I've always been fairly shy - I used to be far more so than I am now and would blush at the drop of a hat and palpitate when having to speak in front of a group of people. With hindsight, I'm sure that not all the things I perceived my peers to be thinking about me were true - I actually made myself look scared, which ironically was probably what spurred them on. There are still things I wish I'd been able to do, such as drama, that my shyness prohibited, so I really do admire you for doing it, Bobziekins.
I agree with elephant re being "professional" about things. I feel like an outcast in one of my college classes in particular, and have nothing in common with any of the people present in it. I therefore just end up turning up to complete my business, without really talking unless necessary. I think this often happens. So often we think we've got to be talking all the time. And often, people are more shy than you might think - after all, so often I end up sitting with someone in silence and beating myself up for being such a chore and lacking in things to say. It then occurs to me that they've clearly nowt to say either!! Who can say? - maybe others are having the same thoughts. With this college class, I feel very nervous when having to speak in front of the people because it feels like they're a big happy family and I'm not a part of it, but I think it's easy to over-analyse when you lack confidence, as I do.
I really do sympathise with you, Bobzy - it's something that's been a part of my life for a good while now. I really hope you can conquer it to the extent of it not affecting your drama. The "aww" is very tedious - I've had it too, and it makes you feel like you're losing the battle.
Is it possible to talk to any of these people online, through Facebook etc? This can be a big boost if, like me, you find it hard to get to know people in person. When you've established some common ground and broken the ice in an online conversation, you will often feel much more confident when you next see the person face-to-face. This is my main way of getting to know people these days.