Shyness and Low Self-Esteem | Which One Leads to The Other?

Shyness is a huge struggle (as those who experience it will know). Is shyness linked to low self-esteem, and if so, how? Let's talk about it.

Shyness and Low Self-Esteem | Which One Leads to The Other?

Shyness is a pain in social situations. As those who experience it know, you want to be bold and charismatic, but you find yourself running away from interactions and cringe at the thought of the everyone turning their attention to you.

There are many factors that can cause shyness, and low self-esteem is one of them.

While we're on this subject, I think it's important to clarify that shyness is not the same thing as quietness.Therefore, when you meet a person who is introverted or quiet, do not be quick to label them as having low self-esteem. 

Let's look at the definition of low self-esteem, to help identify the connection between shyness and low self-esteem.

A person who has low self-esteem views themselves as unworthy, incompetent and uninteresting. They may generally view themselves as being a failure. Really, they are not very fair in their perception of themselves, and tend to  mentally exaggerate events in their life as having negative outcomes.

What does shyness mean? 

Shyness refers to the way a person acts in social situations, they get anxious and feel tense whenever they have to engage in conversation or meet new people. 

Do you see the connection? When a person is pessimistic about their abilities and they see themselves as not being able to do anything successfully (including talking to unfamiliar people), then it naturally follows that they will be shy. 

A person with low self-esteem will feel extremely nervous at the thought of meeting new people or having what might seem a "simple" conversation. This because they tend to battle with feelings of not being good enough and spend time worrying about how they will likely fail to meet the other person's expectations.

A person with low self-esteem may become very embarrassed and want to end a social interaction immediately if something goes wrong such as getting the other person's name wrong or misunderstanding a question they were asked. 

This goes back to the fact that a person with low self-esteem tends to exaggerate simple mistakes they make, attributing them to mean that something is fundamentally wrong with them as a person. 

As shy person who has low self-esteem may look for a quick exit from the situation, because they are scared to experience what they think will be signs of disapproval from the other person.

Many times, shy people will find it hard to make eye contact with others, and may stare at the ground; this is often linked to a feeling of low self-esteem and the worry of not being good enough. 

People with low self-esteem will also find it hard to accept a compliment, as they may have a hard time believing they are worthy of it. This article by gives a great explanation of how low self-esteem works.

The article talks about biased perception and biased interpretation, how a person with low self-esteem quickly picks up on things that fit with their negative perception of themselves and rejects anything that contradicts that negative perception.

For example, a person with low self-esteem is more likely to believe (biased interpretation) that the other person is only giving them a compliment to be nice, not because it could actually be true. Such a perception serves as a barrier which comes through as shyness. 

So far we've talked about the relationship of shyness and low self-esteem as being this: Low self-esteem causes a person to be shy.

However, being someone who has struggled with shyness in the past, I think it also works the other way.

Your low self-esteem may cause you to be shy, but then your shyness can also cause you to have more issues with low self-esteem.

For instance, when you're in a public space, you become more aware of how awkward you are. You may watch people being deep in conversation, being confident and having a good laugh.

But then at some point, you reflect back to yourself and begin to really notice how you don't seem to fit in with everyone else in the room because you struggle with shyness.

That sudden awareness of how shy you are may trigger more feelings of low self-esteem as you conclude that you fail at making friends, you fail at talking to others, that you fail at being "normal". 

Humans are complex and delicate creatures and it is often interesting to look beyond the surface of  issues like shyness and to get a glance at some other factors that are at work.

You can book a session with a self-esteem coach here.

More articles on the topic of shyness:

Thanks for reading, I hope you found it insightful. 

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