Friday, April 30, 2010

Shyness: a Curse or a Virtue?

At some point in a person’s life they’ve experienced some degree of shyness, whether they were a child attending their first day at school, or, as a teenager being attracted to someone they liked but were afraid to ask him or her out on a date.

There are levels of shyness; some can briefly experience mild discomfort when they are in an unfamiliar situation/setting, but at a certain age they grow out of it; while others have chronic shyness that can last for years or even a lifetime. According to an article from explains that “Shyness can mean feeling uncomfortable, self-conscious, nervous, bashful, timid, or insecure. People who feel shy sometimes notice physical sensations like blushing or feeling speechless, shaky, or breathless… When people feel shy, they might hesitate to say or do something because they're feeling unsure of themselves and they're not ready to be noticed.”

There are some people that consider shy people to be weak and naïve, so they take advantage of their kindness, thinking that the shy person will never say anything to them. That is usually why kids that are shy are easily picked on at school by bullies. But, just because a person is shy does not make them in anyway mentally or psychologically impaired, but rather shyness is an emotion.

It’s a well-known fact that people with chronic shyness are easily misunderstood as being indifferent or arrogant, but this is far from the truth. Being shy can make you feel like a prisoner within your own skin. Shy people really want to get to know other people, but their self-consciousness prevents that from happening, and so they clam up and keep to themselves.

At times shyness can affect family relationships within the home. Usually if one or both parents are outgoing and a sibling of yours isn’t shy, a parent will more than likely feel closer to the outgoing child, because they will relate better with them. For a shy person, this can make them feel inferior and feel out of place in their family setting, as if they are a stranger in their own home. This, in turn, can cause a shy person to make even more of an effort to feel validated by their parents. But sometimes the opposite can happen, in which, a parent will notice that their child is shy and clingy towards them; but instead of encouraging their child to socialize more with children their age, they instead enable this behavior, by allowing the child to remain shy, not letting them explore the world, make childhood friends, and take more risks in life.

There are times when being shy can have its advantages. Shy people are often complemented for being good listeners and observant, but sometimes their observations can work against them. For example, in the mind of a shy person they avoid eye contact because, when talking to someone, they'll examine every reaction of a person’s facial expressions or body language. A shy person is already self aware of their flaws and feel they are being judged by society through a magnifying glass; so while a shy person could be calmly talking to you, internally, they are thinking about what you could be thinking about them. If for some reason during the conversation a person makes a disapproving facial expression towards a shy person, they will overreact, in their mind, thinking they must have said something you didn’t like and so their motor skills get affected, meaning they stumble over their words, forget what else they were going to say, or start talking faster/slower or more incoherently and thus causing them to feel foolish.

What shy people need to keep in mind is that overcoming their shyness will not be fixed overnight. They have to first break the ice. The more they practice, then they will start feeling comfortable around strangers. Have topics in mind and rehearse in advance what to say and make eye contact. Sometimes just smiling and saying hello can easily open the door to starting a conversation with someone. Remember, a conversation involves two people, so don’t worry about carrying the entire conversation, it should be 50/50 percent give or take.

Do keep in mind that not everyone is suppose to like you. If a person ignores you, or seems moody don’t let that be your problem, just approach them another time or find someone else to speak with. There are people out there that will appreciate who you are.

Most importantly, never be someone else just to fit in. If a person can’t accept you for who you are and instead wants you to be someone you're not, than they are not your real friends. But, if for peer pressure reasons, you do go along with being someone you're not, you will regret it later on.

Even those that are not shy can help in getting a shy person to be more social, whether they are a family member, or, someone they know at work or at school. Try to talk with them; don’t wait for them to come to you. Never put a shy person on the spot, especially in front of a group of people. More than likely they will avoid you, fearing you will put them in that same, embarrassing situation again. Also, never force them to socialize with other people when you first start hanging out with them. Perhaps they are not ready to engage in conversations will multiple people at this time. Let them get to know you first and you know them. Then include others friends, so that their circle of friends can expand.

Though being shy can, at times, feel like being trapped within yourself, it doesn’t have to be that way forever. Yes, though shyness can show your good qualities of being considerate and tactful, it can have disadvantages that will affect you later on in life, causing you to look back at the opportunities you missed out on.

Written by: Bridget Campos


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