Why You Should Celebrate Being Shy!
It isn't a crime, it's not a perversion, it's not abnormal, it is not even unattractive. Yet with all the information to be found on the internet it is very rare to read a positive statement about being shy. And yet for a huge amount of the population, this is an everyday part of their lives. If we celebrate confidence, if we celebrate achievement, then what is wrong with celebrating shyness? There is such a negative hue surrounding this aspect of human emotion. Is it any wonder people who are shy build up high levels of anxiety and feel abnormal? Here are some of the more negative titles about shyness that I found on the internet:
"..get rid of being shy forever.."
"...shake off shyness..."
"...don't put up with shyness anymore.."
"..Shyness is a handicap you don't have to live with..."
I loved this one - "..don't be shy with guys and fall in love.." I guess this means that if your shy you're doomed never to fall in love or be loved? Take if from me, this is nonsense.
But added to the internet quotes, we have the dictionary definitions of 'shy' such as:
timid, distrusful, avoidance, anxious, easily startled, reluctant, wary, easily frightened.
But does this really describe shy people? Personally I don't think these definitions come close. Further more there is no sense of any kind of appreciation of who shy people really are. I was very shy when younger and still am to a certain degree, and I feel I can challenge what these definitions suggest:
Timid/easily frightened: No, I wasn't timid at all. I was quiet and I took time to absorb new surroundings and people, but I was never timid/frightened of them. Perhaps timid of certain social situations, especially if you feel you could make a fool of yourself? This is a yes. But is it only shy people who feel this? No, we all have moments like this.
Reluctant/wary: I'm not sure I really understand this. Does this mean of every situation? People? Life? If this is the case then it is definitely not true. Perhaps it refers to certain occasions being a bit reluctant/wary of how we will cope? Quite possible, but again I wouldn't say that shy people exclusively feel this emotion. At any rate is this actually negative? Very often the wise course of action is to tread warily or keep a little distance until you are sure of your ground and situation.
Avoidance: No, I didn't avoid people either. I went along with the rest and I was who I was. I certainly liked solitary pursuits such as reading, crafts and so on. But now I'm a 49 year old and I still like lots of time on my own and pursue the same hobbies. Besides, there are thousands of confident people who enjoy solitary hobbies and interests.
Anxious: Sometimes - but is it only shy people who get anxious? I don't think so.
Easily startled: Shouldn't this refer to very nervous people? Are shy people always nervous to the point of being easily startled? The answer is no. In fact I've known very confident people who jump fifty feet in the air at any sudden noise.
But the real point of this exercise is try to move away from this very negative viewpoint of 'shyness'. There is no harm observing in what situations your shyness might be letting you down. But equally you could view the other areas of life where it will be a bonus.
So what situations is shyness not a bonus? There certainly could be times when you feel that your shyness is holding you back a bit rather than moving you forward - a first date, a party, a new school or new neighbourhood. But can there also be a positive side to being shy in these circumstances? Yes there is. It isn't always a good thing to be overconfident when first meeting people. It can be intimidating and annoying. Being too confident when you are the new kid on the block can actually mean driving people away rather than helping to make friends. But there are other benefits to being shy.
Very frequently shy people do come across as being much more genuine and down to earth than confident people. Giving off an air of quiet modesty is never negative and can bring great benefits - for example in many types of jobs. People often feel much more comfortable and at ease with quieter people than they do with confident ones. Shy people do tend to be very good listeners - this is not only a positive point in your favour but it has always fascinated me the things people share with you because you are quiet. It is also amazing the stamina and some would say stubborness that shy people possess. This is not negative, many shy people have the staying power to achieve amazing goals that other people find difficult. In addition, because shy people tend to use their own personal resources more, it can make you more self-reliant in coping with life's obstacles. Problem solving can be easier and you tend to know your strong points and weaknesses better than many others. These are not only positive attributes, but essential for coping with life's stresses and strains.
