Are you the shy retiring type? Well it's time to come out of your shell.

Boy holding his head down and a hand to his face

We're all shy sometimes, but that doesn't stop it being hard.

What is shyness?

People who are shy do not feel comfortable in the company of others, are timid and lack confidence in themselves. We can feel shy when we receive more attention than expected, making us self conscious and apprehensive.

Shy people tend to:

  • always look down or away from people.
  • avoid talking to others because they’re afraid and can’t think of anything to say
  • speak infrequently and quietly
  • get embarrassed easily

Pathological shyness – when it goes too far

Most of us feel shy from time to time, usually when we are met with a new situation or new people, say when we’re starting Uni or on a first date. However, severe shyness is more serious, and can make every little thing in life a struggle. It can stop people leaving the house, and make a person feel terrified around everyone, perhaps even their closest friends and family. This pathological shyness is a form of social anxiety.

Severe shyness can also lead people to turn to drugs and alcohol to help them relax socially. While on occasion this is not a problem, shy people may become dependent upon these means every time they go out, which could lead to addiction.

How can I overcome it?

  • Step-by-step: set yourself mini tasks, such as “I will speak to Fred today about the weather, I will arrange to meet my best friend at the pub (and turn up)”, and so on. Keep a record of how it goes (success/ failure) and soon you’ll see most will be successful.
  • Get counselling: it may help you focus on what has caused your shyness, and along with some assertiveness training could improve your social confidence.
  • Join a support group: spending time with other shy people will not only make you realise you aren’t alone, but also help you with your people skills.
  • Accept it: if you’re comfortable with your shyness and see it as a positive, attractive attribute, you may find you are better able to deal with it, and life in general.
  • Hypnosis: hypnotherapy can work for some people by helping them to alter their feelings and behaviour, allowing them to go out socially once more.
  • There’s also a pill in development, and a few medications already out there, but prescribed drugs should be treated as a final resort rather than a catch-all answer to shyness.

Next Steps

  • The Self-Esteem Team (SET) run workshops in schools across the UK to help tackle young people's issues with body image, self-worth and mental health.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.


Updated on 29-Sep-2015