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Why shy? It’s in the persona

Portrait of shy young man closing covering his face with hands and hoody can't see, hiding. Antisocial and negative human emotion facial expression feeling reaction

Portrait of shy young man closing covering his face with hands and hoody can't see, hiding. Antisocial and negative human emotion facial expression feeling reaction  

What people will think of you when you fail becomes your internal demon

Hollywood legend Al Pacino said, “I’m so shy, now I wear sunglasses anywhere I go.” Shyness commonly stems from insecurity or a kind of fear about what one is capable of. Introversion and shyness overlap but are distinct. Both include a fear of social judgment. Shy people want to connect with others but don’t know how and cannot withstand the anxiety that comes with human interaction.

Some see shyness as a character defect, but Philip Zimbardo of Stanford University, a world expert on shyness, describes it as an index of social pathology rather than an individual pathology. While the extremely shy are recommended professional help, the sensitive, the prudent and the careful are often respected and valued in society.

In the genes

Some genes may make it more likely for shyness to develop but often a combination of inherited genes and learned behaviour from life experiences are thought to be the causes. For those with a specific genetic vulnerability, life experiences and seeing how others handle their shyness will shape the outcome. Shyness occurs more as a reaction to certain situations than as a personality trait. And anything learned can be unlearned. But shyness can ruin opportunities without one realising it. When we keep our thoughts and opinions to ourselves, we may be suppressing a thousand loud feelings.

It is a paradoxical truth that while confidence is silent, insecurities are loud. Shyness can also be egoism out of its depth. Believing how we look and perform are important to others is a tinge of narcissism. Shy people worry that others are looking at them and noticing what they do. They dislike being introduced to others, find it hard to go to shops, restaurants and crowded places and are unable to be assertive even when they need to be. They become particularly anxious if they have to get up and talk or perform because they fear making a fool of themselves in public. They try to foresee possible points of embarrassments that could happen before the event and afterwards they mentally analyse to see how they could have done things differently.

Shyness is a common kind of mild social anxiety disorder (previously termed “social phobia”). Typical symptoms include dry mouth, sweating, pounding heart, palpitations, wanting to pass water or open bowels and numbness with pins and needles in fingers and toes. More visible are the blushing, stammering and trembling and the whole thing can culminate in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Shyness (aka diffidence) became officially recognised as a psychiatric disorder in the U.S. in 1980, when the FDA licensed advertisement of a serotonin-elevating drug for shyness. But some experts caution against use of medication.

What people will think of you when you fail becomes your internal demon. Even when hiding deep-seated insecurities, there is nowhere to hide when shyness-induced fear hits. One solution is to remember to ask ourselves if this is the best we can do right now and get help to build an internal compass to guide towards a better self-image.

docgjohn@aol.com

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 1:05:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/why-shy-its-in-the-persona/article30829739.ece

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