We shy people find it hard to start a relationship. Sometimes
others do reject us or avoid us because we are quiet and
withdrawn...that rejection hurts. Occasionally, if the withdrawal or
rejection seems unnecessarily cruel to us, we may get angry and start
to feel superior and want revenge. Most of the time we just believe we
are not very interesting and stay by ourselves. It is important to note,
however, if we can break through the shyness barrier and develop a
friendship, becoming close and intimate is usually not a problem
(Carducci, 1999). We often long for intimacy and if we gain it with one
or two people, we feel and do just fine.
The Diagnostic Manual divides social phobia into two types:
generalized or nongeneralized (fear in certain social situations but not
all). In addition, psychological tests of socially anxious college students
have indicated two different basic kinds of problems with other people:
(1) feeling anger, resentment and distrust with others and (2) being
unassertive, submissive or overly nurturing with others. If you can
identify your more common feelings while interacting, such as anger or
submission, then perhaps further work on these problems, as well as
social anxiety, would help you make the changes you want (Kachin, K.
E., Newman, M. G. & Pincus, A. L., 2001).
There is also an important difference to note between shyness and
introversion. Shyness involves a social nervousness, a lack of social
skills, a harsh internal critic, and acute self-consciousness. An introvert
may have social skills but simply prefers to be alone or with a few
friends. It isn't always easy to tell from the outside if a person is shy
or introverted. From the inside, there is a big difference.
Another important distinction is that almost all of us are a little
"shy" in certain social situations, but that is different from serious
chronic shyness in almost all situations. The 15%-25% who are
chronically shy feel lonely, misunderstood, self-critical, and
uncomfortable while interacting. They look nervous. They can't
maintain eye contact. They are unassertive, have trouble thinking
clearly and expressing themselves, are concerned about their "image,"
and, in fact, often give others bad impressions. It can, of course, be a
serious problem--too bad we don't take it more seriously. One of the
barriers to getting help is our shame about social nervousness--on
average, it is 8 years before the person suffering shyness can tell a
family member or a friend. Maybe because people respond with "get
over it." The average delay in seeking treatment for shyness is 14
years! Perhaps we will in the future seek help earlier because of
findings by Kagan (1989) discussed below.
First, one more distinction needs to be made. At the high end of
the shyness continuum there is a diagnosis of "social anxiety." At
times this label may include some of the chronically shy, but the
diagnosis is usually reserved for the most distressed 3% or so (that is
still 10 million Americans!). These people suffer grave consequences in
life. They may find it impossible to go to work or to school. Interacting
with others results in panic, racing heart, sweating arm pits, faces, and