SELF HELP RESOURCE - Self Development / Emotions and Personality


Shyness is a strength to build on, not a character flaw to be stamped out!


Can you remember the last time you stepped into a room full of people and felt that awkward feeling rush over you?

Shyness is tendency to feel awkward or tense during social encounters especially with people we are not familiar with. It is a natural and universal feeling. Research suggests that about 45% adults report being shy!

In fact a certain amount of shyness is good as it facilitates in making judgments and maintaining appropriate boundaries between people. Since shy people tend to talk less, many shy people are also sensitive and good listeners. While most people feel shy occasionally, some people's shyness is very intense and keeps them from interacting with others even when they want to or need to.  

There are certain symptoms of shyness which are visible to others like very little or no eye contact, not speaking or speaking very little, stuttering or even standing apart from people. There are other symptoms which only the individual can feel, like muscle tension, increase in heart rate, dry mouth or tingling and numbness feeling in the fingers.


The cause for shyness varies from person to person and there are several circumstances that may lead to shyness.

Some shyness is a result of what happened in the past. Perhaps as child you felt rejected or were criticized by your family which may have lead to low self esteem. Or parents or adults may have taught you not to speak out because it is not polite. This kind of behaviour gets carried on into our adult life and instills a fear of being judged by others.

Some studies show that shyness is hereditary and can run in the family. Besides the genetic component, if your family members were shy, then they may not have had too many social interactions which resulted in limited social experience for you as a child. 


Each shy person is different and most are shy in some situations and not in others. For example, an actor may be bold and loud on stage but shy when conversing one on one in a social setting. Or you may feel shy with colleagues but are very comfortable chatting with your cousins at a family function.

Some of the situations that frequently provoke anxiety in a shy person are social encounters with strangers, interacting with the opposite sex, people in authority, having to say something in public or formal situations, speaking to strangers on the telephone, making small talk at parties, or joining a group of people who already know each other. It is important to identify which of these situations you find most stressful, and also to recognise situations where you are comparatively less shy. 


Being shy holds you back from expressing yourself which prevents others from knowing you better. Sharing of thoughts, opinions and feelings are essential to develop closer relationships. Sometimes people around you may mistake shyness for aloofness, and as a result others may not initiate conversations with you. As a result shy people may often be lonely and may also find it more difficult to find a life partner.

Job prospects may also be hurt as high end jobs such as executive positions which require assertiveness and strong character will not be suitable for shy people. Since shy people do not speak up, it means good ideas will not be heard. Also even if shy people are good at their job, others may not get to realise it.

What one needs to understand is that shyness is NOT a problem, or an individual's fault, but rather a normal reaction to stressful social situations. It does not mean that every shy person should become socially extroverted. Some people naturally prefer to be quiet and enjoy spending time alone which is perfectly acceptable. It is only when shyness comes in the way of doing what the person wants to do, that it becomes important to take some steps to make a change.

The good news is that there are steps that one can take to overcome shyness. 

What you can do

  • The first step is to understand that being shy does not mean your professional and personal achievements are limited. Shy adults can succeed on jobs as well as initiate and maintain close relationships - it may just take a little more effort.

  • It is important to recognize what specifically triggers the feeling of shyness in you. You may need to take extra care to prepare for such situations and work out strategies to manage them.

  • Start with simple steps. In a social situation, you need not attempt to crack jokes in front of a group. Instead plan on how you can introduce yourself and have a brief conversation with just one person.

  • Rather than focusing on your awkwardness in a social situation focus on other people and what they have to say. Listen carefully, ask a few questions to show your interest and respond when others ask you questions.

  • Trying to overcome shyness can make you anxious. One way of overcoming this anxiety is by taking deep breaths to calm yourself down before you begin to speak.

  • There will be situations when you try to initiate a conversation and may face rejection. If this happens, don't take it personally and remember that it happens to everyone at some time or the other. Take it as a one-off incident and don't let it hinder you from trying again.

  • Sometimes it is not that the lack of social skills but a fear of failure that holds you back. As a result you may avoid the situation altogether and never know what would have happened if you had tried. Just go ahead and take the plunge even if it makes you uncomfortable. You will soon realize that it is not that bad after all!

If you have been shy for a long time it can be difficult to get yourself out of familiar patterns. Interacting with a counsellor can help you work out what exactly you need to do and will help you motivate yourself to keep up with the changes until they become a part of you. Our counsellors will be able to help you through this and you can interact through the mode you find most comfortable - online, telephonic or face-to-face.

Latest Comments

Sswam on 08 Dec 2021, 11:04 AM

indeed a very nice article . It did help me reflect on my shyness and created an urge to work on it . Thank you. Appreciate the clarity and focus brought out through this article.

vikuor01 on 06 Feb 2019, 03:27 AM

Great Article. Helps... :)

STATUSOK on 29 Dec 2017, 14:30 PM

Just reading this article gave me anxiety.

173700 on 13 Sep 2017, 19:46 PM

It is very helpful.

shanaman on 18 Aug 2017, 09:15 AM

Good one....

vaibhaveee3 on 18 Jan 2017, 18:14 PM

very helpful, nice article

392097 on 23 Sep 2016, 12:16 PM

Nice one

Bhanbhu on 23 Sep 2016, 08:29 AM

good one

586876 on 20 Sep 2016, 12:30 PM

Nice one

591423 on 20 Sep 2016, 04:40 AM

good article