Pass the Torch-Decode Your Shyness

Pass the Torch , Decode Your Shyness
By Ghaythaa Deeb
Co-founder of IFbooks 30.4.2016

The monster that lies outside and you call it “the other’s judgment on me ” will diminish until it disappears when you boost your confidence and shed light on the shyness and diffidence that you suffer from . As there is a significant percentage of people that suffer from shyness , many scholars and experts tried to explain and discover more about shyness also a lot of researches & studies have been made following different methods to solve it as a problem , interestingly , there are varying results have been reached that define shyness , list it’s causes and the different cultures attitude towards it .

There are lots of definitions for shyness , some of them attributed it to psychological, physiological or social factors. Generally speaking shyness refers to an emotional state that could be experienced by anyone of us in some awkward situations and in most cases it affects our behavior and leaves us with uncomfortable and negative feelings, Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology defines Shyness as ” an emotional state is considered by some researchers to be universal, a blend of fear and interest, and adaptive in evolution. ” Some believe that we only show spontaneous reaction but in fact these changes could be a reflection of what is beyond spontaneity since shy people may develop a certain mechanism and it becomes under their conscious control , more than this they develop it to be a lifestyle .A professor at Stanford University, Zimbardo who published several books about this topic said “The point is that we don’t see the extremes of shyness, because when shy people are effective in doing what they do, they hide it, they conceal themselves and they become anonymous. What happens is that you develop a whole lifestyle around that.” Thus the shy persons start to build a bubble and live in it to protect and defend themselves from the outer world ” You can choose an occupation that does not involve a lot of socializing and you can arrange your life to limit your human contact “ (Observer ,1996) .In this meaning shyness will lead to depression and in this case people who describe it as a desirable trait should know more about it , it’s causes and how to manage solutions before it becomes a serious problem can’t be cured .

Genetic , environment , personal experience could be the causes of shyness .According to a 2003 study in the journal Science, the differences in children temperament and personality may be related to differences in brain structure . However , when shy person responds sensitively towards the opposite sex , towards strangers ,being embarrassed in some situations then shyness is strongly connected to the person perception about himself within the social context including his/her over-thinking of being judged by others or looking ridiculous and that will be accompanied with unpleasant changes at different levels ” cognitive (e.g., excessive negative self-evaluation), affective (e.g., heightened negative emotion), physiological (e.g., racing heart), and behavioral (e.g., failure to respond appropriately”( Zimbardo and Carducci 2010 ) . Obviously ,this perception about oneself is incomplete as it is limited to negative aspects only and related to an excessive self-focus of each behavior and fear of other’s reaction , opinion and judgment .This fear from the interaction consequences with others comes from the experience acquired through years and built our personality , in this regard ,
shyness could become better or worse according to the upbringing that we receive and the surrounding that we live in and affect our personality ,even though ;few researches related shyness to genetic causes , for example , when a child raised within a family rarely interact with each other , avoiding meeting face-to-face with other people and sunken in their smart phones then this child is more likely to become shy and he/she will avoid social interaction in the future . “a person can become shy not because of inadequacies or fears of rejection, but because they are not learning basic social skills and not interacting with other people.”Zimbardo . Similar to writing , reading and talking languages , social skills are habits acquired by learning and practice and children should be encouraged , guided and supported to enhance self–esteem and develop social skills otherwise children could suffer from social isolation in the future . “Therefore good social relations may serve as a protective against depression among shy people” (Cheek and Buss 1981, Joiner 1977). Anxiety disorder , fear , social phobia all associated with shyness as a problem that needs to be solved from an early age by taking the hand of shy children and walk with them towards the light , moreover , we should encourage shy adults as well to be active members in the social life . In spite of all of these negative effects of shyness , it includes good aspects at various levels

Modesty & Shyness almost merge and become one thing especially in Eastern cultures where shyness indicates politeness according to the customs & traditions and in this case it becomes part of the social system that followed in theses societies , for example , in Eastern Asia & Arab countries you have to choose an appropriate behavior when you are dealing with elderly, authority, and opposite sex . The signs of shyness such as looking down , lowered head and avoid talking in some topics encouraged and praised in many of Eastern societies . Boivin, Hymel and Bukowski (1995) found that by early adolescence, in Western society, shy individuals are aware that they are lacking social skills and friendship with peers and often become lonely and depressed. In more collectivist societies like China reticent and quiet children receive encouragement and praise from teachers and parents (Ho, 1986) . Furthermore , in some cultures shy people considered quit , kind and reasonable , but other cultures or societies that esteem extremely confident and outgoing individuals eliminate shy ones considering them whether week or arrogant . In The Rewards of Being Shy , Science Now Daily News Michael Hochman write “shy people may be quit , but there’s a lot going on in their heads” as the findings of a research by the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, showed that shy children have increased activity in the reward system of the brain .Brian Knutson, a psychologist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California said because shy children appear to be more sensitive to winning and losing, they may experience emotions more strongly than others, putting them at risk for emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression. On the flip side, shy children may experience positive emotions such as success very strongly, helping them succeed (ScienceNow,13 Jun 2006) .
The positive attitude towards shy persons in some cultures may prevent shyness from turning into a serious problem as well as the increased sensitivity of shy people makes them exceeds their peers in the response to certain stimuli and that gives them the feeling of happiness and satisfaction .

