By Zara Maqbool
Yesterday one of my clients asked me, “Do I come across as a shy person to you?” The question would have taken me for a surprise had I not known his history. His parents had always shamed him for being shy and sissy. Otherwise his first impression was of a charming confident young guy and being shy was the last thing I thought he was. What is important here is that he expected me to validate him and tell him he was not shy which in his opinion was a weakness in him and something to be shameful about. But that question made me realize how many of us are inherently shy but might come across differently. Yet we are struggling with this part of our personality that we don’t like to own up and so it raised the question in my mind. Is it a shame to be shy?
Last I remember shyness was considered an endearing quality especially in girls. I myself used to blush a lot and was called cute and innocent for that and so for me it was a part of me that I liked. But then there are many, especially men who don’t like being considered shy as it clashed with the expectations of those around them and defies the macho self sufficient image that a man needs to project.
A male friend of mine was always ridiculed by his father for not being street smart and insulted by being called a ‘girl.’ This comment made me so angry and acted as a double edge sword. Where it was an insensitive remark for a father to make, it was chauvinistic at the same time to associate weakness with being a girl.
An important question to ask is if shyness is interfering in their daily social interactions. Occasional shyness is healthy but if it turns into social anxiety then professional help is required. Shyness can sometimes be the persona for low self esteem and fear of being rejected. Not being able to be assertive, ask questions in classroom situations, set boundaries are some issues that shy people face. It also leads to emotional issues because of how they isolate themselves.
Why I want to highlight shyness as an issue is that we don’t manage it at a younger age the way it should be. We shame our children for being shy rather than accepting them and letting them overcome it in their own pace and time.
A recent Canadian research concluded that people who were in relationships can overcome their shyness as compared to those who weren’t but then a shy person would find it hard to form romantic attachments and if they do, they might end up being the underdog in the relationship. An extremely shy male client of mine in his first relationship with a girl cannot break away from it even through she is not faithful to him. He is dependent on her as she was the first girl in his life who he asked out after knowing for four years.
As adults if we are still feeling shy in forming healthy relationships we can consciously try to overcome it. Stepping forward and trying to have an optimistic attitude towards relationships can develop confidence. A well-known psychoanalyst Erik Erikson says, “ intimacy vs. isolation is the first challenge that all young adults face.”
There is no doubt that shy people have to struggle more but then not everyone can afford professional help and one has to be self sufficient to overcome it.
So lets try keeping our fears at bay and take the risk when we meet someone new. They might unlock the confidence that all of us have in us.