Is Shyness and Anxiety the same thing?
Updated: Feb 18
Shyness is often associated with a childlike personality characteristic, namely a notion of a timid young child, not yet at ease with him or herself, there may be an uncertain about oneself in relation to others, particularly strangers, or an unfamiliar external environment. It is within our western cultural definition to associate shyness with nervousness, in other words, it relates to anxiety, which may be perceived as equating to a lack of self-confidence, thus this insinuates at least two sub-notions;
Firstly, that a shy person’s place and status in relation to themselves and others remain unclaimed. There is, therefore, uncertainty about their place in life or position in the social pecking order. It can be argued that such a fluidity of being carries with it a certain sense of freedom, a liberation from being retained in a solidified format of existing in the world.
Secondly, one may assume there is a lack in the capacity to be at ease with oneself, particularly in the presence of others, the personality is lacking; it is flawed, incomplete, perhaps even considered as unstable, or put bluntly, the characteristic of shyness rubs itself up against the realm of pathology, shyness then becomes associated with an unhelpful and abnormal behaviour, an uneasy and uncomfortable existence.
But is that really so, or does that assumption simply pigeonhole the essence of shyness. Contemporary theorists draw links between shyness to that of a healthy developmental process and to the idea of the lack being concerned with personal security, therefore, to remedy shyness, one must feel safe and secure not just within the confinement of one’s own skin, but also within the external reality as it is perceived by the individual.
Can we then conclude that shyness is a symptom of the flight, flight or freeze response, which may be triggered when one’s personhood is perceived to be under threat, in which case, where is no lacking of the personality taken place, but rather one is tasked with self-preservation, a safeguarding function concerning the self, what is lacking, however, is confidence in one’s safety, thus an uncertainty regarding others or situational settings, not the self.
One may wonder about the missing shy-component of a person who over-shares personal aspects about themselves with strangers, or is at ease with revealing their core essence of being with others without a solid foundation of trust having first been established, how is a person devoid of shyness able to keep themselves feeling safe, and yet, not be considered as inherently vulnerable?
This brings into question whether shyness or the lack thereof is a vulnerability, far from being merely a question of personal characteristics, this notion becomes involved with a philosophy of being; as such a vulnerable individual may defend against this position by appearing to be overtly confident, and likewise, a person secure within themselves, may perceive others to be less so, thus a reservedness may concern an expected unpredictability of others rather than oneself.
Jung famously concluded that anything with a substance casts a shadow, hopefully, the reader would appreciate that a singular view on this topic is incomplete, whichever side may be displayed; shy or not, helpful or flawed, one is merely observing one side of a coin, meanwhile the flipside rests itself in the shadow, both sides are nonetheless equally real and present.