Overcoming Shyness: Being Brave and Sharing My Story

Posted by on April 15, 2012

I describe myself in the About Me section of my site using many adjectives.  You will notice that “shy” isn’t one of them.  I have a confession to make: I used to be extremely shy and still am sometimes.

I am shy when I am in some social situations, as are the majority of individuals.  More than 90% of the world’s population have been shy during some form of social interaction.  My shyness occurs when I am in unfamiliar groups.  The initial meeting is difficult for me; however, once I start talking to the people in the group, I am no longer shy.  I am very comfortable around people who I know well and most would call me an extrovert.

Photo Credit: Arianna’s Random Thoughts

When I entered my teenage years, I became extremely shy. Three key moments resonate with me:

  1. I had a very difficult time approaching men who I really liked and when I decided that I liked someone (even if we were good friends before), I would stop talking to them (kind of defeats the purpose).

  2. My school work was affected a bit, because I would not raise my hand to ask questions or go to the teacher for help until I felt comfortable.

  3. I had a hard time performing in public as I didn’t want to be judged negatively.  I took supportive roles rather than lead ones. I didn’t want to stand out. I didn’t want the attention.

Individuals think that shy people are quiet.  This is not true for me; as many people know, I love to talk and to share. My shyness does not mean that I am inadequate in any way or that I lack skills or talent. Rather, it only means that I have a hard time sharing what I hold on the inside.

When I enter a situation for the first time, I have a hard time speaking up until I feel comfortable in that setting.    Some may mistake my lack of speaking as an indication that I have nothing to contribute. That isn’t the case at all; I have A LOT to contribute, I just do not feel comfortable enough initially to speak up.

But, I am overcoming this issue; and I won’t let this barrier – shyness –  prevent me from getting involved with other people. Since I have been talking about overcoming obstacles on my blog, I thought I would share this obstacle that has been prominent in my life.

As Philip Zimbardo (1977, p.12)states “shyness can be “a mental barrier as crippling as the most severe of physical barriers, as its consequences can be devastating:

  • Shyness makes it difficult to meet new people, make friends, or enjoy potentially good experiences.

  • It prevents you from speaking up for your rights and expressing your own opinion and values.

  • Shyness limits positive evaluations by others of your personal strengths.

  • It encourages self-consciousness and an excessive preoccupation with your own reactions.

  • Shyness makes it hard to think clearly and communicate effectively.

  • Negative feelings like depression, anxiety, and loneliness typically accompany shyness.”

Photo Credit: Katrina Barber. Taken at Camosun College. Fall 2008.

Photo Credit: Katrina Barber. Taken at Camosun College. Fall 2008.

People can become anxious in a new social environment, myself included.  Failure to fit into the group can be damaging to one’s identity. Shyness (a.k.a. social anxiety) is a common personality trait whereby people feel scared and nervous when in gatherings with others. I have friends who, when I tell them I used to be shy, they just laugh at me.  They cannot believe that the woman they see standing in front of them is quiet and reserved.  Some people think that if a person is shy, this means that they are introverted and do not like people.  However, as shown above, I am not an introvert. Introverts try to avoid interactions with others because they would rather be by themselves; however, shy people avoid social interactions only due to their anxiety.  I like to interact with people, but I sometimes lack the courage to do so because the social situation is unfamiliar.Being shy should not be viewed as a negative trait. These individuals lack the confidence (temporarily) to interact with other people.  They may have self-doubt about themselves and think that others will judge them negatively.  As a result, shy people tend to worry about what others think of them (i.e., they focus too much on the critics) and let this belief influence their thoughts and behaviours.  Shy people really want to have friends and to be social; however, they have a barrier that holds them back from achieving these aims.

“Shyness has a strange element of narcissism, a belief that how we look, how we perform, is truly important to other people.” – Andre Dubus

(c) KGOODPHOTO

That is why I think it’s important to share your story, to not be silent, and to speak. I had my voice taken away from me for a long time because I cared too much about the critics. Now, I’m getting my voice back. I have realized I need to get out there and not let this barrier hold me back. Each of us has only one life to live.I encourage you to dig deep in all of your relationships and to not be afraid to speak up and show the world what you hold inside.  These are two of the most important lessons I have learned in my life so far.

Feel free to share your experiences about shyness or the life lessons you have learned. Looking forward to hearing what you have to say!

Thank you for reading and your presence at this beach retreat. You Rock! I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below.

See you at the beach!

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16 Responses to Overcoming Shyness: Being Brave and Sharing My Story

  1. ameliaclaire92

    Beautiful post. Though it has been one heck of an emotional journey, I’m in the process of sharing my story, and it has been such an incredible experience. :)

  2. pjgracecommunity

    I receive the fact that shyness is linked to narcissistism , which I’m dealing with at home , what’s the best way to relate to a family member like that ?

    • ariannasrandomthoughts

      I actually don’t know as my battle isn’t linked with narcissism. I just used the quote because it could seem like it is, but in my case it isnt. I did find an article on the Psychology Today site – that might help. http://www.psychologytoday.com/collections/201203/my-toxic-friends/talking-narcissist – Let me know what you think.

    • John

      The thing about shyness and narcissism, is that it is only related to narcissism to the point that the person is only thinking of their own self when they try to related to others. A person becomes inward looking because they really want to know what they can change about themselves to make other people like them or love them, or why other people always seem to dislike them. I don’t think that it is that they place any more importance on themselves then another person in fact some of the kindest people I know are shy, you just have to talk to them for it to come out. They may not even be thinking these things as words in their head, only as worries in the back of their head.

