Combating Shyness

Jeffrey Kaye, Ph.D.
844 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94108

Shyness is a problem for untold numbers of people. The agony of shyness transcends national boundaries, or divisions of age, sex, race, and nationality. It speaks to fundamental issues around trust, safety, self-esteem and identity, anxiety and fear. I have seen a special interest in shyness problems from individuals who visit my site or send me e-mails. I hope that this page will provide a starting point for those seeking more information about coping with or overcoming shyness problems.

As says on its home page, "Shyness and social phobia do not have to interfere with achieving professional and interpersonal goals. The pain of shyness can be relieved by challenging automatic thoughts and beliefs, and learning new behaviors."

Shyness problems lie on a continuum from mild insecurity to disabling social phobia or avoidance behaviors. Often, attempts to deal with shyness have led to secondary problems, such as substance abuse, or depression. For those who feel shyness, lack of confidence in social situations, social anxiety, loneliness, etc. are causing significant unhappiness in their lives, I strongly encourage you to seek consultation and/or help with an experienced therapist. Life can begin to get better much sooner than you think.

I believe the problem with shyness begins with an interaction between in-born temperament and a unique psychological, developmental issue. This issue is the fear of showing weakness, and the universal need to be liked or accepted or loved. The fear is rooted in the developmental fact that as small children we get approval for doing things "right". When we are very young, if we get disapproval from our parents or siblings it arouses very bad feelings within us, feelings of emotional pain that we typically will do anything to avoid. Everyone experiences such feelings at some point in our lives. Parents, for instance, must show disapproval to teach us basic safety when we are very young. (Parent to two year old child: "I am very upset with you for playing with matches.") Sometimes, we over-learn such lessons; sometimes, the lessons may have been taught too harshly. In any case, interpersonal relations then absorb a feeling of potential discomfort and embarrassment or pain, which only established trust seems able to undo.

The links below offer a starting place for learning more about shyness, its origins, how to cope with its effects, and how to fight to overcome it. I've already given an explanation of where I believe shyness comes from. In general, it represents a particular fear of being shamed or exposed by others. It is closely tied to one's basic self-esteem. But the particular form and meaning of a person's shyness problems are unique to the individual. Psychological treatment of shyness needs to be assessed, and treatment oriented toward the needs and strengths of the particular person. But without a doubt, therapy can help you work through shyness issues and restore a healthy balance of positive self-regard and self-esteem in the context of interaction with others, and reduce feelings of guilt and shame.

Don't give up. Your will to overcome this problem is proven by the very act of searching out information. The next step is to reach out and get the help you deserve. If any visitors to this page have a web resource they think would be particularly helpful to others, please e-mail me at sfpsych at gmail dot com. If you live in the San Francisco area and are interested in treatment, feel free to give me a call at my office: 415-362-8262.

Links about Shyness and Social Anxiety/Phobia

[When you select a link, you will be going to a site that has no connection or agreement with this site. While my site does not collect any personal information or download cookies to your site, I cannot vouch for the policies of other sites. So please use the Internet with caution, and especially be careful about giving ANY site your personal information.]

The Overcoming Shyness Forum

Shyness Home Page & Resources (from The Shyness Institute in Palo Alto, CA)

The Henderson-Zimbardo Shyness Questionnaire

The Shyness Clinic (with offices in Berkeley and San Jose, CA)

Helping Young Children Overcome Shyness

Shyness in the Classroom

Personal Stories and Websites by People Who Have Social Anxiety

Social Anxiety Disorder and Treatment Options (includes discussion of psychotherapy treatment, taking medications such as Paxil, etc. -- for another view on the potential dangers of taking such drugs, and Paxil in particular, see Paxil InfoCenter website.) -- Website of Nancy Wesson, Ph.D., in Mountain View, CA, with lots of information and links

How to Be Cooler -- Aimed at tips for young guys, but could be of interest to anyone struggling with social anxiety

Contact Information:
Jeffrey S. Kaye, Ph.D.
844 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
Phone: 415-362-8262
E-mail: sfpsych at gmail dot com (Before e-mailing me, please read my e-mail policies and warnings about confidentiality on-line by clicking here.)

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Last modified: December 07, 2011
Copyright ©2002-2005 Jeffrey Kaye, Ph.D.

All material provided on this website is for educational and/or informational purposes only. Direct consultation of a qualified, licensed health care provider or therapist should be sought as necessary for any specific questions or problems. This web site should not be construed as offering either medical advice or online professional services; no therapeutic relationship is established by use of this site. Please do not send emails to this site or anyone associated with it that may include confidential information. A link to any other web site from this site does not necessarily imply any approval, recommendation, or endorsement of such site.