The Misery of Shyness
Shyness is the cause of much unhappiness for a great many people. All kinds of people describe themselves as shy: short, tall, dull, intelligent, young, old, slim, overweight. Shy people are anxious and self-conscious; that is, they are excessively concerned with their own appearance and actions. Worrisome thoughts are constantly swirling in their minds: What kind of impression am I making? Do they like me? Do I sound stupid? I'm ugly. I'm wearing unattractive clothes.
It is obvious that such uncomfortable feelings must affect people adversely. A person's self-concept is reflected in the way he or she behaves, and the way a person behaves affects other people's reactions. In general, the way people think about themselves has a profound effect on all areas of their lives. For instance, people who have a positive sense of self worth or high self-esteem usually act with confidence. Because they have self-assurance, they do not need constant praise and encouragement from others to feel good about themselves. Self-confident people are their own best friends. They participate in life enthusiastically and spontaneously. They are not affected by what others think they “should” do. People with high self-esteem are not hurt by criticism; they do not regard criticism as personal rejection. Instead, they view criticism as suggestion for improvement.
In contrast, shy people, having low self-esteem, are likely to be passive and easily influenced by others. They need reassurance that they are doing “the right thing”. Shy people are very sensitive to criticism; they feel it confirms their inferiority. They also find it difficult to be pleased by compliments because they believe they are unworthy of praise. A shy person may respond to a compliment with a statement like this one, “You're just saying that to make me feel good. I know it's not true”. It is clear that, while self-awareness is a healthy quality, overdoing it is detrimental, or harmful.
Can shyness be completely eliminated, or at least reduced ? Fortunately, people can overcome shyness with determined and patient effort in building self-confidence. Since shyness goes hand in hand with a lack of self-esteem, it is important for people to accept their weaknesses as well as their strengths. For example, most people would like to be “A” students in every subject. It is not fair for them to label themselves inferior because they have difficulty in some areas. People's expectations of themselves must be realistic. Dwelling on the impossible leads to a sense of inadequacy, and even feelings of envy, or jealousy. We are self-destructive when we envy a student who gets better grades.
If you are shy, here are some specific helpful steps toward building self-confidence and overcoming shyness:
1. Recognize your personal strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has both.
As self acceptance grows, shyness naturally diminishes.
2. Set reasonable goals. For example, you may be timid about being with a group of strangers at a party. Don't feel that you must converse with everyone. Concentrate on talking to only one or two people. You will feel more comfortable.
3. Guilt and shame are destructive feelings. Don't waste time and energy on them. Suppose you have hurt someone's feelings. Feeling ashamed accomplishes nothing. Instead, accept the fact that you have made a mistake, and make up your mind to be more sensitive in the future.
4. There are numerous approaches to all issues. Few opinions are completely right or wrong. Don't be afraid to speak up and give your point of view.
5. Do not make negative comments about yourself. This is a form of self rejection. Avoid describing yourself as stupid, ugly, worthless, a failure. Accent the positive.
6. Accept criticism thoughtfully. Do not interpret it as a personal attack. If, for example, a friend complains about your cooking, accept it as a comment on your cooking, not yourself. Be assured that you are the same good friend; perhaps your cooking could improve.
7. Remember that everyone experiences some failures and disappointments.
Profit from them as learning experiences. Very often a disappointment becomes a turning point for a wonderful experience to come along. For instance, you may be rejected by the college of your choice. However, at the college you actually attend, you may find a quality of education beyond what you had expected.
8. Do not associate with people who make you feel inadequate. Try to change their attitude or yours, or remove yourself from that relationship. People who hurt you do not have your best interests at heart.
9. Set aside time to relax, enjoy hobbies, and reevaluate your goals on a regular basis. Time spent this way helps you learn more about yourself.
10. Practice being in social situations. Don't isolate yourself from people. Try making one acquaintance at a time; eventually you will circulate in large groups with skill and self-assurance.
Each one of us is a unique, worthwhile individual. We are interesting in our own personal ways. The better we understand ourselves, the easier it becomes to live up to our full potential. Let's not allow shyness to block our chances for a rich and fulfilling life.
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