When you are shy, it feels like being trapped in a glass box.
You can hear and see other people talking to each other. But sometimes… sometimes… you just can’t open your mouth and say anything out loud no matter what. You become a spectator in almost every group conversation, party, or other event.
Honestly, when I was extremely shy it felt more like a physical block than a mental one. Like my brain was always blank with nothing to say. And even if it did think of something I couldn’t get my mouth to work properly and actually say it.
Which is probably why for years I was always known as:
“The Quiet One”
Some people out there claim you should be proud to be an introvert.
I don’t think those people have ever felt the embarrassment of having someone ask you “Why don’t you ever talk?” in front of a circle of people.
That happened to me a few times. Ouch.
Hearing those words felt like being hit in the stomach with a baseball bat. I remember one time it happened and my face starting becoming all red and hot as everyone turned to look at me. And I felt even stupider because I couldn’t even say anything to respond to that! All I could do was keep being silent, and look down in shame and humiliation.
The most frustrating part of it all was: I had no clue WHY I acted so shy and quiet sometimes. If I could figure that out, then I could stop being this way.
Maybe you feel this way too.
So right now I’m going to share with you WHY you are shy. This is based on my own years of research and first-hand experience with shyness. Once you understand WHY, then “how to overcome shyness” becomes a lot easier, too.
Here’s the first thing you need to understand…
Shyness Is Situational
Most shy people believe that “shyness” is some kind of personality trait. You’ve probably heard other people label you “shy” before, as if shyness was a permanent thing like your hair colour or nationality. Yet think about it this way:
Are you shy all the time?
Even around your closest friends? Are you equally shy when talking to someone you find attractive as someone you don’t care about? Do you feel equally nervous talking to one person as to a group of people?
The answer is no (almost definitely).
For example, take a look at the most popular searches in Google:
People are usually searching about why they are shy in specific situations or around specific people. (Like around guys, around a girl, at school, etc.)
That means that shyness is really situational. It’s a reaction you have to your environment, and it’s different depending on the situation and people in it.
- Maybe if you’re standing beside your crush (a person you have feelings for romantically) at a party, your mind is literally blank and you have no clue what to talk about.
- But if you’re having a coffee with your two closest friends and talking about a common passion you have, you literally can’t shut up about it.
- And in your average day, you probably act a lot MORE or LESS shy as your environment changes.
YOU are not “a shy person,” you only become shy in some situations. (And yes, this is true even if you are shy in the majority of your life situations.)
This basic but profound insight transforms your question from: Why am I shy?
WHY am I shy in some situations and not others?
As you can see, this is a lot closer to the reality of shyness for 99% of people. And in the rest of this article, I’ll try to explain some common reasons why you become shy in certain situations or with certain people.
Here are the 3 biggest reasons:
1. You NEED something from the other person, usually acceptance/approval.
Here’s an easy question: Who is more nervous usually — a job interviewer or the interviewee?
The person being interviewed is much more nervous usually.
Well, if they feel like they need the job, then they will be trying to create a good impression on the other person to get it. This naturally creates a type of performance anxiety which is why most people are nervous before job interviews.
Similarly, shy people have such a strong need for the acceptance, approval and validation of other people that they often feel like a person being interviewed for a job. In social situations they may sweat nervously, try to only say very interesting things that will impress the other person, and they are relieved to get away.
Let’s go back to the job interview example…
When a person doesn’t NEED the job, they will usually not feel so nervous. For example, if the job is easy to replace like a minimum wage fast food job. Or if the person already has a job that is almost as good as the one he’s being interviewed for. Or if he’s very well qualified for this type of job and has 12 similar interviews scheduled already. The person still WANTS the job, but they don’t desperately NEED it.
Shy people become tense, censor what they say and are afraid to speak up… because they have a desperate NEED to be liked, accepted and validated by other people. This is usually called “caring too much what other people think.”
When you don’t NEED people to like you, then you will naturally be more relaxed, open and at ease with them. Ironically, this increases the chances that they will actually like you.
So what causes this hole of neediness for the approval of other people?
There’s many possible causes that I don’t have time to explain now, but here’s one example:
A confident kid switches schools and they suddenly find themselves in a new environment without any of their old friends. Suddenly they feel needy to make people like them so they can make some new friends. This leads to shyness that sometimes sticks into adulthood. I hear this story surprisingly often.
Or perhaps a kid is bullied by people at their school, which makes them feel alone and friendless. This also leads to being needy for the acceptance of others which manifests as shy behavior.
