Chapter 1 - Why Are We Shy?
When we think of someone being shy, we may think of a child who is hiding behind the leg of her mother because she fears strangers. Shyness was once considered to be an asset for little girls as well as women because it was associated with modesty. I can remember my daughter hiding behind my leg when she was a little girl and thinking that it was so cute. I never saw shyness as an impediment and, like many other adults, found this type of behavior very “cute.”
Shyness is not cute. To the contrary, it can cause you all sorts of problems in life. People who are shy are usually unable to express their feelings and have a much more difficult time when it comes to building relationships. My daughter, for example, found it difficult to make friends as she got older and to talk to strangers at parties. While people found her to be cute as a child as she hid behind my leg, they found her to be aloof and unfriendly as she blossomed into adulthood.
Before we can overcome shyness, we have to figure out why we are shy. There is no easy answer to this question. Some people appear to be born shy and have a hard time coming out of their shell to others. Other people seem to be more outgoing. I have done a bit of research into what makes someone shy and found that two things often figure into shyness - birth order as well as a lower self esteem. It is also important to realize that shyness is not always so apparent. Some people, in an effort to not seem so shy will go off in the opposite direction and appear to be very outgoing when they are struggling, on the inside, to overcome this affliction. I can relate to this as I am one of those types of individuals. Others often find me to be outgoing, but in reality, I get a sick feeling in my stomach when I have to meet new people or exert myself in social situations.
Being shy does not mean that someone has a low self esteem, but it can be an indication that their self esteem is a bit more fragile than someone who is not shy and is not, as a result, self conscious. Through my research, I have found that those who are shy tend to be very sensitive individuals who often make the mistake of thinking that everyone’s attention is focused on them. They are afraid to make a mistake, say something silly or do something that will cause others to notice them. They would rather fade into the background than call attention to themselves.
Birth order also seems to play a roll in shyness. It is very often that the person who is shy has older siblings that are very outgoing. I have often felt that this was the reason why my daughter is so shy and the polar opposite of her older brother, who seems to be comfortable wherever he happens to be and has no problem at all with shyness. Many people who are shy are this way because they live in the shadow of an older sibling who is anything but shy.
There is also the female factor. Although I tried to raise my boy and girl the same way with the same set of values, I found that they are as different as chalk and cheese. I knew that despite what others may think about the “cute little shy girl” that shyness would not be an asset for my daughter. However, not everyone thinks this way. Some people still think that it is cute for little girls to be shy - that it somehow makes them more ladylike. This is not a plus when that little girl, as a woman, has to compete with other women as well as men for jobs and types of recognition in life. There are still people who are under the impression that shyness is a desirable quality in little girls. Because of this, they may be more inclined not to concern themselves with shyness in their daughters as much as they do with their sons.
Low self esteem is usually at the root of all shyness. A shy individual is usually afraid to say something or do something that will bring attention to them because they fear embarrassment. Many people are under the impression that a low self esteem is the result of bullying, a poor childhood or some sort of deficit that a child has to endure. This is not always the case. A child who is coddled by his or her parents can also develop a low self esteem. There are many reasons why people develop a low sense of self esteem and varying degrees of self esteem issues as well. Self confidence is something that can be built up in a variety of different ways to increase self worth and also allow someone to be less self conscious and shy.
Many people are aware of the fact that they are shy and avoid being in the limelight as much as possible. Some people who are shy may over compensate for the fact that they feel shy and go overboard in trying to draw attention to themselves. For the most part, shyness is based upon a fear of rejection, most often due to a low self esteem. It manifests itself differently with every individual. Some people need only have their idea rejected once before they develop a low sense of self worth and an inferiority complex. Others can take a lot of rejection before it starts to affect them negatively.
Shyness should be seen as a deficit and something that should be addressed and overcome. Once you recognize the fact that you or someone who you care about is shy, you can take a look at the issue and see what you can do to correct the problem. While you may not be able to get to the point where you are ready to lead a parade, you can overcome some of your basic instincts that prevent you from opening up to people and forming relationships.
Here are some basic questions that you can ask yourself to see if you are shy:
1. When I go to a party where I do not know anyone, I….
A. Cancel. I would rather die than attend a party where I didn’t know anyone else.
B. Try to find a place where I can sit inconspicuously so I do not draw attention to myself.
C. Try to mingle a bit and then call it an early night.
D. Find the life the party and do my best to integrate myself with the guests.
2. In school, if I knew the answer to a question, I would….
A. Not do anything. What if I wasn’t sure?
B. Wait to be called on by the teacher.
C. Raise my hand to answer the question.
D. Make sure the teacher saw that I knew the answer by waving my hand.
3. My ideal job would be…
A. A job where I could be alone in my own cubicle
B. A job where I didn’t have to interact with others on a regular basis.
C. A job where I worked in a team setting.
D. A managerial job where I was in charge of others.
4. If I like someone and want to form a relationship with them, I….
A. Follow them around and wait for them to make the first move
B. Try to put myself in their way so that they notice me
C. Arrange to be at parties and other gatherings where they may be
D. Tell them and let the chips fall where they may
5. During a job interview, I…
A. Answer questions that are asked of me only and feel nervous
B. Try to stick to saying as little as possible about myself
C. Ask questions and answer those questions presented to me
D. Assume that they are the ones I am interviewing, instead of the other way around
If you answered mostly “A” for the above questions, you are very shy. You find it difficult to be the center of attention in any setting and find yourself turning down opportunities because you are shy.
If you answered mostly “B” for the above questions, you are shy, but not overtly shy. You feel uncomfortable in certain settings but are aware of this and are trying overcome your discomfort.
If you answered mostly “C” for the above questions, you are average. You may want to be a little bit more outgoing, but no one will accuse you of being a wallflower.
If you answered mostly “D” for the above questions, you are very outgoing to the point of being an extrovert. This may come naturally or may be the result of over-compensation for being shy. You might want to tone down your approach a bit.
This book will teach you how to recognize shyness in yourself and how to overcome this personality trait with tips and exercises that will help you emerge from your shell.
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