I used to be afraid of people. Not just normal fear of rejections, that a lot of people experience. But give a group of people together, and I will run away.
As I was ready to get over that fear, there were a couple of things, that helped me in the way.
First was understanding where the fear had come from. For me, the first influences that started to grow my fear came at the age of 6 (particularly in school). The time frame that really shaped my fear was when I was about 10-11 years old. That is also the time, that fear started to show outside. But it only fully manifested by the age of 14 years old.
So think about why are you afraid of crowds/people? Was there any specific accident or situation? Or is was because of the whole atmosphere of people around you in a specified time frame?
Simply knowing the reason give me more power to face my fears.
There were two exercises, that I used.
The first exercise came to me, when I was hiking in the hills. The people here say hello to every single person they came across. I usually looked away and went my way. But this changed.
So I started to say hello back. To one person. and the next and so one.
Then I started to do this in the city as well. I went to the park. I wanted the place that was not so crowded for the beginning. Just some people, that were walking around. Saying hello to everybody that came across me. I didn’t require myself to do anything else.
So after getting a little more used to people, I tried an exercise for a little more crowded places.
The exercise came from the psychology's concept called mirroring. The people are likely to subconsciously mirror other people. That is why people become nervous, when meeting somebody nervous. Or angry, when somebody is angry on them.
So I tried to look at the somebody of the people and smile at him. At first, people didn’t even notice me, but then I started smiling at the people, that were looking at me. And they smiled back.
That was so I could realize, that people are not so bad. They are just ordinary people, like me. So I was be able to start increasing the density of the crowds. Baby step by baby step.
Now, I am over my fear. But every person if different. Sometimes thing helps to some and no to others. But the important thing is that we are ready to change. Since every journey begins with that first step.
And considering where I started, I found it a great improvement.