Some of the World's Greatest were Shy

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Shyness does not equal low self-esteem. You can be shy and extraordinarily successful. There are many examples of that in our society. Shyness does not have to become an exercise in self-criticism or an excuse for self-exile form the social mainstream.

Fifty percent of people describe themselves as shy and many more have been shy at some time in their lives. This means that once shy is not forever shy. A shy person is not always and everywhere shy. You may be shy in one situation but not others.

Identify the type of people who make you shy. Is it the strangers, familiar people, men, women, children, or boss that makes you really uncomfortable? Identify the situations in which shyness creates problems for you. Is it talking to co-workers, speaking in a group, eating in a social lunch, or promoting your business that makes it tough for you?

All shy people were not born that way. It is estimated that only 20% of babies are born with an "inhibited" temperament, but, as mentioned earlier, 50% of people say they are shy. Therefore, we can say that shyness is acquired, at least, in 30% of the cases. What is acquired can be modified.

A baby who is born with an inhibited temperament, will not necessarily grow into a shy adult. Having an inhibited temperament only indicates that one is predisposed to be shy. But individuals first develop certain thinking and behavioral patterns before they become characteristically shy.

Many people believe that shyness controls their lives and that shyness is more powerful than they are. They are mistaken. You really are more powerful than your shyness. If you believe this, you can change your shyness. Shyness affects millions of Americans and many of them have good control over their lives. They can admit to others that they are shy; they are aware that they are not the only shy people in the world; they do not regard shyness as some form of mental disorder or a character flaw; they love what they do. they go to retreats and workshops and participate in small groups where gradually, over time, they begin to feel comfortable with themselves and many others.

Not all are overtly shy. Some feel shy on the inside but don’t show it. From outside, others may even see them as extroverted and at ease while socializing with others. They have learned to be outgoing as long as they are in a controlled environment. Outside their controlled environment, they may develop such shy behaviors as becoming tongue-tied, blushing, or stammering. Some people occasionally get into a "shy mood" and act shyly, but once the mood passes, they return to a more comfortable state. Only 20% of people feel constantly shy or report experiencing shyness at least once a day.

Some couples, with one of the spouse being shy, work as a team. For example, when a couple attends or hosts a party, the outgoing and supportive spouse initiates conversation and gets the party going, which helps the shy spouse to take his or her time to warm up.

Some feel shy during certain periods of their lives, usually, when they leave one phase and enter into another. Therefore, some people report acting and feeling shy when they leave home and enter college, divorce and start dating, or when starting a new job. The additional stress of a new situation raises their stress level but once the newness wears off, they don’t feel shy.

You can be in control of your life and live fully. If you have a severe problem such as a social phobia, seek professional help. If your problem is moderate, the following suggestions can help you. Don’t get stuck with what appears impossible just now. Accept that sometimes you will feel shy. Develop strategies that will get you through the rough times. Don’t feel bad about being shy. Identify your strength. Many shy people are good at writing, singing, stage performance, and, yes, even speaking at large public gathering.

Many shy individuals have unreasonably high expectations of themselves. For example, they may be unhappy with themselves because they are not exactly the life of the party. When people have unrealistic expectations of themselves, they become overly critical of their own performance and are unable to relax in a social setting.

Don’t compare yourself with the grand performers because that would only make you more self-critical and more nervous about your performance. Compare yourself with people who are like you. Make rational choices regarding social settings and the extent to which you should participate. For example, instead of saying to yourself, "If I can’t charm the crowd, I’ll just give up." Go there and link up with others who also feel a little out of place in such a gathering. If a loud party is not your cup of tea, becoming a hermit is not the only alternative. You have a choice to visit a friend or invite someone to a coffee shop.

Some of the most successful and famous people happen to be shy. Robert Frost, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bob Dole, Albert Gore, Barbara Walters, Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Princess Diana and many others have identified themselves as shy.

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 


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