Part 1*: What Causes Shyness and Why Should You Care?
Have you ever wanted something badly, but felt too intimidated or inhibited to ask? Think of a time when you wanted to ask someone out, request a raise or approach someone you have always wanted to meet, but instead you froze like an icicle. You felt cold, wishing you had the guts to go for it!
Have you or someone you know felt this way before? Perhaps you can remember a burning desire to obtain something, but you lacked the confidence or social skills to ask for it.
Growing up shy, I used to suffer from anxiety and a lack of confidence. Anytime I was called on or asked to read aloud in class, I would feel anxious, self conscious and my voice would shake. ‘Oh no, what am I going to say? what will I sound like?’ It wasn’t until years later that I developed confidence, and now it is my mission to help people say goodbye to being shy!
Read on to see common causes of shyness, or social anxiety, and consider why knowing them is important. In the next installment you will discover reasons why shedding shyness is necessary to avoid an unfulfilled life. The third installment will reveal top strategies for turning shyness into confidence.
Common causes of shyness:
1. Fear of how others perceive you
2. Low self-esteem
3. Lack of self-knowledge
First cause: fear of how others see you: In high school and college I often worried what my voice sounded like or how I looked while speaking in class. One day, a classmate started mimicking my laughter for her friend while giving me a mocking glance. I could barely just relax and be me without wondering when the next incident of mocking would happen. I also feared my opinions might not be interesting to people outside my group of friends. I wanted approval from others and worried that sharing my true opinions might isolate me from people I liked. This can easily stem from a lack of self-esteem.
Second cause: low self-esteem. My lower self-esteem as a young person came from being bullied in middle school. My bullies were mostly popular kids who liked to make fun of me regularly. One bully approached me, contorted his face and said, “Hey Oscar...hey Oscar,” mocking the way I walked and talked. He repeated this torment often. I felt my bullies were scrutinizing everything I’d say or do. Terrified of ridicule, I retreated inward and felt too fearful of rejection to participate fully in class or assume a leadership role.
Even after the bullying subsided, I was left with a lasting, though thankfully not permanent, residual effect. The fear of being vulnerable when bearing my true personality and opinions was magnified when speaking in front of the class. Glosofobia, or fear of public speaking, is well known to cause panic and pain for anyone, regardless of confidence level. Fortunately there are ways to break through this barrier and develop critical communication skills to elevate confidence. We will examine this in the third article.
Third cause: lacking a deeper knowledge of self. Naturally, you need life experience to fully know everything you like and don’t like. I didn’t decide on my favorite kinds of music or foods until I had sampled many. The same is true for the type of work I enjoy and the people I prefer to be around. But some people shy away from accepting their inclinations early in life if they do not conform to what they are “supposed to do.” Parenting and societal pressures play a role in putting “shoulds” in our heads regarding hobbies and career choices.
In school I was known for musical talent, but after my first year of college I burned out from too much practicing. It took courage to explore other interests and talents while my personality and values were changing. Long after I stopped pursuing a musical career, my father lamented my decision.
The process of self-discovery normally takes years, but can be accelerated by taking risks, trusting your gut and connecting with a mentor (see third installment, coming soon!) who can guide you through the pitfalls.
Now, with an understanding of what causes shyness you can begin to overcome it. If there were a way you could accelerate growing your self-confidence would you want to know? Imagine if you could speed up the often glacial pace of self-discovery and personal and professional growth!
Oscar Romero is Founder and President of OscarRomeroSpeaks, providing solutions for shy or socially anxious people to say goodbye to being shy in order to approach professional and social situations confidently and realize their dreams.
He lives in Bethel, CT. To learn more about shedding shyness click https://www.oscarromerospeaks.com/
*This article is Part 1 of a three part series.