Shyness: a double whammy
If you are socially anxious (otherwise known as shy), you likely fret that you don’t come off well. Unfortunately, you’re probably right. Shy people convey unflattering impressions of themselves, says DePaulo. But not for the reasons they think. People don’t see them as lacking in smarts, wit or attractiveness but as haughty and detached. When you’re anxious, you fail to ask others about themselves or put them at ease in any way, which can be seen as rude and self-centered.
In a way, many shy people are self-centered, points out Bernie Carducci, psychologist at Indiana University Southeast and author of Shyness: A Bold New Approach. They imagine that everyone is watching and evaluating their every move. They think they are the center of any social interaction, and because they can’t stand that, they shut down (unlike an exhibitionist, who would relish it). Socially anxious people are so busy tracking what others think that they can’t act spontaneously. Still, many people find them endearing, precisely because they don’t hog attention.
Being self-centered isn’t just for extroverts anymore. (Not trying to be snarky – the statement in the above quote is true.) Preoccupation with your reputation is grounds for elimination from further consideration of your transformation from mere vacillation to emancipation.
In other words, if people find out how selfish you are, they will no longer hope for you to be free.
The irony is that “haughty and detached” is often the last things that a shy person wants to be. But then, “self-centered” is the worst. It’s a cause for guilt, and as you might imagine, a shy person gives in to guilt like a crater gives in to a meteor. The introspective personality catches on to this dynamic quickly, but knows not what to do with the realization. The reaction is emotional. Changing emotional states is easy for few, introvert or extrovert. Thus, the introvert feels stuck.
I “don’t come off well”, as I may have already admitted. I got over not being “the center of any social interaction”, but then again, I’m in my forties. Now I’m more of a social sniper: The well-timed comment or quip goes further than the speech, has more impact, and is easily more memorable. Let the blow-hards have their way, but the cunning will seize the day.