“Other people teach us who we are. Their attitudes to us are the mirror in which we learn to see ourselves, but the mirror is distorted. We are, perhaps, rather dimly aware of the immense power of our social environment.” – Alan Watts
Now onto the 2nd reason…
2. You believe the other person is higher value than you.
In my popular article about overcoming shyness around girls, I mentioned something I call “Fat Girl Syndrome”…
Basically, that means that most guys who feel extremely shy, nervous and unsure what to say to a cute girl… will often find it 100x easier to talk normally to a woman they are not attracted to because she is ugly, fat, old, etc.
This is because the shy guy VALUES the really cute girl more because of her looks. (Yes, I know this is not “politically correct,” but it’s how human psychology works.)
So… What makes you see someone as valuable?
The answer isn’t as easy as you might believe. I’ve come to realize that everyone has a hidden inner system of valuing people. This is often based on the other person’s attractiveness, popularity, confidence, dominance, authority, etc.
If you feel like someone else is “higher value” than you, then you will start to shy, quiet, nervous or awkward around them. For example, if you’re a guy this may happen around very attractive women. If you’re a girl, it may happen around guys you like or have a crush on. It’s likely to happen around authority figures like a boss, teacher, etc.
Now think about the people who you feel little or no shyness around. Maybe they’re unattractive or weird. Maybe they’re even more shy or insecure than you. Maybe they’re even less popular. Maybe they’re younger than you or very old. These are the people that you secretly feel are equal or “lower value” than you. Around them you probably act a lot more confident and expressive, and you don’t feel nearly as self conscious or unsure of what to say.
So pay attention around WHO you act more shy around to see who you secretly value. Your actions will reveal your unconscious belief system to you.
Usually a high value person can GIVE you something. Maybe it’s your boss who can give you his approval or a raise. Maybe it’s someone you find attractive who could possibly give you a relationship or sex. Maybe it’s a popular or well connected person who could increase your social circle or reputation or “coolness.”
A low value person can’t really “give” you much, which is why you don’t feel as shy with them.
The only 2 real solutions to this problem are:
- Increase how much you value yourself. (I call this your self esteem.)
- Or knock other people off the pedestal. (Most shy people feel inferior and assume that everyone else has a much more interesting, cool and active life than the average person actually does.)
Now the 3rd cause of shyness…
3. You feel uncomfortable with yourself.
Shyness and insecurity, the two seem to always go together. Feeling insecure about yourself will make you avoid attention & connection because you don’t want people to see the thing you are insecure or uncomfortable about.
For years I was extremely insecure about my slightly crooked front teeth. Many shy people have insecurities about their physical appearance and believe they are ugly. (Usually they pick one small bad thing about their appearance and then obsess over it non stop as if this is the ONE thing everybody else will notice and remember about them.)
Let me tell you, I’ve been there. It’s a miserable place to be, insecurity eats away at your confidence until you have none left. But there are also other types of insecurities:
- Some shy people feel like they are simply dull, boring and uninteresting.
- Or they feel stupid because of their awkward conversation skills.
- Or they are losers with no friends and an unattractive lifestyle.
These can all make you feel like other people wouldn’t accept you if they TRULY knew you. So you hide your true self. Maybe you try to be the type of person you think others want you to be. Maybe you never share your REAL thoughts, interests, passions or hobbies with people.
Being uncomfortable with yourself makes you scared to share yourself with people or form deeper connections. And telling someone to “be yourself” or “just be happy with who you are” is easier said than done.
“Being lonely is hard, but what’s harder is when you’re surrounded by people and still feel lonely.” -Unknown
Shyness can stop you from living life fully. Whether you want a girlfriend, a better social life, more confidence at work, etc… shyness can freeze you.
The biggest thing you need to remember from this article is that shyness is NOT a permanent personality trait. YOU are not shy, you just become shy in some situations depending on where you are and who you’re with.
So WHY do you become shy sometimes?
- It may happen when you NEED the other person’s acceptance or approval, similar to how a job interviewee becomes nervous when they NEED the job.
- Or it may have to do with how much you value the other person compared to yourself. If you value the other person a lot (maybe because they’re very attractive)… or you don’t value yourself much (low self esteem)… then you will become shy, quiet or awkward.
- The last reason is when you feel uncomfortable with yourself. When you feel insecure about your appearance, personality or lifestyle… then you will shy away from attention because you don’t want other people to notice the secret thing you feel ashamed about.
I hope this article has given you some insight into how your shyness works. I recommend you sign up for my email newsletter below if you’d like to learn my BEST tips.