Ok you’re shy. So what? We can’t all be the ‘life of the party’, and maybe we don’t want to be! Should a shy person make an attempt to change and become outgoing?
Yes and no.
No, we don’t all need to be lively, uninhibited extraverts. Some people are just naturally quieter and more reserved than others. You may be happy that way, and many people would actually find your company soothing, since shy people are often good listeners and may also be more observant, thoughtful and sensitive.
But... having said that, shyness is not a good thing if it comes in the way of leading a fulfilling life. And research has shown a range of negative consequences faced by shy people. If you’re shy you may have experienced some of them.
In Social Situations
If you are like most shy people, you tend to avoid social situations, date less, show less interest in other people and often feel and act awkward. You may lack social skills, not knowing quite what to say or do around others. It is likely that you talk less and wait for others to initiate conversations. Your facial expressions may appear stiff and you may even smile less and avoid making eye-contact. That hardly makes for good conversations at a social gathering! Nor does it help you make friends.
When you are shy, you tend to be self-conscious, imagining that everyone is looking at you and judging you (in truth, others may see you as not very friendly, but their perceptions are nowhere near as negative as you might think). You react to this by finding excuses to avoid the party, the dinner, or even the invitation to join your friends for coffee at the cafeteria. As a result you could find yourself being socially isolated and lonely, missing out on the benefits that come from interacting with others.
At the workplace or in college, chances are you rarely speak up and share your ideas, minimise interacting with peers, don’t ask questions, avoid socialising, remain silent in meetings – all resulting in lowered visibility. Studies indicate that shy people get less promotions and even lower salaries, because they do not request for a raise and they perform less well in job interviews. Inadequate social skills are also a barrier to career growth because as you advance in your career, social and leadership skills become increasingly important.
Unfortunately shyness often becomes a self-handicapping strategy – when you avoid all situations where you might feel socially awkward, you also don’t allow yourself a chance to overcome that shyness.
It IS possible to break this cycle though - taking small, graded steps towards overcoming shyness. No, you may not become the life of the party, but you can learn to actually enjoy being with people and be able to function at work in ways that enhance your success.
A counsellor will be able to help you take those first few steps toward getting out of that shell!