Shyness is a sense of awkwardness or apprehension that some people consistently feel when approaching or being approached by others. Shyness is a response to fear, and research suggests that although there is a neurobiology of shyness, the behavioural repertoire is orchestrated by a specific circuit of neurones in the brain, it is also strongly influenced by parenting practices and life experiences.
What Causes Shyness?
Shyness emerges from a few key characteristics: self-consciousness, negative self-preoccupation, self-esteem and fear of judgment and rejection. Shy people often make unrealistic social comparisons, pitting themselves against the most vibrant or outgoing individuals. Believing that others are constantly evaluating them poorly, shy people abandon new social opportunities, which, in turn, prevents them from improving their social skills.
How do I Overcome Shyness?
Shy people can successfully address social challenges without altering their sense of identity. Researchers find that it’s often best for people to acknowledge their shyness and try to release themselves from feeling self-conscious.
A number of concrete strategies can boost social confidence. Instead of avoiding social events, shy people can schedule them in advance and practice their social skills ahead of time. They can plan a few questions and talking points, and observe the discussion to get their bearings before contributing. They can also work to reframe their mindset, expecting a positive outcome rather than assuming a negative reaction is inevitable.
Can I outgrow shyness?
Shyness doesn’t disappear on its own. Shy people are most successful when they acknowledge and understand their shyness, and then act based on that self-awareness.They recognise that small talk may not come naturally, so they plan ahead, rehearse questions and anecdotes, and arrive early to feel comfortable in the new setting.
What’s the difference between shyness and introversion?
Shyness is distinct from introversion. Introverts feel energised by time alone but shy people often want to connect with others, but don’t know how or can’t tolerate the anxiety and fear of negative judgment that comes with human interaction. Their inclination to turn inward to monitor their own behaviour and perceived shortcomings can prevent them from developing relationships.
Preparing for a social situation can shift your focus from what can go wrong to what can go right. Prepare questions for others and anecdotes you’d like to share. Reflect on what you might have in common. Being curious about others and softening your self-criticism can be helpful as well. Training in self-belief can help your confidence grow and will give you the tools to manage your shyness.
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