Shyness in young people

Shyness in young people


Shyness in young people. People who suffer from shyness are tense when they stand out, or in situations where they have to achieve something. Shyness can arise when you are facing one person, such as when you meet someone. It can also occur when you are among a group of people.

In general, you can speak of shyness when you feel the tension in interacting with others, in social situations. If you feel a lot of tension or even panic when performing, such as during a test or when taking an exam, then you are not talking about shyness but about fear of failure.

Being a little tense is usually good for performance, but fear or panic is hindering.

Symptoms of shyness in young people

Feelings and behavior You feel shyness, but it can also be inferred from the way you behave. You flush, shake or sweat; you can also stutter or otherwise get stuck in a conversation. Shy people often talk under their breath and have difficulty looking at the other person.

Some young people try to hide their shyness by being extra funny or tough, or by trying to stand out as little as possible. These are all ways to create a distance between yourself and the other. That distance gives you the safe feeling that you are protected against the critical assessment of the other.

You often feel tense and worth less than the other, sometimes you also feel fear of failing or making mistakes. In short: you have negative feelings that you experience as unpleasant.

Thoughts You can also recognize shyness by certain thoughts that keep haunting your mind. Shy people can be very preoccupied with an appointment or situation that will be difficult for them because they think they are nothing. That is why expectations are not very high in advance.

Shy people often think their conversations are boring, their looks are substandard, and their behavior appears clumsy. If a meeting does not go well, shy people often see this as confirmation: ‘you see, I will never succeed anyway’.

See also, Social phobia

How does shyness arise in young people?

Exactly how shyness arises is not entirely clear. It is known that shyness is determined by various factors. The most important factors that play a role in this are upbringing, age and especially having one or more unpleasant experiences.

Exemplary figures

People learn by following the behavior of others. If you have often had shy behavior as an example, for example, because your father, mother, or best friend was shy, then you have a slightly higher chance of becoming shy yourself when dealing with others.


In addition, experiences from the past seem to play an important role. If a number of encounters with others do not go well, you become insecure and you may think that this is your fault. You then think that it will also happen in the future. This makes you believe that you are not worth much in social situations.

Once you think that way, chances are that with every subsequent encounter that resembles it, you will feel increasingly tense and negative about yourself. You may even avoid socializing with other people. This in turn can mean that you no longer gain experience and do not practice much more in those social situations. The chance that you will ever find that you can do it is therefore getting smaller. This creates a circle in which shyness can grow. You avoid social situations and when it is really unavoidable, you feel very clumsy.


Age also influences shyness: during puberty (between the ages of 12 and 18) shyness can suddenly develop. This is thought to be because young people at this stage of their lives are eager to belong to a group of peers and are much more attentive than before.

A lot changes in puberty, your body, the relationship with your parents and the way you have to perform in school. These changes often bring feelings of shame about your body, your school performance or your appearance.

See also, Head nodding in the elderly

Is it serious and what can you expect?

Shyness occurs in many people and does not have to be a problem. Many people can live with it and about 90 percent of shy people grow out of it.

Shyness becomes a problem when you find yourself avoiding certain activities that you actually want or need to do. For example, you no longer go to parties, you sit alone during the break or make up an excuse not to have to join a group. You try to avoid speaking engagements or presentations at school. Failing that, you will be upset days in advance at the prospect of having to do something like that.

In other words, your fear of failing or standing out in the presence of other people hinders you in everyday life. Very small percentage of shy people, shyness becomes a ‘social phobia’. In that case, you have a problem with almost all social contacts and you no longer dare to be among people.

When to seek help?

If you find that your shyness is really hindering you in your daily activities (you avoid certain activities), or if you find yourself interacting with other people less and less because you are avoiding them, then it is wise to seek help. You can contact a mentor or counselor at school or request a referral to a psychologist through the general practice.

For people who want to get rid of their shyness, there are training courses that teach you how to connect and practice with people with similar problems and exchange experiences. These are social skills training. There you learn what shyness is, you learn to think differently about yourself, you learn to relax your body better and you learn at which times you can expect shyness. That way you can learn to deal with it differently.

What can you do about it yourself?

It is generally assumed that shyness has been learned in some way. That means that it can also be unlearned. Unlearning consists of changing ideas that shy people have about themselves and about others.

For example, the following two thoughts can cause embarrassment, but they can also be changed.

  • ‘Everyone has to like me, hip and nice; it is terrible when I come across as boring, uninteresting or vulnerable ‘. You can check whether that thought also lives with you. Then ask yourself if the thought is correct (for example, do you prefer to deal with a smooth talker or a shy person?) And replace the negative and undermining thought with a more realistic and positive one that fits better in your own life, such as: “it is impossible to be liked by everyone and I cannot always be successful in life.”
  • “I’m nothing.” Everyone is unique and therefore worth exactly the same. No one is worth more than another. Changing your thoughts about yourself and the other does not happen in front of the mirror. Shyness is more likely to diminish if you practice positive thoughts (“I don’t need to be liked by everyone and I am just as valuable as the other person”) in real encounters. Making a plan can help you with that. You can start with a not too difficult situation, such as family or close acquaintances / friends and then try encounters that you dread more. Young people indicate that they learn a lot and feel stronger through practice.

General advice and precautions

Research shows that in a large number of people shyness disappears by itself: you learn to deal with it. In general, interacting with other people seems to be most relaxed when you can be honest with each other. Therefore, try to simply say to the other person that you find it difficult or that you are shy in an exciting event or meeting. This takes a lot of the tension out, as there is probably no one who feels that you should be ashamed of your shyness.

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