On Being Shy…

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The other day I overheard another Mother say, “I am so glad my daughter isn’t shy like I was as a child, I felt like I missed out on so much and now I know she won’t.”  Instead of rejoicing with this Mother in the simplicity of her joy in her child’s personality I immediately felt my blood begin to boil and I took slight offense to this comment.  Why?  Because my oldest son is shy (I prefer slow to warm up) and I felt like she was making a direct commentary on my child that he was somehow less than because he was in fact shy.

Shyness is a touchy subject with a lot of parents and I found myself smack dab in the middle of the discussion and I certainly didn’t think I would.  You see, I am NOT shy at all.  Nope, not even a little bit.  One of my most favorite things to do is engage in any sort of public speaking opportunity and when I offered to perform in front of my parents dinner party guests at a very young age it was clear that new people or circumstances weren’t going to deter me from joining in-or creating- the fun.

So when our first child was born even though he was in fact a he, he looked exactly like me.  It was uncanny how much he favored me and still does in a lot of ways.  Naturally I assumed that he would act just like me too.  As his personality has emerged that hasn’t been the case; and that is not a good or bad thing.  It is just what it is, and this is where the touchy topic of shyness somehow goes from personality descriptor to personality definer.

It is well documented in school studies and social psychology experiments that shy children do in fact have a harder time in school and in social settings.  Most often because they are unlikely to ask questions out of fear that they will sound “stupid” or aren’t quick enough to speak out in the classroom before the teacher moves on to a new subject.  Shy kids do have a harder time in those settings but it is also proven that shy children are more perceptive of others around them (because they aren’t commanding attention or leading the crowd) and because of this perception develop a natural empathy towards those around them.  Shy children are good listeners and can excel in school just as much as the outgoing children they just need good teachers who know how to teach both types of students.  Neither one is superior nor better, they are just different.

To be very honest, I am still learning how best to embrace the situation when my slow to warm up boy is feeling particularly nervous.  I have had to work hard to see the world through his eyes and understand what makes him more cautious and let him be more reserved in social settings.  I know that when we go someplace new I will have a buddy for the first 15 minutes as we explore the new park, home, or school together.  After that, as the circumstances become more familiar he begins to gradually move away from me.  I have also learned how to become a cheerleader and encourager as he does try these new things and not shame or embarrass him out of my own personal frustration or inability to see his point of view.  The heart of the matter is that I get more easily frustrated than he does, and he needs to learn from me that the way he was made is perfect and wonderful and doesn’t need to be changed at all.  I have to be that advocate for him.

The bottom line is that shyness isn’t a negative at all; it just might be a characteristic of your child that makes him unique. I took those comments from that Mother personally because I am still learning what shyness looks like day in and day out for my children.  My default reaction is to automatically want my child to respond like I would.  However, just like a child with red hair needs extra protection from the sun our shy children need extra help and encouragement in social settings as well.  So the next time your child needs a little encouragement to talk to a new friend at the park, see the world through their eyes and let them take their time, we might just learn a thing or two as well.

Tracy Carson is a Licensed Associate Professional Counselor, a wife to her Prince Charming whom she has been married to for 8 years and a Mom of two precious boys, 3 and 1.  Tracy has a passion for helping women feel beautiful inside and out and works hard in her faith based counseling practice, Professional Counseling Associates,  to encourage her clients to feel the freedom to be comfortable in their own skin.  She specializes in the treatment of eating disorders and counts it a privilege to come alongside of women as they overcome the stress that can come with new life transitions. Find her on the web at http://www.pcaaz.com

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Tracy Carson is a Licensed Associate Professional Counselor, a wife to her Prince Charming whom she has been married to for 10 years and a Mom of two precious boys, 5 and 3. Tracy has a passion for helping women feel beautiful inside and out and works hard in her faith based counseling practice, Professional Counseling Associates, (www.pcaaz.com) specializing in the treatment of women’s issues: especially anxiety, development, and eating disorders and counts it a privilege to come alongside of women as they overcome the stress that can come with new life transitions. When Tracy is not in her professional role, you can probably find her out running or trying to figure out how to incorporate the newest fashion trends into her wardrobe. Follow her on twitter @tkcarson

3 COMMENTS

  1. this is my favorite of your articles! especially as i’m a naturally shy person… and of course my oldest says things like “i CAN’T WAIT to be on stage!” when referring to her dance recital and often makes me nervous because she draws more attention to me as her parent than i’d naturally like to have! my second daughter is more reserved like me and often times i worry more for her just because i know the feelings she’s having in new situations and i want others to be able to get to know her well and know the great little girl she is… i want her to be confident in who she is and not struggle with feelings of insecurity in new situations, new relationships, etc. i’m also very sensitive to the fact that she’s only 14 months behind her sister who commands the attention of everyone in the room… i don’t want her to ever feel like she’s in her sister’s shadow, but has full confidence that God has made her perfectly just as she is (and yes, has many of the great qualities you described). and this is my job! to love her well so that she learns that she is valued just as she is and to walk through the times of nervousness and insecurity with her (just as i also teach my oldest about thinking well for others and some social skills that a very outgoing 5 year old needs to learn!). good for me to read this and get some thoughts out in writing – thanks!

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