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I’m Too Shy To Speak In Public

Not all introverts are shy.  Not all shy people are introverts.  Introversion is the feeling of being drained by being around people.  It is an oversensitivity to stimulation.  Being shy is a fear.  It can be a fear of the judgement of others, or a fear of the judgement of yourself.  But it is a fear – a fear which can be crippling, and which can prevent people from standing up and speaking.

I don’t claim I can cure everyone of shyness.  But I do claim that some people are able to get over their shyness and speak with confidence and aplomb.

Shyness is a common problem for introverts.  There can be many reasons why an introvert may – or may not – be shy, and several are worth examining:

We know from studies of twins that introversion is about 50% genetic, and about 50% environmental.  Which is to say we know that, while you may be predisposed to being an introvert, something in your upbringing may well lead you into full blown introversion.  Alternatively, you may not be genetically predisposed to introversion – but something in your upbringing may have so great an effect that you find yourself preferring peace and quiet to high stimulation environments.  In both these cases, something external is required to tell the young, still developing, you that stimulation needs to be hidden from.  A large number – if not all introverts are a product of their environment, and such environmental factors may not only lead to a need to retreat from the world occasionally, but also lead to a fear of engaging with it.

Introverts, as they grow up, will naturally attempt to spend less time in social situations than extroverts.  The more introverted you are, the less time you are able to spend socially without becoming exhausted.  Many introverts opt to spend their spare time doing something other than socialising.  And what this means is that while introverts are busy reading, thinking, and growing their interior lives, extroverts are practising their social and relationship skills.  Even by the time a child begins school, it is likely that an extrovert will be much more practised at making friends than an introvert.  The learned behaviours in these early days can last a lifetime.

The extravert world itself can also play a part in making the introvert feel small and unworthy.  Extroverts shout their ideas out loud, whereas introverts tend to hone their ideas quietly, then express them softly.  Introverts ideas can be drowned out, or dismissed by a domineering extrovert crowd.  An already shy introvert may feel rejected – or lacking in value.  Such reinforcement (which can occur over and over, not just in the workplace, but in other worlds such as teenage relationships and social and religious groupings) can link speaking up witha whole range of other internal fears.

No.  It is no surprise that many introverts are shy.

However, for many, shyness is something you can conquer, especially once you know what it is you are dealing with.

It is fair to say “I am an introvert”.  It seems introversion is a key part of our personality makeup.  It is unlikely to change.  To say “I am shy” is, however, not entirely a reasonable statement.  Shyness is not something you are, it is something you feel, a reaction to a particular circumstance.

There are many times in your life that you are confident.

Almost no one (over the age of 4) says “I am too shy to walk”.   For the physically able, walking is something we all do with confidence.  No-one is too shy to breath, or too shy to blink.  The idea of not being confient in your ability to blink sounds faintly ridiculous.  So you are not shy about everything you do. You are shy about very particular things.  This is a powerful lesson – you are not shy.  Rather shyness is something you sometimes experience.

With that shift in understanding, shyness – and the particular times you experience it – becomes something you can handle.

Before we go on, I want to remind you that overcoming shyness for an introvert can be a powerful change – but while it will open many doors, it does not remove the fact that for an introvert socialising is tiring.  Overcoming shyness will, at times, take some amount of will power – this too is tiring.  It is unwise to try tos overcome all of your shyness by willpower at once.  People are tiring, you are just setting yourself up for failure.  Keep very much in tune with your energy levels – only push when you have a lot of energy.  Continue to make use of quiet times to recharge – indeed, if you want to be more social, you need to get better at looking out for opportunities to rechange, and to take more of them.

[As the articles on public speaking grow, I will be adding more information about overcoming shyness - look at the sidebar, and come back over the next few days to find out more]