Identifying shyness, its causes and the different cultures attitude towards it may help us to understand it more and manage the best ways to overcome shyness before it becomes a serious problem or a psychiatric disorder . Shyness may have positive aspects , but when shy people avoid society , fear from expressing themselves and have negative self-judgment , they deprive themselves from developing their ways of thinking , behaving and learning within the social context which they are part of it in addition to that their mental health will be affected .It is mixed by many that the alternative of shyness is insolence , lacking of ethics and sense of humanity ; in fact it is not a good suggestion to find an alternative rather working on improving and developing the social skills and enhance self-esteem in shy persons to be more confidant , express themselves and overcome their shyness .

Henderson, L., Zimbardo, P. and Carducci, B. 2010. Shyness.
Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–3.
Observer Vol.9,No.4 July/August 1996
Henderson, L., Zimbardo, P. and Carducci, B. 2010. Shyness. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–3.
Jeremy W. Pettit . and Thomas Ellis Joiner ‘ 2005 . The Interpersonal Solution to Depression .
Dabie Nabuzoka & Janet M.Empson . Culture & Psychological Development . 2010
ScienceNow Daily News 13 June 2006


8 thoughts on “Pass the Torch-Decode Your Shyness

  1. I feel this article like if it was written for me 🙂
    I am a very shy person and I think my shyness back to our culture and the traditional habits of my around environment and in our society most people didn’t accept woman who acts in free way they encourage us to learn and work but just in womenly way and to work in women job like teaching or administrative jobs for example woman who works in writing many people don’t prefer or accept this type of woman personality because she’s a powerful woman who has independent thinking they may be afraid from her mind 🙂 these reasons and others may makes me a shy girl
    I think we should not listen to others talk , judgment,but at the end we can’t separate ourselves from the society and some people consider our politeness and shyness as a wake point I don’t know what to do to escape from this issue or this “dilemma ” but until I find the solution 🙂 I confess I am a shy person


    • Hi from the far east Asian country where shyness is regarded as a virtue haha. Dado, I don’t think you are so shy because you always tell us your own opinions clearly and simply. I love to read your comments.

      I could understand you especially young people and women have difficulty saying freely under your culture and environment. Remember, I have come to learn that knowledge is very helpful to leap out of the small world around us. 😉

      And Dado, perhaps it is not so bad to be shyness. It gives us more time to understand other people thoughtfully.


      • Hi ,Mami your comment makes me feel shy hhhh maybe my personalty behind the screen is different from the real life and my appearance may gives you the impression of a free woman but no i can assure to you i am really a shy person hhh
        but i can say that to be calm and shy person yes gives you the ability to understand people around you but Unfortunately It prevents you from doing the appropriate reactions in the right time


      • Sorry for my late reply, Dado I’ve had a bloodshot eye for a couple of days… 😥
        One of my friends has been struggling with “the appropriate reactions in the right time”. It’s serious for her especially during meeting or discussions. She couldn’t speak much and quickly but what she says was pregnant with meaning. She proved it patiently year by year. 🙂 Then colleagues tried to give her the chance to speak her opinions.

        BTW, if you miss the chance to speak something…how about write your thoughts/opinions/feelings on post it notes? We like to use them when we express our feelings with hand writing. You can find many lovely notes on the site. 🙂


  2. Interesting article Ghaythaa .. Thank you … Though it felt a little bit like considering shyness as a disease and these researchers are seeking a cure …
    In some cases I guess it might be ,, but in my opinion I consider it a choice as some people find it better for them not to deal with the outside world ,,, they sense it , understand it , but they chose not to be chocked by what they might consider it “it doesn’t have to be true” a scam , vicious, mean, untruth , double faced actions from the people out side their circle …
    But the solutions might be helpful when someone asks for help and they integrally decide they need to overcome this state ,..


  3. Interesting article, mental status is always complicated and there are small differences between a disease state and a normal or other disease state. Shyness is an evolutionary adaptation as mentioned, it might be a way for the person to know the surroundings more first in a protective way in order to know how to deal with them. Shyness depends on many factors, for example, if the people around you are strangers you might be shy but if they are close to you then you will act differently.
    Alcohol and some drugs effect the electrical networks in the brain, alcohol makes people more daring!
    As the article says, it might be a combination of genetic and environmental factors that forms the personality.
    I love the brain, it is our most fascinating organ!


    • I like what you wrote that there are small differences between a disease state and a “normal” healthy state of mind. Opinions, views who is “a normal” and who is insane were changes during age and often depended on cultural context. On this subject interesting Mihael Foucault wrote in one of his books “Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason”…. Very hard to read but also very intresting book. Hmm. It comes to my mind also two movies about similar theme: “Girl, Interrupted” with Angelina Jole and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Miloš Forman with Jack Nicholson….


  4. Interesting article which gives to thinking… I like this part about modesty.
    In my intuition, according to the my sensitivity, my experience shyness often (but not always) has something common with modesty. And I must admit that I respect modest people. But of course everything should be balanced so, too much shyness is not good. Generally I like and I try to use Aristotle’s golden mean theory in my life.
    I’d like to add that the shyness is needed sometimes. It gives you time to think. Sometimes you think two times before you spontaneous do something stupid.. 🙂
    So please not demonize shyness too much 😉


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