There are all numerous negative misconceptions about shyness to the point where its become a sort of stigma. But rather than being predisposed to constant feelings of isolation and anxiety, shy people often strive to be more social and lead fulfilling lives. And with enough effort, some are able to overcome their shyness altogether when driven to do so. Here are some important facts that should set the record straight.
Shyness isn’t all about social anxiety
Many people consider shyness to be a form of social anxiety, but there are similarities as well as differences. For instance, while some shy people may experience social anxiety, others who are not shy may also feel it as well. The key difference between shyness and social anxiety is the duration of symptoms. Shyness tends to be a passing phenomenon but can continue into adulthood. Many people who are shy experience little or no social anxiety once they have overcome their initial concerns.
Shyness and being introverted are also not the same thing
Shy people may appear introverted because they feel uncomfortable approaching or when approached by others. The difference is shy people often want to make social connections but either don’t know how or they feel anxious about trying. Introverts, by contrast, feel energized when they have time alone.
People are not born shy
That’s according to the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast. Extreme shyness often comes from excessive self-consciousness, excessive negative self-evaluation and excessive negative self-preoccupation. All three of these characteristics involve a sense of self, which doesn’t develop until around 18 months of age.
Cynical shyness is connected to violent behavior
In 2007, psychologist Bernado Carducci gave a presentation at the 115th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association (APA) that looked at eight cases of individuals who had committed high school shootings between 1995 and 2004. He found that they tended to be males who wanted social connectedness but lacked social skills and were rejected by peers. He concluded that the pain of rejection can subsequently turn to anger and possibly violence.
There’s strength in shyness
In his book The Authentic Heart, therapist John Amodeo wrote, "If you experience shyness, consider it a blessing. Shyness is an entrance into a tender fold within your authentic heart … If you can allow yourself to experience shyness when it arises—if you can gently turn your attention toward the place in your body that feels this shyness—then it becomes a friend, not a threat.”
Shy people often aim to be less so
Shyness expert Bernardo Carducci says that 91 percent of shy people say they’ve consciously tried to get over their shyness, while 67 percent say they seek out social situations such as parties and clubs despite their discomfort.
Shyness can lead to excellence
Some shy people compensate for their shyness by excelling at work or choosing a career that gives them a specific role to play. Various celebrities such as Elton John, Johnny Depp and Sir Richard Branson, fall into this category.
Parents can instill shyness
An overly critical, cold or rejecting parenting style can be a contributing factor in the development of shyness. However, an over-protective parenting style can also have the same effect. This style of parenting deprives the child of opportunities to develop resilience and can exaggerate ordinary setbacks.
Shyness normally does not affect life choices
Many shy people know that once they get pass a certain threshold of mild anxiety they will be fine. Contrast this with a socially anxious person who over-thinks, over-analyzes, worries and beats themselves up before, during and after social events.
Therapy can help people over come shyness
Shy people respond well to psychological therapies. There are a variety of self-help books available, but if you’d prefer face-to-face therapy, it’s easy to locate a qualified therapist in your area through the APA website.
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Dr. Jerry Kennard is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry's clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.