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Some experts define shyness and social anxiety as being different, frequently citing that social anxiety begins where shyness ends, wherever that is.
One thing clearly distinguishing them is that shyness is considered a personality trait, while social anxiety is in the diagnostic manual for mental health disorders (DSM).
In this article, we will define shyness as a fear of being judged negatively by others, severe enough to cause discomfort but not intense enough to prevent a person from living their life.
By this definition, someone with social anxiety will avoid going to parties altogether. A shy person will go to the party and feel uncomfortable, but be able to push through the discomfort and socialize with at least one person. They would have more fun without the shyness, but still hob nob with other people.
Shyness is not always a handicap. In every high school, there is at least one girl who is shy but always has one or more boyfriends. It hardly seems fair, but on some people shyness is charming. Sometimes a person is shy in a specific situation such as talking with authority figures, or with the opposite sex. Outside that circumstance, they are comfortable with others.
It is up to the shy individual. Decide how much the shyness hampers your life. If that amount of hampering is a problem for you, look for help. If the shy person is your child or adolescent, talk it over with them. Find out how uncomfortable they are and if it keeps them from participating in activities or social gatherings they want to attend.
There is one caution though. To a shy person, being called shy feels like a criticism, as does being called quiet. In our culture, being outgoing is frequently considered necessary for success; that implies being shy is a weakness.
Children and teens who are shy or introverted need to know the strengths that typically accompany those qualities such as sensitivity, keen observation, and being a good listener. An introverted child will fare better socially if comfortable being quiet.
Most parents can tell whether their young child has painful shyness or just take their time warming up to others. As usual, you will have to follow your instincts, or consult a child therapist.
For example, if you have the repetitive thought, “Everything I say is so stupid,” it is unlikely you will want to say very much. The reality is everyone occasionally says stupid things and so will you, but most of the time you won’t. Repeatedly thinking you are stupid is not realistic, so your therapist will tell you to cut it out.
CBT therapists give their clients skills and techniques to monitor and change how they think that are easy to learn and use.
EFT is applied to the human energy system. It involves tapping specific areas on the face and body while letting go of self-defeating thoughts that cause emotional problems. It is not difficult to do, and many people enjoy quick results. This is also a technique you can use almost anywhere to relieve situational shyness or anxiety.
With practice, the act of mindfulness will still your anxious thoughts about being embarrassed or rejected, and you will feel increasingly detached from your anxiety. The shyness stops being who you are when you can mentally step back and observe it. You will discover which thoughts cause your social angst, and thoughts can be released or discarded. Then, anxious feelings have no reason to arise.
Ram Dass wrote,
"Your problem is you're... too busy holding onto your unworthiness."
Photo by John Nyboer
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