So basically what I am saying is, that if you feel there are certain circumstances where your shyness is blocking progress, then by all means take steps to build up this area of your life. But don't be bullied by society to try and turn you into something you are not. We should all be free to be the people we are without having the pressure of being muscled into an absurd 'norm' that society has created.
I would suggest as well that instead of shy people always being the ones to have to change, it's about time the rest of society brushed up on their social skills in order to embrace people of different personality and emotional types. This is called accepting people for what they are, not sticking a label on them and expecting them to change. We could all benefit from improving our inter-personal and social skills. Not only to enable us to communicate effectively with all kinds of people, but to allow them to communicate with us. This last statement is very important for confident people to take note of. Very often with shy people, it is not their shyness that disables their ability to communicate, but rather it is the confident person's 'ill-at-ease' body language and sometimes lack of empathy that makes conversation difficult.
Do shy people achieve anything? Absolutely. There are thousands of famous men and women that we look up to that have described themselves as being shy. And yet look what they have accomplished? It has been said by others that they fought shyness to achieve what they have. I would suggest otherwise. I don't think they have achieved greatness because they got rid of being shy. Many have claimed that they are still shy. For example:
- Ella Fitzgerald the jazz legend was basically a very shy person. You wouldn't think so when she performed on stage.
- Bradd Pitt - common knowledge that this energetic actor is shy and protective off camera.
- David Bowie - very shy off stage.
- Elvis Presely - one of the greatest performers was basically a shy man. Did this make him less attractive or unmanly? Definitely not.
- Harrison Ford - this great actor and very 'manly' performer is basically a shy guy at heart.
- Julia Roberts - one of the best and most beautiful of actresses is reputed to be quite shy.
- Michelle Pfeirrer - states that she is a shy person.
- Nicole Kidman - describes herself as having confidence in some situations but shy in others.
Let shy people have the last word
How often is it that shy people get the last word? Not a lot that's for sure. But since this article has tried to turn everything on its head, I think it's only fitting that they should be the people to close this conversation. While we are at it, lets turn society on it's head. Salute our differences and begin by celebrating shyness.
Re-produced by kind permission of some of my friends and work mates.
1. "...I don't think being shy should be seen as a negative. Often being shy you will notice things that other people don't - it can be fascinating. Left to your own devices in a room at a party, it always amazes me how I can step back and watch all the interactions - the competitiveness, the jealousy, who likes who and so on. People should use their world of shyness to their own advantage. If you ever find a situation where you think being shy won't help then do something about that. But don't change for anyone..." Debbie.
2. "...One thing that I would ask of people who are not shy - just because we are kind of in the background and listening, doesn't mean that we are not enjoying ourselves. I don't need to be the centre of attention to have fun. I don't need to talk endlessly to have fun. I am who I am. I do try to make things easier for people who think they don't know what to say because I'm quieter than other people. But sometimes I think that it is them who are the most embarrassed, not me. I have made conversation to cover a silence, to help them, because often it is them who dries up first..." Jill
3. "...I think I'm more introverted than shy. Having said this, I can be quite comfortable with a person when meeting them for the first time. At other times a person has joined a group I have been with and I just withdraw, I don't feel comfortable until they have moved off. It's not that I don't like them or that I'm scared of them. It's just that in some way they are out of my comfort zone. I handle this by being polite but quiet. It is a puzzle to me, but I've learned to accept it. I know a lot of people might say - do something about it? But I think nowadays - why? I wouldn't ask another person to change just to suit me, so why should I?.." Mark
4. "...I used to worry a lot about being shy when I was younger, especially being a bloke and all that. I'm not as shy as I was, but a few things used to really bug me when I was younger. LIke my older brother. When meeting new friends, he would introduce me and then add, 'but don't worry about jimmy here, he's just shy.' I didn't want anyone making excuses for me like I was defective or something - I wasn't and I'm not. But boy that can hurt and make you feel really screwed up when you are young. I am still a quiet person but that's the way I am. And the people that matter to me the most love me the way I am. I think we should just be accepted this way instead of trying to make every person the same..." James
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