-esteem improved, but another part of it was allowing myself to stop believing that everyone was watching me all the time.

    I realized this: if I am thinking so much about MYSELF, and worried that everyone is watching ME, then they are probably thinking of THEMSELVES and are worried about everyone watching THEM.

    Here’s an experiment to try: wear the same shirt for several days in a row (wash as necessary) and see how long it takes your friends to notice that you’re wearing the same shirt. Several people will never notice – but for most people, it takes at least 3-4 days…

  7. Aftaab

    thanksss alot , you really helped me. :)

  8. Joshua

    Thank you so much! This has been the best article I’ve read on overcoming shyness. Self-consciousness is one aspect of my life that I seem to struggle with the most. I’ve been asking myself, “Why am I shy?!” and after reading this article I’ve realized that my habits are perpetuating this behavior.

    I think the tips in this article are great. I’ve book marked this page and I’m going to actively implement these actions in my daily life.

    Again, I sincerely thank you :)

  9. thank you for the great article, it really makes it simple and easy for me to understand what is going on inside my inner world, I didn’t think I would find an article that is very useful, I really think I have by reading this made it half way there.
    again thank you :)

  10. MercyBabz Injesiah

    Hi. Am an 18year old girl and i have been struggling so much with this shyness problem.i agreed the comment that i just went thru that shyness is just somebody’ s personality and it’s hard to overcome it.but i don’t take it negatively.i always picture myself as a confident girl performing on stage like a superstar.it’s my dream and will always be my dream of becoming a superstar.I’m much better than yesterday and i will be even more better than tomorrow. I’ve always prayed for only three things:being an extrovert,talkative,confident to make my dream life complete.recently i challenged myself to try for a school dance,vocal performances infront of a crowd.it was so intimidating but i did my best although i felt rejected.
    I also shy off when boys talk to me.i talk but the shy face shows up not knowing what to do but go away instead.it’s alot tell but i stop with two questions.Can a personality/behavior such shyness be passed from parents siblings coz my parent used to be too.and what are some facial expressions u can show for any person stranger or nor to identify u ain’t a shy person. Help please!!!!!and thanks for theinspirational stories in this article.i’ve learned alot.

    my shyness and weird as it was my first time in life to perform.but it won’t stop me from doing what i want to do.i make alot of friends but i loose them thru my quietness and shyness.i show shy face when i get to talk to people but when i’m alone i feel free and cofident.

  11. Saduni

    Thank you for that!! I have always been aware of myself around other people. Before I leave my house I have to make sure that every strand of hair is tucked neatly in place but now I know that people will never notice that one strand that is not. And even if they DO its okay! Its not the end of the world. What you look like does not define the person that you are! I’m 16 and I’m still finding out the person that I am and I have a lot of time ahead of me to do exactly that. These 4 years of high school don’t define me and I shouldn’t let them! I have always always always been known as the shy person throughout my life and frankly im sick of it because when you get to know me im not shy AT ALL! But the thing is I have never really let anyone in to see that im not the quiet kid. I don’t really know how to express myself very well. Most of the time I don’t even have an opinion-I know its that bad. I care too much about what other people think of me and I don’t know how to stop doing that since ive been doing it for so long. I want to become my own person and I want to love myself more. Can you please help me?? Im trying…

  12. I am shy and get tired of speaking in a large group. Sometimes I become nervous and tense. When people comment about my character I become weak, angry. I really I want to change because people take an advantage of me, I have missed a lot of great opportunities, I believe that in my career I need to be confident and be able to speak my mind. this is very painful because I have struggled alloy because of my character. Please help. I believe this is not my true character because When I am comfortable in a certain group I am talkative, laugh a lot and enjoy my self.

  13. sumantra

    Tina and Amanda,
    Thank you for writing this wonderful article. I have been suffering from selective shyness for as long as i can remember. I am shy around authority (teacher,boss,cops) and opposite sex specially the ones i am sexually attracted to. Instead of reaching out to them i start avoiding as i feel that i would be mocked at and vehemently rejected! I kinda belief that this feeling has its origin in my stature(5′ 2inch) and being routinely ridiculed for that in school and college.
    I am now desperately trying to come out of this metal barricade as my fear of being left alone for the rest of my life is driving me towards madness!

