Do you sometimes think that you are too shy? Are you more shy than most of your friends? Though you may feel like the only one, more than 40 percent of teens and adults in America consider themselves shy. Shyness is extremely common and normal in children, teens and adults.
How Shyness Affects Us
All people feel shy at some time in their lives, but being shy most of the time can cause difficulties with day-to-day activities and relationships.
Sometimes, it's normal to feel shy, such as in the following circumstances:
- Any first-time situation, such as starting a new school.
- Before a performance or speech.
- Meeting new people or introducing yourself.
However, people who are extremely shy feel nervous even more often. As a result, they may:
- Spend more time on computers, without human contact.
- Avoid or cancel social events.
- Have fewer friends.
- Think poorly of themselves.
- Can't or won't give speeches.
- Have a hard time meeting people.
- Avoid performances.
- Don't talk on the telephone much.
They may also:
- Participate less often than others in classes at school.
- Blame themselves when things go wrong.
- Become easily embarrassed.
Some studies show that shyness can be genetic – it can run in families. Some people who were very shy as kids and don't try to overcome it never grow out of it, and may become shy teens and adults.
There are some situations in which being shy can be hard. Events such as a move or changes in family life can be extremely stressful. For many people, just going to school can be stressful. If you are a shy person, you may feel embarrassed – like you don't fit in. But if you act like you don't matter, others may treat you that way.
If you act confident, however, others will see you that way too. If you can understand when and why you feel the most shy, you can try to overcome this little by little and you can be comfortable in many more situations.
The Social Fitness Model
According to the Shyness Institute, being emotionally fit is just like being physically fit. You can exercise socially and expand your comfort zone just as you can exercise physically and improve your athletic abilities.
Shyness, which is both an emotional and mental state, is a level of social fitness that is not the most favorable or "healthy." To become more socially healthy you can change your attitude, behavior and thought processes, or you can change your social surroundings.
In order to become stronger physically, you have to practice and make an effort. Just as you can't be a star soccer player without lots of practice, overcoming your shyness is not something that can happen overnight or without practice. You can work on your gradually. It will be hard at first, but eventually you will feel less nervous in social situations.
Tactics for Overcoming Shyness
In learning to tame your shyness, the following tactics may help. Pick the ones that work best for you.
1. Next time you feel shy, try to step out of your comfort zone.
- Smile at someone in your class who you don't know.
- Open a door for a classmate.
- Talk to someone at school who seems friendly, but who you don't know well.
- Text or call someone just to say hi.
- Go out in a group.
- Have a party and invite a few people you don't know very well but want to get to know better.
2. When starting a conversation, you might try the following icebreakers.
- "Hi, I'm (name). I think we have some classes together. Do you like (a certain teacher or class)?"
- "Hi, I'm (name). Are you going to (the school dance on Friday or some other event)?"
3. You can also try the following topics of conversation.
- School in general (school events, etc.)
- Movies, music, other media
4. Or you can try complimenting the person you are talking to!
Here are some other ways to deal with shyness – or to help someone you know to overcome shyness.
- Find ways to help with the fear of rejection.
- Don't expect overnight change. Overcoming shyness is a gradual process.
- Act out scenes that could be awkward in real life to figure out how to deal with them more effectively.
- Get involved (or help your friend get involved) in activities with a supportive environment – including theater, sports teams or other clubs.
- If shyness is making someone too unhappy or anxious, remember that trusted adults or school counselors can help.
- If a friend is shy, invite them out with you so they can get used to social situations.
- If you are shy, invite a friend over to your house where you may feel more comfortable.
You can always talk to a counselor, parent or close friend if you are shy. If you know someone who is very shy, try to help them out. Your efforts can make a difference!
Youth reviewer: Lillian Fong
Last reviewed: June 2019