      Taking it one big step further a social anxious (S.A) person (or an extreme case of shiness) often has made a negitive self image of themselves which they reflect on to other peoples thoughts. Ie “you are going to hate or dislike me for these reasons because everyone else does.” The more you want a certin person to like you, the more you are going to worry about it. Also they might create an ideal image of everyone else as being normal or great. Three shy people can get together and feel the other two are normal and they are the odd ball.

      Also a S.A. person tends to be more sensitive to people’s negetive emotions which they then make assumptions about that those feelings in relation to themselves and their negetive self picture. A person could just be having a bad day and doesn’t feel like talking to anybody but if they don’t tell that to the shy person that they are having a conversation with, they may just think “hey this person’s negative additude just confirms what my feelings are about what they think of me.” And see it as a reason to avoid that person, to keep quiet, to be even more nice, or all three. And when a person shows them love or a great kindiness they will either wonder about the person’s moditives or just think that this is a really nice person or that the person has to for some made up reason. Maybe never relating the kindess as the other person actually liking them. The person may just feel unlovable. The worst part about this is that other people feel this anxiety, worry, or fear in the shy person and don`t know how to deal with it so they too avoid them or have short conversations. So the very actions of the shy person further seems to seperate them from other people.

      When a person who happens to be shy or S.A. learns to step out of themselves, to observe other people and sees what they (The shy person) think actually think about other people on a daily bases and relate that to maybe how other people may actually see themselves, then it becomes easier for the anxous person to realise that they and their actions may not be as glaring as they think. Not being a concillor or anything, but being someone who has S.A., I think the best thing to help a shy person is first to have patience with the person, befriend them, be more open and honest with them then you might a none shy person (they are probably craving closeness anyway), accept that you might have to be the one to start things and then help them see the postive things that you see in them and that they may actually have a lot to give other people.. This would be the hardest part because you will be fighting the image they they hold close. The other part is coming from a parent the message is often lost in the `your my parent, you have to say these things’. If a person is more then your little shy at a meeting people and has trouble meeting anybody then councilling may their best bet but also going to be the hardest thing at the start because they will be shy with the concillor but it seems that the sooner a person who is developing S.A. get help the more likely that you can head off the worse symptoms.

  3. Tara Jacek

    You are not alone because I am the same way! We are a lot alike. :)

    I’ve had moments were being shy so bad I couldn’t answer emails. I was afraid of what the person would think of me just from a few words in an email.

    I’ve sat by myself at lunch, in the corner in classes, left networking events…etc from being too shy. I’m still very shy but I’m not as shy as I used to be. One day, things just clicked. I went through a horrible break-up and that threw me out into the world more. I had to do more things on my own.

    I try to remind myself what I said when I asked my current boyfriend out, “I can either sit on this couch and wait – possibly miss an opportunity or I can get up, go find the guy and just ask him out and know right now if he likes me or not. Or wait.” I couldn’t stand the thought of waiting! I try and fit that to any situation I could be in where I feel shy – being shy is preventing me from doing something and maybe missing out.

    People say I’m quite, not shy. I’ve had people say I was rude or focused because I’m standoffish. Maybe a little of everything (expect for, hopefully, rude!). I like to listen and take everything in.

    I’m still shy and I still consider myself a shy person but overcoming a few situations of shy is being than none!

  4. John

    Thanks for your article and I though I would share my story. I was a wild, out going kid who able to make friends with everyone and anyone. Then I went through bad social and physical bullying in Public School to the point that I could not trust my close friends or even family to keep from bulling me. It was just the in thing to do. I became, at first, weary of my classmates and then other people. It was easier to hide or shy away then put up with the taunting or phycial bullying. As a teen, I developed Social Anxiety out of the loneliness and the terrible desire of wanting to fit in and could not understanding why I did not fit in with anyone so I came up with reasons why I was an outsider looking in. Like it was because: I was a nerd; I never had anything interesting to say; I was ugly; I couldn’t do anything right; there was nothing worth while in me. These where sometimes words in my head but more often just feelings that I could not escape. The more I wanted to be with people, the more anxous I would get. So when my shyness and anxiety made the other people uncomfortable, pushing them away, it would just comfirm my thoughts about myself and increase my fear of making mistakes with people whom I liked or wanted to like. So making close friendships is hard as I wait for other people to show signs of acceptance first before I would be willing to make myself. But then any signs that people may give off, I can never tell if it is just the person being force by social convention to be nice, or if they would actually be interested in being a friend. All along I just thought that I was normally shy. Now in my early thirties, it has taken a long time to see how my anxiety was as much to blame for my loneliness and my failure to live up to my dreams as anything else external I could blame. And I have started to change myself through things like councilling and the help of friends but it is a long process to believe that no really see me the way I feel they must. Because that was how I felt and still feel in many ways about myself.

  5. pjgracecommunity

    I just read the psychology today it was
    Very enlighting , it seem like anything in life there are mild or extreme symptoms , let me take a deep breath !
    But as it was said a lot of patients is required and expect little from some with this condition
    But I learnt from John , we don’t know the deep psychological beliefs such a person has about themselves that where the patients needs to come in
    Well thanks you guys I’ll definitely keep up with psychology today

    • ariannasrandomthoughts

      Yeah it really is interesting. Actually you have given me an idea for a post about narcissism. Thanks for inspiring me! Keep checking back – I will write it sometime next week. So true though that like anything in life there is a scale from mild to extreme. Take a deep breath, know you aren’t alone and that others are going through similar situations. It is important to reach out and ask for help. Thanks for sharing yours on here. Its brave of you :)

  6. Alycia

    I’m gone to say to my little brother, that he should also pay a visit this blog on regular basis to get
    updated from most up-to-date news.

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