Shyness is usually associated with being quiet, insecure, and/or socially anxious. Being shy is not always a bad thing. We can all feel shy from time to time and so it is alright to feel a little uncomfortable in new situations and with new people.
You can still be shy and achieve your goals. Shyness does not have to rule your life, it can be overcome.
What causes shyness?
Some people are born more shy than others. Sometimes you can grow out of shyness and sometimes it can stay with you. Shyness is generally associated with new situations and can often pass. For example, your first day at school or starting in a new job when you don’t know anyone. Over time you might start to make friends and your shyness might start to go away as you become more comfortable and confident in your new situation.
Here are some situations you might find yourself being shyer in than others:
- public speaking eg class presentations
- speaking to someone of the opposite sex
- meeting new people
- eating and drinking in public
- talking to someone important eg your boss
- job interviews.
Signs of shyness
How you might behave:
- quietly and passively
- avoiding eye contact
- avoiding social situations
- speaking quietly
- nervous behaviours, such as touching your hair or face a lot.
What you might feel physically:
- fast heart beat
- dry mouth
- feeling faint or dizzy
- butterflies in your stomach or feeling sick
- feeling like the situation is unreal or you are removed from it
- fear of losing control, going crazy, or having a heart attack.
What you might think:
- negative thoughts about yourself, the situation, and others
- wanting to be perfect to avoid judgment
- blaming and beating yourself up, particularly after a social situation
- believing yourself as weak and others as powerful
- thinking ‘I don’t fit in’ or ‘I’m unattractive’ and so on.
What you might be feeling:
- low self-esteem
Blushing and sweating
When you are feeling shy or embarrassed in a social situation or any of the situations mentioned above, you might find yourself blushing or sweating more than usual. It is possible also to blush for no apparent reason. In embarrassing or stressful situations, the fight or flight response is activated, which releases extra adrenaline into the bloodstream, meaning that more blood rushes to your face, neck and ears. Anxiety and nervousness can cause you to sweat more on your face or under your arms.
These physical displays of embarrassment, shyness and/or nervousness are often more noticeable to you than to others. You may also think that people are going to judge you and think that you are weak or dishonest by blushing or sweating, however others often see just see you as being shy or nervous (and sometimes think it’s cute!).
Sometimes breathing can help to reduce the symptoms of blushing, see relaxation for information on breathing techniques.
Self-esteem and confidence
Building your self-esteem and confidence can often help reduce shyness in some situations. Low self-esteem can influence the way you behave with other people and it might hold you back from new experiences because you become overly concerned with the possibility of failure or looking stupid.
There are ways of building your self-esteem like challenging your negative self-talk. Focusing on your good qualities helps to build your confidence/esteem. Knowing that no one is better and no one is perfect may help in these scary social situations.
Can shyness be serious?
Sometimes being shy can impact on your life. You might find that you avoid social situations or new people because you are too shy and sometimes you may feel afraid to do simple things like asking someone a question or avoiding taking the bus because you don’t like everyone looking at you. If you feel that your shyness is impacting on your life, have a look at the social anxiety and meeting new people.
What can you do?
It can be really useful to talk to someone if you feel that your shyness is keeping you from doing things that you want to do. Consider talking to your family, friends or a counsellor.
Here are some tips that can help you start to overcome your shyness:
Prepare a conversation topic
Thinking about what you might talk about with new people can really help the conversation and any awkward feelings. It helps to pick a topic you know a lot about and feel confident talking about.
Smile and be friendly
You are more likely to be friendly to someone who smiles at you, so try it yourself. Opening yourself up to people can make them feel more comfortable and more likely to be friendly in response.
Practice social skills
Start practicing your social skills one at a time. Try smiling at someone or saying ‘hi’, and keep practicing at home until you feel confident to try it out in a social situation. Then you can move onto something else like trying to keep eye contact during a conversation.
Worst case scenarios
It may help to run through some of the worse things that could happen, so you could wonder how you would handle stumbling over your words when giving a class presentation or dropping your drink at a party. Thinking about some of the worst things that could happen may help you realise they aren’t that bad and would also prepare you for these situations if they were to happen.
‘I’m a bit shy’
Letting other people know that you’re shy can sometimes make the situation more comfortable. People are generally understanding, caring and patient, so they will help support you.
It really helps to tell yourself you did really well after you have been in a situation. It’s also important to remember that sometimes things can go wrong and you should look at the things that did go well, like the fact that you tried.
What can you do if your friend is shy?
If you know someone who’s shy, try to help the person feel less nervous. Think about how it feels for you when you’re feeling shy. You can even try telling them about a time that you felt shy. It will help them to understand that everyone feels shy sometimes.