What Is Shyness?

Lots of kids and adults are shy. Maybe you are one of them.

Shyness means to feel a little scared when you're around other people. Just about everybody feels shy sometimes. If you're the new kid in class or your Aunt Betty wants to give you a big hug, it can make you feel shy.

Nobody sits around and says, "Well, I think I'll be shy today." It is just something that happens. It can just sneak up on you. You might feel fine practicing your soccer kicks, but then feel nervous when the coach comes over to give you a few pointers.

But being shy isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's OK if it takes you a while to feel comfortable with new people and new situations. In fact, it can even be helpful to be a little shy. When you're shy, you may spend a little extra time observing the scene before jumping right into it. And you're unlikely to talk to strangers, which you shouldn't do anyway!

What Causes Shyness?

Some kids are born shy and more sensitive. Sometimes even babies act shy. Have you ever seen a baby hide his or her face from a stranger? On the other hand, another baby might kick, smile, and wave at everyone, even strangers.

Even if you weren't shy as a little kid, it's still possible to be a shy person. You might have learned to be shy because of experiences you've had at school or home. And sometimes you only feel shy for a short while, like the first time you get on a new school bus. This type of shyness often goes away after you get adjusted. For instance, after a few days, you'll probably have a seat you like to sit in and you'll get to know friends on the bus.

Can Shyness Be Serious?

Sometimes, people become so shy they are afraid to do simple things in life. For example, they won't go to a restaurant because they're too nervous to order and pay for their food. Some people are so shy about meeting new people that they rarely go outside. Doctors and psychologists often can help a person work through this kind of shyness.

If your shyness is keeping you from doing stuff you want to do, talk to someone about it. Parents, teachers, counselors, and doctors are all good people to turn to. Talking about your shyness might help you get over it. Or your friends or parents may tell you that they, too, have the same shy feelings and what they do to feel less shy. If you still feel really shy, your mom or dad might take you to see a psychologist, who can help you figure out how to feel more at ease around people.

If you know someone who's shy, try to help the person feel less nervous. Name-calling or teasing will make your friend feel even more shy, so try not to do it. The more time you spend with the person, the less shy he or she will feel around you. You might even talk about a time that you felt shy. It will help your friend to understand that everyone feels shy sometimes, even you!

Reviewed by: Colleen Sherman, PhD
Date reviewed: June 2010

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