Getting Over Your Shyness

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Why Shyness Is a Problem

But, I used to wonder, Why should I have to get over my shyness? Like most shy people, I flunked the classic test for extroversion: Does social contact energize or exhaust you? Do you come home from a party buzzing with positive excitement or depleted and haunted by the echoes of every stupid thing you said and did?

Depleted and haunted, that was my usual post-party hangover. Besides, experts like Drs. Carducci and Zimbardo are quick to say there's nothing intrinsically wrong with being shy. Shy people are often empathic and sensitive, good listeners and keen observers of human behavior (many writers and actors, from Emily Dickinson to Julia Roberts, identify themselves as shy). And a shy person's desire to spend time alone can be a very positive thing: It is doubtful that, had Albert Einstein been a party animal, he would have been able to shut himself off from the world long enough to give us E=mc^2. So wouldn't it be better if I just honored my shy nature and kept to myself?

Not really, experts say. Shyness is a barrier to social contact, and social contact is a basic human need. Research has shown that those who don't have enough of it tend to "experience more physical and emotional difficulties than well-connected individuals," according to Dr. Carducci. And in other studies, aspects of shyness have been linked to depression, cardiovascular disease, and reduced life expectancy. Gulp. Aren't sweaty palms and a pounding heart enough? Besides, it always felt as though I was born shy.

Continued on page 3:  Nature vs. Nurture


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