Shy? Let us talk about it!

March 09, 2013

As we go through life, some of us experience shyness from time to time. Some people are more prone to being shy and feel shy from very young onwards, when the spotlight is on them. Even babies sometimes turn their heads away when paid attention to!

So, why does this happen to us? Well, shyness could be caused by genetic factors, or the way we are conditioned in society, or our personalities...or a bit of all of this! Even our culture influences shyness - some cultures regard being shy as very appealing, other cultures expect us to be more bold.

Is shyness always a problem? Well, no!

Because shyness can lead us to being introspective and to try to improve ourselves, to up our game, shyness can indeed serve as inspiration to become more competent and to achieve greater heights so that we feel less at a loss in company.

Also, shyness can be protective, that we hesitate before we become too friendly with strangers, and so throughout history this reserve has served mankind well, allowing us to be selective in who we get close with.

When does shyness become a problem? When it hinders us in how we relate with the world around us - when we find that we avoid people or events that have become too uncomfortable for us to handle, due to our shyness.

If we want to overcome some of it, what shall we do?

Firstly, we need to look at our own internal world - what do we say to ourselves about ourselves? Do we need to moderate that inner dialogue, to be more kind to ourselves and to focus on our strengths rather than what we perceive we are lacking?

Secondly, how shall we relate with the world around us while we are working on our shyness? Here the concept 'fake it until you make it' comes to mind, based on the cognitive dissonance theory in psychology.

This means that while we are cringing inside from shyness, we make an effort to relate with someone, focusing on them - for example, starting up a small conversation with a colleague we have not spoken with, asking them their opinion on a news matter of the day - and be prepared with a neutral comment ourself should this person ask in return.



Finally, try to remember that for the most, the world out there is made up of human beings, all fallible and maybe also shy as we are, for the most wishing us well to as we wish them well - and all mostly not so aware of our own inner turmoil as what we are ourselves!

However, if your shyness becomes a source of concern for you, do talk with a caring counsellor - good luck for your journey!

Janet has been in the psychology profession for 12 years, after obtaining her MA degree at Stellenbosch University. She comes from Cape Town, South Africa, moved to Oman this year, and has joined Al Harub Medical Centre. Janet does individual counselling and workshops, works with couples and families as well, and does critical incident stress debriefing for individuals or groups. She was involved with employee well-being for many years, and is working toward implementing some of these skills in Oman.