Okay, so some of the things I am about to tell you are going to be very hard to implement into your life, and some will be very easy, so bear with me, and remember that the things that bear (seemingly) the greatest risks, also produce the greatest rewards.
First, ways to appear confident and approachable!
- Good posture! Having good posture helps you look so much more confident. Not only does it lift your entire body to a beautiful upright position, but it makes others think that you are comfortable and confident in yourself. It also has the added benefit of being very good for your health and making your entire appearance better. Everyone looks more confident and attractive when they stand up straight.
- Smile more. You don't even have to be smiling directly at people, just focus on keeping a friendly smile on your face. Last semester I made a significant effort to focus on keeping the corners of my mouth up rather than down in order to make people more comfortable approaching me at work. I think it works very well. So focus on keeping a happy and friendly aura on your face with a smile
- Look sideways after you make eye contact with people, rather than looking down or up. Looking down gives the impression that you are less than them and not worthy of approach, looking up makes it look like you are better or above them, but if you look sideways you are giving the impression that you are equals. It is a very subtle bit of body language, but it does have an impact. Also, I have been told that you should look up when you are flirting with someone because it makes you appear more aloof and flirtatious.
- When you are sitting or standing or talking to someone, open up your body. Closing your body off by hunching your shoulders, folding your arms, crossing your legs, or ducking your head all exude timidity. So don't duck into yourself. Seek to open up your body language: fold your arms less, particularly when you are sitting down, instead put your arms on both arms rests--open up your body! And try to take up a little more space: not a lot more, that is arrogant, just a little bit. You are worth the space your body takes up, so show it.
Now the hard stuff. Just because you are doing these things to make you more approachable or confident appearing, doesn't mean more people will approach you. Humans, as a rule, are absorbed in themselves. We are all constantly concerned with how our actions might appear to other people, and we fail to realize that everyone else is focusing so much on themselves that you become more of a blip on their radar. Now this isn't true for everyone, and it isn't said to tell you that you don't matter to others, because you do. However, someone you don't know or only know a little, won't just jump in and start talking to you--they don't have incentive to approach you. So what do you have to do? You need to approach them.
The best advice I can give you, as someone who has been there is expand your comfort zone by getting out of your comfort zone. It's hard, it's scary, and it will be fraught with worry, but if you force yourself to do little things that scare you, you will come to overcome your fears and find faith in yourself and, very likely, in others. Take small steps at first; experiment: start smiling and making eye contact with people you pass by that you recognize but don't know well. Once you find yourself become comfortable with that start waving and/or greeting them; ask them about their day. Do this to strangers too. Set goals, and say to yourself, "Self, we are going to smile at 10 people today, and at least three of them must be cute boys!" or "Self, go have a conversation with that girl from our ward that we barely talk to, she seems really nice." Expand your comfort zone by getting out of your comfort zone.
Finally, I would add that your biggest ally in overcoming yourself and the comfort zone you have built around you is, and always will be, the Lord. He is your proponent as you seek to improve yourself and your interactions with others. He is on your side, and if you ask him for his help, he will be there for you.
The Soulful Ginger (who would, in addition, recommend that you watch Brenè Brown's TED Talk, "The Power of Vulnerability.")