Shyness is always depicted as a cute trait in movies and cartoons, but those who are not shy have no idea how debilitating it can actually be, especially in public situations. Shy people often find it difficult to express their thoughts or feelings, and that can have crippling effects on their social and professional lives. In this article, we take a look at shyness and examine some tips that could help us overcome it.
What exactly is shyness? Even though we are all familiar with the term, many of us do not know how to define it and often confuse it with other feelings or conditions. Most of us are shy from time to time, especially when we’re facing a new situation or we’re in the company of unfamiliar people.
Shyness is the feeling of apprehension or awkwardness some of us feel when we approach or are approached by other people. But here’s the catch. Unlike introverts, who have a grand time being on their own, shy people actively seek the company of others but are too anxious to interact with them. Those of us who are shy often have low self-esteem and fear rejection.
Shy people are often very self-conscious. They are constantly inspecting their own behavior and beat themselves up for every mistake – real or imaginary – they make, which can prevent them from getting to know new people. This, in turn, can increase their perceived shortcomings and ruminative thoughts, aggravating their situation.
Social anxiety is a stronger form of shyness, and social phobia is a crippling form of the same feeling.
Shyness is characterized by fearing the judgment and reactions of other people. Shy people are highly introspective and they avoid expressing their thoughts or feelings out of fear of provoking negative reactions such as being patronized, criticized, laughed at, humiliated, or rejected. The fear of being judged determines shy people to avoid social situations instead of tackling them head on.
Scientists believe shyness develops the most during the elementary school years. Elementary school pupils face a wide range of socioemotional problems. Because of poor peer relationships, some children might be the victims of social exclusion or victimization. Around this age, some kids start internalizing problems like having a low self-esteem or suffering from anxiety and even depression. During the elementary school years, some children start having academic adjustment problems. Due to a lack of engagement in class or the lack of intrinsic motivation, children might have a poor academic performance. Having a poor academic performance can increase the chances of being ridiculed, which can further aggravate the child’s shyness.
Even though the teachers and the parents assume children are fully capable of effective social interaction, several studies have proven otherwise. Social skills can be learned, but unlike other essential skills for the future adult such as reading and writing, they are not included in the curriculum. As a result, shy students do not get the opportunity to properly develop their social skills, interact with their peers, and participate in class.
Unfortunately, most teachers’ attempts to make shy children interact are often intimidating and they actually increase the students’ anxiety instead of convincing the children to participate in class.
The origins of shyness are still unclear. However, most scientists agree shyness can come from genetic traits, personal experiences, the environment in which a child grows, or a combination of some or all these factors.
Most shy people tend to believe that they’re one of the few people afflicted by anxious feelings in social situations. But in reality, about one in two American adults consider themselves shy. However, the prevalence of shyness varies greatly among different cultures around the world. Cultures that value overt confidence perceive shyness as a weakness, and people avoid being associated with the feeling. Other cultures value introspection and listening to others, so shy people belonging to these cultures are not stigmatized but valued.
Western cultures believe shyness plays an important role in the social adjustment of an adult, and associate it to a variety of unwanted behaviors. On the other hand, Eastern cultures value quiet people. They place a higher value on avoiding the same of failure, and some outright promote shyness.
This might come as a surprise, but shyness is not all bad. Shy people are great in certain situations. However, the following traits apply only for those who suffer from mild to moderate shyness.
Even though there are some positive aspects to being shy, we shouldn’t assume this feeling has a positive impact. Shyness limits our opportunities, and it can affect every aspect of our lives, from material success to relationships and mental health.
Fortunately, we can overcome shyness. The following tips and tricks are effective. However, you shouldn’t expect any miracles after doing them once. Consistency is key.
Unless you are Superman, Spiderman, or any other fictional hero who fights villains for a living, you are your worst enemy, just like the rest of us. We all tend to overthink things and situations, but shy people do it at a semi-professional level. Since shy people are more self-conscious than others, they critique and analyze every detail of their personality and appearance and come up with creative failures. But that’s a mistake. People don’t know us as well as we do. Where we see a failure, they might see something normal. In fact, it’s more likely they won’t notice anything’s amiss unless we tell them.
