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Being awake to stifling shyness

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Be bold Beat shyness
Be bold Beat shyness

Severe shyness can have a debilitating effect on a person’s life

Ms. S is anxious and tense in an unfamiliar situation. She finds it difficult to speak in front of others and becomes inhibited while meeting someone new. She always feels comfortable to watch life go on from the sidelines rather than join in. These traits clearly suggest that Ms. S is shy. And her life is severely affected by her shyness.

In humans, shyness is the feeling of apprehensiveness or lack of confidence experienced in regard to social associations with others. It is most likely to occur during unfamiliar situations hindering the individual to achieve the best and disrupting the interpersonal relationship. Shy individuals avoid objects of their apprehension. Shyness may fade with time, for example the child who is shy with strangers may lose these traits as he grows older, becoming more socially adaptable and integrated.

Humans experience shyness to different degrees and arenas. For example, an actor may be loud and bold on stage but shy at an interview session. Shyness may manifest when one is in the company of certain people but may disappear when with happy, jovial and outgoing friends. Some people experience ‘love shyness’ towards potential partners. Instinctive behavioural traits in social situation, such as smiling, a relaxed position, eye contact etc., which comes spontaneously for some, may be alien to the shy.

Sometimes the term shyness is implemented as a blanket term for a family of related and partially overlapping afflictions, just like assertiveness, general fear of potential interactions and objects which give fear due to low self confidence.

Constant and severe shyness may reduce the quality of a person’s life activity and achievements. It may also reduce opportunities to develop or practice social skills.

Low self esteem

Shy persons may have increased feelings of loneliness, unimportance and reduced self esteem. They also have an incredibly reduced ability to reach full potential because of the fear of being critically judged by others. Most of the shy persons may have high anxiety level and may evidence embarrassing physical effects such as blushing, stammering and trembling.

Shyness has some positive aspects too. Sometimes persons with shyness may be well at school, behave well and may not get into trouble, may listen attentively to others and are easily manageable at home and workplace.

Some of the causes of the shyness are: Genetic: Inherited or genetic make-up; Personality: Emotional sensitiveness and easy intimidation and Learned behaviour: Learning from parents by imitating, and accepting shy role models; Family relations: Attachment to their parents or who have experienced inconsistent care and affection; Lack of social interactions: Due to being isolated from others; Harsh criticism: Scolding or bullying by significant persons and Fear of failure: By being pushed to too many matters and capabilities.

It is true that shyness robs one off opportunities, but it may not prevent them from achieving goals. Some of the shy historical celebrities are Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Thomas Edison and Thomas Jefferson. Similarly Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Henry Fonda, Ingrid Bergman, Neil Armstrong, Richard Gere and Sir Alec Guinness were all shy but good entertainers.

Albert Ellis, credited with the development of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and author of A Guide to Rational Living was a shy person, but one who was noted for his colourful language coupled with an independent thinking and wide knowledge. Authors like Agatha Christie, George Bernard Shaw, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Robert Frost etc. were all outstanding writers but with remarkable shyness.

If a person’s shyness is especially debilitating he can consider professional help from a counsellor or a clinical psychologist. Treatment options include stress management, relaxation strategy, affirmation, social skill training and at times medication too.

DR. C. P. SOMASUNDARAM

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