Some people feel forced to be shy. Even while they know that their best interests will be provided by speaking out, they cannot bring themselves to do so. Shyness is particularly prevalent in the adolescent and young-adult years, while individuals are learning to make alterations to new roles and new self-expectations. The majority people outgrow these earlier symptoms of shyness, mainly as they learn roles proper to adult status. There are various individuals, however, who are so easily panicked by anxiety and self-doubt that they are not capable to develop more mature forms of behavior. As they are shy, they fail to live up to their own prospect in a group setting. As they brood over the humiliation resultant from such failures, they feel even more worthless and inadequate. This in turn deepens their feelings of inferiority and aggravates their shyness.

This “circular” type of relations is rather characteristic of the more anxious mechanisms. Although the individual employs the mechanism to evade or diminish anxiety, it succeeds only momentarily or partially. He then feels ashamed of his “weakness” in falling back on such a contemptible mechanism. The greater his guilt, the greater his anxiety, and the greater his anxiety, the greater the probability that he will use the mechanism.

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Shyness is not inevitably maladaptive. As a ephemeral fear of the unfamiliar, it may have a protecting function as it activates affection behavior. Shyness as retiring expressive behavior is not simply accepted as “feminine”, but might even assume flirtative qualities. Therefore, shyness might have quite diverse qualities in different social contexts, for different people (boys and girls in particular), and in different phases of development.

In 1896, Harry Campbell, a British physician, delivered a comprehensive report on what he termed “morbid shyness” to the British Medical Society. With mythical flair, he described the shy person this way: “His soul is full of love and song, but the world knows it not; the iron disguise of shyness is riveted before his face and the man beneath is never seen. Genial words and greetings are ever rising to his lips but they die away in unheard whispers before the steel clamps.” (Campbell 1986)

As full of understanding as this description appears to be, for many years the scientific community showed astonishingly little interest in shyness. Perhaps the shy and socially anxious were too thriving in their attempts to remain modest and nearly invisible. Even though over the years terms such as bashfulness, reticence, neuroticism, and withdrawal were used to explain social distress, little research literature focused on the roots or dynamics of shyness itself. conceivably, like the common cold, shyness has been mostly unobserved because it is so very common.

But in the seventies, science began to look at this indefinable concept, and as the self-help movement rushed throughout that decade, a variety of books appeared that espoused to the shy diverse ways of coping with their social discomforts. The writer most extensively known for bringing shyness into the public light was Philip Zimbardo.

In 1972, with colleagues, Zimbardo administered to more than ten thousand subjects the Stanford Shyness Survey. Forty percent of the subjects explained themselves as shy in some sense. while asked whether they had ever viewed themselves as shy, 80 percent reported they had, seventeen percent said they had never labeled themselves shy although felt they had had feelings of shyness in certain situations, and only one percent reported never having experienced shyness at all.(1982)

Zimbardo and his colleagues also examined other cultures and countries. They found that, compared to Americans, the Japanese and Taiwanese had a larger percentage of shy people (60 percent of the total population); at 30 percent of the total, Israel had the lowest. And in no culture did more than 10 percent of the respondents explain themselves as “never shy.” In attempting to describe the vague subjective term “shyness” with some precision, Zimbardo and his colleagues provided a useful breakdown of its basic components in four realms of subjective experience:

•          Cognitions–that is, thoughts, comprise perceptions of self-consciousness, concerns regarding impressions one is making on others, concerns about what others are thinking, and the person’s own pessimistic self-evaluations.

•          Affective states, or shy feelings, comprise the awareness of anxiety, feelings of distress, anxiety, embarrassment, and ineptness.

•          Physiological changes, such as increased pulse rate, blushing, perspiration, palpitations, trouble inhalation, and “butterflies in the stomach.”

•          Behavioral responses among males, comprise diminished talking and diminished eye contact, compared with nonshy males; and amongst females, high frequencies of head nodding and nervous smiling.

(Zimbardo, 1977).


Besides describing the skewed experience of shyness, Zimbardo and his group surveyed the adverse consequences of shyness as illustrated by their respondents. They reported that shyness forms social problems, making it hard to meet people, make friends, or enjoy potentially good experiences. It is linked with distasteful emotions such as depression, isolation, and loneliness. Shyness makes it firm to be forceful of or express personal opinions and values. It makes others view one pessimistically or fail to perceive one’s personal assets. It causes a person to be judged wrongly as snooty, unfriendly, bored, or weak. It obstructs with clear thinking or communicating. And it reason one to be self-conscious and extremely concerned with others’ reactions. In a distressing summation of the subjective experience of shyness, Zimbardo quotes numerous of his respondents in their eighties as longing “to have one non-shy day before they die.”

Zimbardo strongly believed that shyness was not a usual state that normal children grew out of but a considerable psychological phenomenon “that can have profound effects upon numerous aspects of the shy person’s life” and a major personal problem of major proportions. Zimbardo’s careful recognition of the components of shyness and his description of its unfavorable consequences allow us to begin to see how shyness is related to social phobia and how to differentiate between them.

Researchers have described the unfavorable consequences and disabling behaviors linked with the experience of shyness, no one has stabbed to measure the phenomenon. To shed light on this cloudy issue, it will assist to view shyness as a psychological continuum affecting between 25 and 40 percent of Americans. Within this continuum, we can recognize various levels of power and disability:


•          The greatest percentage of those experiencing shyness fall into the normal range.

