Social Question

Soubresaut's avatar

What causes shyness?

Asked by Soubresaut (13709points) December 23rd, 2009

Is it a trait that someone just “is”—that person is always shy, always has been, always will be.
Or is it something we grow into?
Out of?
And is shy the same thing as quiet, as closed off, as avoiding attention?
What would make a loud and wild person become timid and shy? Could anything?
And what would make a shy person come out and be seen?
Are you shy? How shy? Why? Do you wish you could change, either more or less so? Have you?
Is that enough questions rapid-fire? lol : )

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

35 Answers

Freedom_Issues's avatar

Shyness is a general discomfort around other people. I grew up being very shy, but seem to have grown out of it as I got older and more comfortable with myself. I do not believe shyness is the same as being quiet. I can sometimes be quiet, but totally fine being around other people. Yes I believe some people do grow out of it, and some stay that way. If a loud and wild person were to become shy, I am guessing it is because they got alot of negative feedback for their behavior. When I was shy, I hated it and almost hated myself. A random fact: About ⅓ of the people in the world are shy to some degree.

Kelly_Obrien's avatar

Shyness is caused by a lack of self-confidence.

strange1's avatar

shyness can stem from a trauma in childhood

Sunshine2u's avatar

Sadly I think it is insecurity.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I think some people are born that way, like many with autism spectrum disorders. Others have been made that was by negative experiences in social situations. In some cases a combination of the two; such as those with untreated Aspergers Syndrome, where the individual wants to socialize but lacks the skills or the aptitude to learn them. Trying to socialize anyway then leads to repeated rejection and ridicule, eventually the individual stops trying.

loser's avatar

Or generalized anxiety disorder, or social anxiety disorder, or gender identity disorder, or low self esteem…
My point being, there are as many causes as there are people. Life changes can be significant enough to change anyone. I used to be extremely shy. After 7 years if therapy I figured out what my problem was. I had to make some changes but now I’m a lot less shy. I can actually talk to clerks at the store now. I can laugh and joke with strangers now. If you’re having trouble with with shyness I can highly recommend therapy.

mattbrowne's avatar

It’s both nature and nurture. Self confidence and articulate language help people overcome shyness.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Sometimes having high language skills is not enough if you don’t know how to use them in a social context. Sometimes social skills can be learned; sometimes, as with some types of autism, they cannot. You have to determine the root cause of your shyness or social ineptitude and work from there. Different methods apply to different situations.

Simple shyness can be overcome with practice. In other cases an underlying problem. such as social phobia, must be addressed first. In other cases, like autism spectrum, one can learn to simulate certain social characteristics but never really understand them or be truly comfortable in social situations.

Cruiser's avatar

Critical and or over protective parents. Plus mean ass bullies or siblings that demean someone early on in life can shut that person down for life.

Pandora's avatar

Shyness can be caused by many things. I had a cousin who was horribly shy since she was a toddler. She couldn’t talk to anyone outside her immediate family. For some people it just is. Some people develop it later in life because of some trama. Some people its just insecurity and some from a mental defect. In my cousins case she had severe seperation anxiety when she wasn’t with her mom. Funny enough, years of therapy didn’t cure her but a fight in school did. A girl fought her because she thought she was just being snobby and not shy. My cousin didn’t win of course but she learned that if she didn’t learn to speak up to defend herself she was going to be beaten a lot at school and that she needed to make friends. The public school system at my neighborhood was pretty tough.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Pandora Such didn’t teach me any social skills but I learned to throw a pretty mean punch.

Janka's avatar

It depends on what you mean by “shyness”.

Current research into temperament suggests that some people are naturally more hesitant to meeting new people, and some are naturally more inclined to enjoy spending time alone. Some person are neither, some are both. However, these inclinations need not to lead into the person not being “social”, either in the meaning of able to enjoy the company of others, or unskilled in understanding social cues and situations, or insecure. The opposite of the first type of “shy” is not “social”, it is “not very shy”. The opposite of the second type of “shy” is not “social” either, it is “someone who cannot enjoy being alone as well”.

However, often in our culture people whose natural tendency is to take their time when meeting new people are labeled “insecure”, or called “shy” as if that is a bad thing. That in itself can lead to the kind of “shyness” that can be a real handicap: being so uncertain of yourself in social situations that you cannot manage in them. This easily happens if well-meaning people try to “encourage” the shy person to interact faster than he or she is personally willing to, instead of letting him/her take work the situation in his/her own pace.

Other causes of such insecurities usually relate to bad experiences in the past. Even a person who is naturally inclined to very little hesitation about new people can develop such a hesitation if his/her experience suggests that strangers are usually hostile, and a person who would actually strongly prefer company to being alone can isolate themselves if they have many experiences of rejection.

So, it is important to be very specific when you say “shy”: natural normal tendencies, nervousness about not living up to the social expectation of everyone being outgoing, or actual debilitating insecurities/traumas. Not all shyness is trauma or a bad thing! In fact, it is perfectly normal to be nervous about meeting people, and especially previously unknown people. Lack of social skills does not correlate to that sort of shy.