    I hope this would to follow the methods you have prescribed here and would come out of this metal agony soon enough.

  14. Aaliyah

    I’m a very shy person and when talking to the opposite sex, especially when they’re attractive, I tense up a lot. There was once a time when I was in school and I sat right across from this guy I thought was cute. He tried talking to me THREE time before giving up when he realized that I wasn’t responding and it just ended in total awkward silence. He just had this look on his face afterwards, probably figuring that I didn’t want to speak to him. That wasn’t the case at all. In fact I was silently screaming at myself the whole time he was talking to say something, anything! But I didn’t know what to say without saying something idiotic. I felt so stupid and just wanted to disappear.
    I am really glad I read this and I feel this can help me a lot. Now I’m not saying I’ll go to school tomorrow and walk up to a guy I like and just start talking away but before reading this I gained a little self-confidence from telling myself I’m worth it and that I’m beautiful everyday and everyday these words start to become true each time I say them. I already walk with my head held high and now reading this I can have and feel a little more self-confidence.
    So thank you very much for this! :)

  15. Lori

    I have been shy all my life but it was worse when I was a child. My problem is fear of attention and not being accepted. The reason I feel I have to try to be accepted is because Im basically a shy/quiet person and no one really knows me so when it comes time to come out of my shell its scary because people often do not expect me to say certain things or even speak at all and I dont want that type of attention. This doesnt apply to my family and real friends, although they know that Im a bit timid there is no social barrier.

    I have to say I have slightly overcome this shyness. I learned to become engaged in conversation and to not hold my thoughts, and be the ice breaker from the VERY beginning.. such as when starting a new job, at a party or get together, meetings, appointments etc. Also when someone initiates conversation with me I jump to the opportunity to be social because I know that I am already accepted if someone feels the urge to conversate with me. The more you practice being social the easier it becomes. I discovered that the idea of me being shy and wanting to be like normal social people frustrates me more than the challenge of simply trying to be social. I will always be shy at heart but accepting that I cant change that part of my personality has allowed me to exercise ideas that makes it easier to cope with. Im still a working progress, probably always will be.

  16. I have encountered the same problem many years ago.
    But after reading lots of books and watching lots of training videos (I think most introverts will do), I have come up with some ideas on how to overcome shyness.

    Here is a free email course I created about overcome shyness:
    http://introvertadvantages.com/Overcome_Shyness/

  17. Dan

    I cant ask out girls or anything,never have(im 36 now).I am o.k in social situations if I feel I fit in and don’t think any one is judging me negatively.However I am acutely affected by other peoples judgement of me,which is the crux of my problem.I am too eager to please and too worried about what other people think of me.Unless this changes,I will continue to be shy indefinately.
    The thing I find frustrating is that methods other people swear by as effective agents for change in this area appear to have been much less than effective in my case.It’s as though my brain just doesn’t work in the same way as theirs.
    I have been told by umpteen advisors that forcing oneself to do awkward things and step out of your comfort zone to face those anxiety provoking situations is a sure fire way to beat anxiety by desensitizing yourself to those situations.However I find that I just seem to keep having the same anxious reaction to the same situations no matter how many times I experience them.Even stepping way out of my comfort zone and doing things where I am REALLY worried about how observers are judging me, hasn’t really reduced my fear of that kind of situation.
    Also I am always told how thoughts change your beleifs, and saying the right thing over and over in your head will change your inner beleifs. I am still sceptical that this is true.It seems for me that saying something over and over in your head does precisely nothing,because your sub concous knows your just repeating a prefabricated statement, and as such has no real meaning.It is just a recital of something which is not really something your inner judgement beleives in.It’s as though you just know deep down your lying to yourself and so the subconcious ignores it…….

  18. Super post on how an individual can overcome shyness.

  19. Nick

    What about valerian? does it help shyness or anxiety? http://goo.gl/M18Q4q

  20. I already post a comment on your other post ‘ Positive Attitude – 5 Steps to a Happy Life ‘. That post is awesome. But when I read this post I feel that your site is really good to increase positivity and remove all negative attitude from me.

  21. Hope

    This article really helped me a lot. For all my life, I suffered with shyness. I always afraid to show people who I really am. But thanks to this article, I can start to become the person that I really am and to not be afraid of showing others who I really am.

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