WELLESLEY, Mass. - Despite what the extroverts of the world
may think, shy people are not unsociable. They want to make
friends, but anxiety keeps them from being friendly.
Worse, studies show that shy people, who make up 40 percent
of the American population, are too hard on themselves,
adding to the problem.
"Shy students rate their performance much more harshly
that a panel of objective observers," said Wellesley College
psychology professor and researcher Jonathan M. Cheek.
Despite a recent flurry of self-help books celebrating
shyness, Cheek says shyness is more than just a social inconvenience.
Shy people miss out on too many of the good things in life.
Cheek will teach a Wellesley College summer school seminar,
"Psychology of Shyness," June 17-July 12, in which he and
his students will study the real cost of shyness, including:
- a feeling of alienation in our increasingly impersonal
- the risk of medical problems, even early death, related
- misunderstandings by people who think shy people are
snobs or pushovers
- the loss of opportunities in love, social situations
These problems result from the shy person's inability step
forward to take advantage of opportunities.
Shy people, Cheek said, can learn to become more self-confident.
"It takes vast amounts of energy-not to mention frustration-just
coping with life as a shy person," he said. "Why not channel
that energy into becoming a more confident and outgoing
Here are Cheek's suggestions to help the chronically shy:
- Set goals each week to become friendlier by saying hello
to others or asking about their work. Reward yourself by
mentally patting yourself on the back or treating yourself
to a bouquet of flowers or a new CD once a week. Practice
followed by a well-earned reward reinforces that talking
to others is pleasant, not a dreaded chore.
- Learn relaxation techniques to relieve physical and
mental anxieties that accompany shyness.
- Change your attitude. By concentrating on negatives,
shy people reinforce a negative self-image. Focus on turning
negative thoughts into positive ones to think like a winner.
- Cultivate self-acceptance. Make a list of the things
you like to do and do those things more often. And remind
yourself you are your own best friend.
Just as hotheads may lose friends, jobs or a lover if they
don't learn to control their tempers, Cheek said, shy people
stand to lose the same things if they cannot overcome their
fear of social situations.
For more information, contact Wellesley College Office
for Public Information at 781-283-3321 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.