Shyness is Nice, and Shyness Can Stop You… From Doing All the Things in Life You’d Like To
Have you ever been at a social gathering and had the impulse to speak to someone, but felt frozen and unable to make that first move or say that first word? Do you find your mouth filling with marbles every time you attempt to speak your mind? Do you possess a leonine confidence about certain accomplishments, but when you attempt to articulate them are instead overtaken by your inner mouse?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be suffering, along with 40% of the population, from an affliction which has garnered much scientific attention. In fact, shyness has affected the lives of so many people that an institute has been founded in its honor. The Southeast Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University has, under the direction of Dr. David Carducci, conducted much research on the causes of and treatments for shyness.
Not surpisingly, Dr. Carducci did, himself, suffer from this form of social paralysis and admits that it is something that he still “works at.”
While those who are shy may be perceived as having low self-esteem or confidence, this is actually not the case. In fact, Carducci points out, shy people can exhibit extreme confidence in certain areas.
So what does cause one to stand on the sidelines, all tied up in knots and frozen stiff? There’s still much hypothesizing and theorizing about what causes one to retreat into his or her shell, but Carducci and others seem to agree on one thing: shy people have a heightened awareness of themselves, which some may call self-consciousness, others self-centered fear. “Shy people,” says Carducci, “operate as if they have a mirror in front of them all the time.”
“Negative self-preoccupation,” as he calls it, most likely evolves sometime after 18 months of age. However, there has also been research, he states, showing that genetics also may play a role, with 15 percent of infants displaying an “inhibited temperament.”
Some researchers believe that, while this inhibited way of being might evolve from bad childhood experiences, those experiences might have actually been far from abusive in and of themselves. That is, the minds of children often exaggerate an event into something of monstrous proportions. That person who inadvertently interrupted you when you were seven might have grown into a veritable villain in your mind. That villainous presence is then projected onto the cute girl or guy, or the prospective boss, causing you to seize up again and again.
Repeating the behavior only reinforces it. So what’s the solution? Not repeating the behavior. Okay… and just what does that mean? Slow, repeated exposure to new behaviors is how Carducci explains it. For example, he says, engage yourself in new social situations, little by little. This can be done through volunteering or by having a short conversation with someone new. The point is to take contrary action and to do so in a slow and steady fashion.
Since those who are shy tend to stay within the parameters of their very limited comfort zone, the key is to push beyond those boundaries. Another method is to engage in relaxation techniques such as meditation, since shyness is often borne out of intense anxiety.
After such actions the brain can actually be rewired so that your authomatic response to social situations is not one of fear and loathing, but perhaps actually one of enthusiasm.