Hello guys, gals, and ghosts of all types! In several of my other posts I’ve called myself shy, sometimes even bordering on social anxiety, and I wanted to do an in-depth look at shyness and see what I can glean from my own experiences. What is shyness about?
I hate talking in front of other people. I have stage fright to such a degree that even filming myself makes me nervous because people might see it and judge me. Combine that with the fear of the unknown and I’m practically petrified to do any kind of public speaking, no matter where it takes place.
Thankfully my stage fright does not transfer to the written form of communication, otherwise, I have no clue what I’d be doing with myself at this juncture.
What is Shyness and Are There Any Causes?
According to the American Psychology Association:
- Shyness is the tendency to feel awkward, worried or tense during social encounters, especially with unfamiliar people.
Most everyone feels shy at one point in their life. However, shyness can become extreme enough to impact day to day life. This can interfere with both work relationships and personal ones, especially if it’s something that needs to be said. Shyness can be found in people with low self-esteem or lacking in self-confidence.
Almost half of Americans claim that they are shy. That’s a lot of people to empathize with. There are some people born with a personality tilt towards shyness, about 15-20% of infants, however, there is still a greater leaning towards how people are raised and their life experiences.
80-85% of the people who are shy actually don’t display the stereotypical ill at ease person in public. However, that does not mean that they aren’t there. I have experience with this myself.
It starts with a fake smile and a joyful sounding greeting. This delves into small talk that seems to flow smoothly. After a nice discussion, the talking is over and I go my own way. Sounds nice, right? What people don’t see is the pounding heart, the nervous knot in my stomach twisting ever tighter, or the thoughts of how inept and clumsy I am at being social. No one sees it, but it’s there.
After the conversation is over I inwardly groan and go back through the conversation and berate myself over what I should have said rather than what I did say. This is a never-ending cycle that haunts me for years.
I remember all the way back when I was 6 and in the first grade. We were going over math homework and I noticed the teacher got one wrong. I put my hand up and waited, and waited, and waited. We were actually moving on to a new subject when a loud groan/shriek left my mouth. This got the attention of the entire class and I just wanted the earth to swallow me right there.
I soldiered on and explained the problem as best I could. I’m sure it was forgotten soon after by everyone but me. It’s been over 2 decades now, and I still remember it as one of the most embarrassing moments of my childhood. I still remember and I still cringe. That is what shyness does.
The most hurtful part about it was that I’d put myself out there, and no one paid any attention until I forced them to. I felt worthless and unappreciated and I still do. I’ve actually come up with a rule as far as social functions go, which is I allow myself to try to inject myself into the conversation twice. After that, if you aren’t going to listen to me I might as well not speak. That’s more of my antisocial side coming out, but the premise remains.
Shyness vs. Introversion
Shyness, much like introversion ebbs and flows in intensity. It’s no wonder that the general masses confuse the two. So, what’s the difference between being shy and being introverted? It all comes down to how the person feels about the way they communicate or lack thereof.
Speaking of ebb and flow, I am not shy at work, in relation to my duties. I was a nervous wreck for about the first 6 months, but now that I’ve been here for 3 years any anxiety of having to talk to people is gone, replaced with just being tired after the day is over. I suppose you could say that my shyness disappeared and was replaced by my natural introverted self.
Introverts avoid large crowds, but it’s not because they feel self-conscious or apprehension. They simply find such situations tiring and want to save their “social” battery for those that matter.
Shyness is being nervous, awkward, self-conscious, and most of the times inwardly self-degrading when in social situations.
Putting them side by side definitely showcases their differences.
I admit to being both of these. Throw in antisocial and you’ve got the mess that is me sometimes. So, I don’t want the company of others, I find large groups of people tiring, and when I am dealing with people I’m nervous and self-conscious about it.
Yep, that’s basically me in a nutshell. Oh, joy.
Other Forms of Shy
The extreme form of shyness is actually classified as a mental disorder called social anxiety disorder or social phobia. Social anxiety is the fear of social situations that involve interactions with other people and being negatively judged and evaluated by said people. It causes anxiety and fear in almost all areas of a person’s life.
These people can actually have panic attacks because they are so scared of social situations. They deliberately isolate themselves from others. This affects roughly 15 million people in America.
While shyness can make it difficult, anxiety makes it nearly impossible. There are times when I feel I border on this. Take me trying to gear myself up to go to a pottery class. I’ve gone a single time in the past month and I haven’t gone back because just thinking about it makes me nervous.
I do plan to go back if only to face my fears, but at times it seems impossible to just do it as I continue to put it off, no matter if it’s something I love to do. It means making myself vulnerable because it’s been so long. Give me YouTube videos and an empty studio and I would be just fine. Put someone in there, though and I turn into a complete mess.
Dealing With the Shy Trait
There are plenty of ways to counteract the outward appearances of being shy. Act confident, try new things, talk to people, be firmly in the present, but how do you stop everything that’s happening on the inside?
Therapy is a good solution, no matter if you’re scared of being judged or not. If this isn’t an option for you a self-help book may work and allows you to start working on your issues, especially if you have social anxiety on a larger scale.
For me, it’s very much pretending to be confident until the conversation is over or I actually feel confident. It can be very difficult at times, especially if something has gone wrong and I can’t seem to stop replaying it over and over in my head.
Meditating is also a good thing. It helps calm the mind and center the thoughts. That being said yoga is something that I try to practice at least once a week, although it’s kind of fallen by the wayside and I will need to pick it back up. Yoga helps stretch the body which causes relaxation while centering your mind on the present. It is very therapeutic.
This is my go-to yoga video:
Just remember that this is something that is very common. It’s okay to be nervous, it’s okay to have thoughts. If you feel like you’re social anxiety is out of control then please reach out for help. Preferably from an actual doctor as I’m not licensed to do anything but CPR, and even that is kind of sketchy at best.
Did you find this post helpful? Do you feel like you can relate? If you did, please leave a comment down below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.