•          About eight percent of those reporting shyness are what several researchers term “borderline” cases–that is, at times disabled by their shyness and sometimes not. Age has an impact too: over time shy people can become less so and nonshy people more so.

•          According to epidemiological research, about 2 percent of our population are socially phobic that is, severe enough to cause social impairment.

•          One more psychiatric category, called avoidant personality disorder, might represent the most troubled extreme of the continuum.


When we view the continuum all together, it is simple to see why the word “shyness” is often used chaotically by both lay and proficient people. To clarify, shyness is a type of social anxiety, while general social phobia is a more extreme form. As of the lack of precision about these terms, even much of the experiential research on shyness really focuses on social phobia.

Comparative studies in this field have served two purposes. They permit us to study the development of emotions under controlled conditions, so that the animal’s previous history is fully known (and verbal learning, of course, is not a complication). They also give perspective, and draw our thought to considerable relations that otherwise might not be seen, partially because the phenomena are so familiar. Fear of strangers so called shyness is usually present in the 6-to-12 month infant; fear of darkness, or imaginary things in the darkness, occurs in a large part of children, who experience them at one time or another after the age of 3 years; fear of undisruptive as well as harmful snakes is very nearly collective after the age of 6 years or so; and this list could be significantly extended. But perhaps as they are so well known, singly–we do not put these facts mutually and ask whether man is after all as rational as we think him, or, when we are concerned concerning social hostilities, whether man’s attitude toward those who have a diverse skin color or different beliefs might not be part of the similar broad picture of irrationality. But this is precisely what is suggested by a comparative approach to the problem.

Bierman ; Furman ( 1984)) illustrate the differential meanings of shyness in boys and girls in a developmental perspective. Explicitly, they have found that shyness in girls is associated with optimistic aspects of the mother-child relationship, whereas shyness in boys is not; mothers of boys expressed some displeasure with the fact that their sons had not outgrown their “childish” shyness by 50 months. Similar findings have been reported by Asendorpf ( 1990b), who found that shyness in girls was linked with tender and affectionate mother daughter relationships whereas mothers of shy boys were less satisfied with and less accepting of their sons. consequently, it appears as if shyness in girls may be more satisfactory to parents than shyness in boys. Therefore, one must expect that shyness in boys would be aggressively discouraged while shyness in girls would not simply be accepted, but also completely rewarded by parents, thus leading to a greater sequential continuity of shy behavior in girls. Likewise, it seems probable that the family conditions linked with shyness may diverge for boys and girls.

Communicative competence can concurrently be conceived of as a contributor to or source of shyness, as a means or progression by which shyness is maintained and even exacerbated, and as an result of shy behavior. The exact ways in which communication competence, affective factors such as anxiety, enthusiasm, and self-efficacy, and experience contribute to shyness is composite, and any model needs to be a dynamic one which takes into deliberation the developmental nature of the phenomena. As a source, poorer communicative competence handicaps the child in eagerly and effectively conversing with others. As a means, poorer communicative competence may raise the probability of negative feedback, negative self-perceptions, and anxiety, and limit opportunities to develop social skills, thereby retaining shyness. There is extensive research documenting higher frequency of lower self-esteem and self-perceptions of competence in shy adolescents and adults (Buss, 1984; Clark ; Arkowitz, 1975), and Asendorpf (1990b) has lately demonstrated the development of inhibition in familiar contexts throughout repeated social failure. Finally, poorer communicative competence may be an outcome of a ferocious cycle in which shy individuals have less experience through personal choice or the lack of opportunities given them to observe, try out, and practice interactional strategies. As Cazden ( 1972) has noted, “communication skills as with other composite skills should be learned through practice to the point where performance is automatic” (p. 236 ).

The dynamic interaction between communication experiences, communicative competence, and influence with respect to shyness also suggests that efforts to widen communication skills must help alleviate shyness. Glass and Shea ( 1986) report that 10- to 20% of shy adults who volunteer for their therapeutic program seem not to recognize what to do in conversations and assist from social skills training. Likewise, training studies in which explicit communication skills have been coached have demonstrated valuable effects on the recipients of this training. Specifically, Bierman and Furman (1984) trained children who were both lacking in communication skills and low in peer reception on a explicit set of conversational skills linked to social competence self-expression or sharing information concerning oneself, questioning or asking other about themselves, and leadership bids such as proffering help, invitations, and advice. Follow-up six weeks after training signified improvements in children’s conversational performance in dyadic and peer group contacts and higher rates of interaction with peers at lunchtime amongst the trained than untrained subjects. Videotapes of selected training sessions indicated that the use of these conversational skills was linked with positive peer responses throughout the treatment ( Bierman, 1986).

However, we flatten individuality in seeking a solution to the shyness in our society. But we should recognize that shyness is but a symptom of the existence of cultural values and social practices that deprive the quality of human life. Those values can be modified without essentially adopting the political and economic orientations of the shyness averting societies we know. In forming social structures where people can live in harmony, we do not require to weaken the spirit of the individual rather, we can develop his or her own strength. But it is only by beginning to seriously examine our own cultural priorities that we can start the social insurrection needed to overcome shyness and prevent its manifestation in the next generation of children.

In overcoming shyness, we celebrate life and find out in ourselves a capability to love and an energy for living that we dared not distinguish before. It is worth any attempt to make that discovery in ourselves, our children, our mates, and our friends. The time to begin is now, the place to begin is here, and the person to head the journey to overcome shyness is you.