Our brains have a negative bias. We are highly attuned to negative things, and we focus on our weaknesses instead of focusing on our strengths. The negativity bias of our brains is an evolutionary trait that kept our ancestors away from harmful things, but we no longer need it every second of every day of our lives.
One of the worst things we could do is trying to improve our weaknesses. Sure, constantly improving our weaknesses will make us marginally better at them. But most often than not, that’s not really necessary. These perceived weaknesses might only be important to us and us alone.
Let’s put this idea into perspective:
Well, if professional athletes shouldn’t focus on their weaknesses, why should you?
And it’s not only our negativity bias that convinces us we should be better at everything we do. Improving our weaknesses is something we learn. Most people living in Western civilizations are taught they have to be good at everything from an early age. We might be good at math or physics, but we surely need to be passable painters to graduate. Sure, nobody needs us to paint the “Starry Night” to pass, but no teacher worth his or her profession would pass a student for drawing stickmen.
We grow up thinking we should master everything, and we try to do so as adults, as well. But as you could see in the previous examples, that’s simply a poor mentality. We’re much better off sticking to our strengths.
Being aware of our strengths gives us the possibility to improve them. Does your close circle of friends think you’re funny? Well, that’s definitely a strength. The rest of the world might not know you’re funny because of your shyness, but that’s something we can remedy.
Constantly improving our strengths not only makes our skills better, but it also increases our confidence in said strengths. And once we’re confident enough, we can overcome our shyness and let the world know just how funny, sarcastic, empathic, athletic, friendly, intuitive, or kind we are.
This one is easier than you would think. Take a sheet of paper and make a list with your fears and worries before going out to dinner or facing new people. Make an accurate list of the things you’re worried would happen and ruin your day or your evening.
After making that list, come up with simple solutions for every situation. Writing down our worries and fears diminishes their value. Once they’re out of our heads and expressed on paper, they don’t seem so terrifying.
And then – and this is a crucial part – think about your favorite positive emotions. There are plenty of emotions to choose from: amusement, hope, pride, joy, satisfaction, altruism, love, happiness, and more. Choose one emotion or a group of them and write it down. Write what you like about them for about five to ten minutes.
Expressive writing of positive emotions is a proven way of lowering our anxiety. In combination with the visible expression of our fears, this exercise should help us get over our shyness and face the world.
Journal writing is also a powerful and effective way to overcome our shyness.
The apprehension or fearful feeling shy people have when they’re in an unfamiliar situation is driven by anxiety. So in order to treat out shyness, we should treat our anxiety. The best way to treat anxiety is learning to relax. Here are some examples of relaxation methods we could use:
Shy people often have a weak self-image. Because they are introspective and very self-aware, shy people will often see flaws where there are none, and beat themselves up over every detail, no matter how small. Fortunately, there are several simple tricks we can use to improve our self-image.
One of the great things about improving our self-image is that it also improves our self-confidence. Being more confident can alleviate our shyness.
Shy people are not comfortable when talking to unknown people, so they are misunderstood more often than those who are not shy. Shyness forces us to talk quickly and sometimes quietly, so many of those around us don’t really hear or understand what we’re saying. Now, advising a shy person to make eye contact and speak slowly is easy, but putting it in practice might be more difficult. Well, nobody said it was easy, but at least we can improve these aspects. Here’s how.
Hypnoses can be a valuable tool for treating shyness and anxiety disorders. Guided hypnotherapy can reduce our anxiety and shyness, and it can prevent us from feeling apprehensive or awkward when we’re facing an unfamiliar situation or when we encounter new people.
Hypnosis balances the autonomic nervous system and reduces the body’s response to stress. The stress reduction helps the mind control our emotions, so we can face every situation with a new mindset.