Cruiser's avatar

@Janka Impressive effort with your answer! Nice job!

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Lack of lurve. C’mon and getcha some.

SirGoofy's avatar

Being raised in a locked closet might do it.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Shyness is a type of self-protection. An individual who, for whatever reason, sees themselves as unable to respond effectively in social situations will often become “shy” to avoid the possibility of responding to others in inappropriate ways, with the concommitant teasing and laughing.

CMaz's avatar

Lack of boldness.

ninjacolin's avatar

fear of death

J0E's avatar

I used to not be shy when I was younger, until about 5th grade. A certain thing happened that I was really embarrassed about so I tried to keep people from talking about it by being very quiet in hopes that no one would notice me and remember what happened. Well, it sorta worked but the side effect was I became very quiet and shy. Been slowly overcoming that ever since.

Open_Your_Mind's avatar

I see shyness as lack of a hard heart which in this world is both refreshing and wonderful.

Silhouette's avatar

@loser Great answer, great avatar!

aprilsimnel's avatar

FOr me it was nurture. Operant conditioning. I would do something extroverted and get smacked down.

I was a very exuberant kid. By the adults’ lights, I “talked too much.” Adults whom I felt I had to please would say things like, “Will you shut up? Who do you think you are?” and “Look, nobody’s paying attention, you little show-off! Always showing off when you need to be quiet.” rather frequently.

I believed them and thought, Well, if they’re saying it, then I really must be a brat who talks too much and shows off all the time if they don’t want to listen to me. Maybe I am just a little attention whore.. I shut down by 5th grade and it affected every part of my life. I stopped speaking up in class. I stopped contributing to team projects at school. I wouldn’t reach out to make friends. I wouldn’t talk to guys. I wouldn’t look for work I was truly interested in. I didn’t start learning about acting until I was 35. I didn’t show anyone my writing until I was 37. Outside of the children’s choir at church and school (where every kid there was required to sing anyway, so I wouldn’t have to sing alone, thereby showing off), no one knew how well I could really sing until I was 35–36. All the while, I was terrified that I’d say or do something that would make people think I was a showoff and an attention whore.

It’s been a slow climb out of hiding and from not feeling like anyone would be interested in anything I had to say. Sites like this can help people, I think, because people are supportive, even if everyone doesn’t agree.

It’s important to teach kids that there’s a time and a place for everything, yes, and that they can’t take all their parents’ / caretakers’ / teachers’ attention 24/7. But there’s a way to do it without smacking down the child. It’s so hard to be careful with what we say to kids, but I think good parents try to remember that kids soak it all up like a sponge.

dpworkin's avatar

I think it a fundamental temperament which can then be reinforced or overcome depending upon the reaction of the parents. Once the parents consider shyness inherent to the child they will (unconsciously) reinforce it until it is an established trait.

cornbird's avatar

The worst kind is when you get negative feedback from your behaviour. It has to do alot with the way you look at yourself, and how do you feel with yourself.

Janka's avatar

@Cruiser Thanks for the kind words!

DallasPoleDancing's avatar

Yesterday, before stumbling onto this Q, i googled “is Shyness Ego?” Crazy. The first search engine result was an interview between Oprah and Eckhart Tolle. In the end, the answer is a resounding, YES. I would have argued differently before reading the interview.

DallasPoleDancing's avatar

Post Script: I guess i operate out of ego sometimes because i indeed fall prey to shyness…

and i would LOVE to change that. ; )

downtide's avatar

It’s from a lack of self confidence or self esteem, and you can overcome it. I used to be very shy but after I started singing (in public, performing live) on a regular basis, I gained in confidence and the shyness disappeared.

lonelydragon's avatar

In her poem “Children Learn What They Live”, Dorothy Nolte says, “If children live with ridicule, they learn to be shy.” To some extent, this is true. If a child is criticized and not encouraged by parents and peers, they will learn to be shy. Like April, I was a fairly exuberant child, but I was often told to be quiet, and that taught me that others were not interested in what I had to contribute to a gathering or a conversation. That was the first of many experiences that led me to withdraw.

Another possible cause of shyness is limited socialization. If parents do not allow their kids to play with other children and meet new people, then the kids won’t have the practice they need to feel comfortable in social situations.

flutherother's avatar

I think shyness comes from an exaggerated awareness of the self. You imagine people are paying more attention to you that in fact they are. Extraverts are always trying to get people’s attention. With shy people it is the opposite. Shy people are not anti social they are just hyper sensitive and are better one to one or in small groups than in crowds.

khemmy's avatar


robinmichelle's avatar

@DancingMind Great question. I’ve struggled with this for a while as well.

What causes my shyness is my fear of rejection. It’s not my fear of speaking to other people and connecting with them, but it’s my fear of speaking with others and having them think that I am really weird, which usually makes them feel really bored with my personality.

A couple of things that helped me to gravitate toward being more outgoing:
– Sign up for the newsletter here:
A great place to get more tips on networking
-Join a group. This is a great place to become more outgoing and find a supportive group for your shyness

Hope this helps!!

Response moderated (Spam)

Answer this question




to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther