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Well, it all depends on context. Shyness is an emotion - you can't really judge it without looking at the situation it arose from. A person who is timid and nervous their entire life obviously has some sort of fear within them; the degree to which is might be considered a negative trait would be the degree to which it impacts upon your life.

I know myself, I can be a rather shy person, although it's often around people I consider mysterious, or to whom I don't want to expose my full character, so as to have a control over how I reveal myself to them. It might be that I respect them, it might be that I'm not too sure of their character. Whatever the situation, it's a defense mechanism.

I think you're right in your initial probing - it has something to do with wanting to avoid pain. But again, it depends on the degree to which you are shy and how often you show it. If you refuse to ever meet people, avoid all contact, get hot and sweaty everytime you have to talk to someone of the opposite sex or just have a fear of people in general, then there is probably a bad premise somewhere.

You might be interested in reading Dan Edge's Benevolent People Premise, a kind of off-shoot from the Benevolent Universe Premise.

Is there anything you want to expand on though? I'm trying very generally to approach your question, because you're being very general about context and the meaning for your question.

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Shyness is a fear of other people. It is a fear of being rejected or humiliated and that other people will not like you.

The problem is treating other people's opinions of you as important, especially in regard to people you do not know or even value, or do not offer rational reasons for disliking you.

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Actually in my case it's more fear that other people will be freaks, mean, or cruel; this has been my general experience of people since I was very young. I'm so bad at dealing with people in person that I usually count it as a win if I only moderately embarrass myself. Forget about actually getting what I wanted out of the interaction.

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Shyness is a fear of other people. It is a fear of being rejected or humiliated and that other people will not like you.

The problem is treating other people's opinions of you as important, especially in regard to people you do not know or even value, or do not offer rational reasons for disliking you.

I think this is much too narrow a definition for shyness.

First, I don't agree that shyness is an emotion. I think it is more a type of behavior. Shyness is a tendency to avoid initiating relationships with strangers that would increase the level of intimacy involved in the relationship.

There are all kinds of possible motivations for this type of behavior, and a lot of competing psychologies that could sustain it (some healthier than others).

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I think this is much too narrow a definition for shyness.

First, I don't agree that shyness is an emotion. I think it is more a type of behavior. Shyness is a tendency to avoid initiating relationships with strangers that would increase the level of intimacy involved in the relationship.

If you remove the emotion of fear of others from the equation, I think shyness loses meaning. To me, shyness is the emotion of fear , specifically fear of others. The fear is the result of an evaluation of low self-worth or concern for one's welfare, but most especially I think it comes from a feeling of low self-worth in some area. So, I'd say it's a feeling of fear of others, resulting from a low personal evaluation in some area.

There was a saying which was quoted, or perhaps originated, in the movie Strictly Ballroom: "A life lived in fear is only half lived". That might give a shy person motivation to overcome his shyness.

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I am not a psychologist, nor have I studied it, my post was based upon my own experience growing up as a shy child.

An emotion is an automatic response to an object perceived or imagined, based upon one's subconscious operative value judgements. It is an automatic evaluation of whether something is good for you or bad for you, for you or against you, but the evaluation itself was programmed consciously, or at least semi-consciously.

With that in mind, applied to shyness, you can see that there is an automatic response to people one is not familiar with, the emotion is fear and in written form it is saying "this person is against me" or at least potentially against me.

An emotion does not exist by itself, it includes a physical response, for me this was an increased heart beat, tense muscles, shaking and increased temperature resulting in a red face. In addition there is a behaviour associated with this, it is avoidance behaviour, the avoidance of being emotionally hurt. The mind operates like this to protect you, whether it is a rational or irrational fear.

In order to consider another person's view of yourself as important to you, or more important than your own, that is, any other person, you have to have low self esteem. This would mean not being confident in using your own mind, and replacing whatever self evaluation you had with an evaluation by someone else.

The fear of being humiliated or rejected may be based upon one's own view of self, one avoids others for the fear of them knowing what you know to be your own weakness, and then trying to exploit it. Basically, everyone is out to get you, the malevolent universe premise.

I remember as a child while eating lunch when one "friend" made fun out of me for the way I ate. I had never thought about it before, but from then on I used to avoid eating in public places, for the fear of someone noticing that I ate funny (according to him), and then proceeding to humiliate me. Now I was shy beforehand, but didn't mind eating around others, this made me more shy. Negative life experiences such as this, in addition to low self esteem, were the reasons for my shyness.

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If you remove the emotion of fear of others from the equation, I think shyness loses meaning. To me, shyness is the emotion of fear , specifically fear of others. The fear is the result of an evaluation of low self-worth or concern for one's welfare, but most especially I think it comes from a feeling of low self-worth in some area. So, I'd say it's a feeling of fear of others, resulting from a low personal evaluation in some area.
I think your definition omits too much behavior that is commonly regarded as "shyness", and too many possible psychological and emotional states that often correspond to such behavior.

I do think your description is accurate to a significant portion of the phenomenon of shyness, but it's not comprehensive. Very often, people who are simply private and reserved by nature, and who do not habitually make an effort to "put themselves out" and assertively engage in certain types of social behavior as described as "shy." I think this is perfectly meaningful even if there is no element of fear present. Their emotion could just as easily be disgust, or utter indifference, or something else. Their psychological state could be a low self-esteem, but not necessarily. It could be they simply have a low or neutral esteem for others, or they might just lack the energy to engage others much. They might also have poor social skills, or they might not have anything to say or any positive reasons to engage others.

The fear of being humiliated or rejected may be based upon one's own view of self, one avoids others for the fear of them knowing what you know to be your own weakness, and then trying to exploit it. Basically, everyone is out to get you, the malevolent universe premise.
I wouldn't disagree with calling this type of reaction "shyness," but I think it goes far beyond typical shyness, and seems to incorporate a neurotic element; maybe a social anxiety disorder? (I'm not a psychologist either, but I do enjoy studying it).
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Very often, people who are simply private and reserved by nature, and who do not habitually make an effort to "put themselves out" and assertively engage in certain types of social behavior as described as "shy." I think this is perfectly meaningful even if there is no element of fear present. Their emotion could just as easily be disgust, or utter indifference, or something else. Their psychological state could be a low self-esteem, but not necessarily. It could be they simply have a low or neutral esteem for others, or they might just lack the energy to engage others much. They might also have poor social skills, or they might not have anything to say or any positive reasons to engage others.

I always thought that those that don't want to engage in conversation with others, with the absence of fear, are known as introverts. They prefer ideas to people, of thinking rather than talking.

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I always thought that those that don't want to engage in conversation with others, with the absence of fear, are known as introverts. They prefer ideas to people, of thinking rather than talking.

Yes, but I wasn't aware of a distinction between shyness and introversion. I thought shyness was the common term and introversion the technical term for the same thing. Maybe I'm wrong, though.. [edit: So I also didn't think there was anything in the concept of introversion that would exclude the presence of fear.]

Edited by Bold Standard
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Yes, but I wasn't aware of a distinction between shyness and introversion. I thought shyness was the common term and introversion the technical term for the same thing. Maybe I'm wrong, though..

I think it depends on the context. Introverts can be defined as a shy person, or simply as a person that habitually directs his attention or concentration inwards (on his mind, thoughts, or feelings). Generally I use the term to describe the later, in which case being an introvert does not necessarily equate being shy.

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I think this is much too narrow a definition for shyness.

First, I don't agree that shyness is an emotion.

I agree with the Bold One. I was surprised some years back to discover that our Health Sciences Centre (in Vancouver, BC) had pioneered a 'Shyness Clinic' for people who found that whateverthehell it was, shyness, introversion, social phobia, whatever, their lives had been stunted and wanted help.

Now, I see that such clinical activity proliferates. Most local clinics can refer to decent short term cognitive-behavioural therapies, to help such folk break down whatever doors they find in their way.

Myself, I am intensely shy but also extroverted. I am shy about some things, but most awfully shout it from a Broadway stage about others . . . on the whole, I don't think my shyness ever interfered with me doing what I wanted to to. Indeed, against the background of shyness was a lusty little performer just waiting for the chance to churn up some drang . . .

I don't mean to offer cheap psychological advice where it is not needed or asked, but if anyone is reading this thread and wondering "is he a cheap amateur psychologist or something?" -- yes, sometimes mere traits can be profoundly well-seated or well-rooted. Anyone who has see the children of the Romanian orphanages knows that a lack of attention can kill off parts of child development, and anyone with a Psych 101 under his or her belt will remember the quite storied history of testing children and infants for 'shyness,' introversion, whateverthehell.

It seems, in my grizzled old noggin, that we are born some of us to be shy, but that we can overtake our shyness with boldness and spirit, and if we need help to come out of the shade, we can get it.

There's some of us humans so shy or sensitive to others that they mostly keep to themselves, quite happily, and on occasion draw on their great armour and smiles and go forth to be Un-Shy (here I imagine a Dragoon version of J Megan, astride Middleton like an Ogress of Objectivism) . . . and that those who are truly thwarted by social anxieties should really just get on the programme.**

WSS

++++++++++++

a couple of wry 'shy therapy' cartoons here.

** meaning only that it is a delightsome thing to be shy, but some can be wounded by a great irrational fear, and that these wounded can be healed with some rational-emotive therapy. It is a testament to Ayn Rand's percipience that her early thoughts on emotion have born such valuable fruit decades later, in the likes of the sprawl of "evidence-based medicine" in the psychological larders of today: CBTand other BT acronyms have certainly provided their dollar value (in contrast to the mystical Freud and Jung). Critics of Rand who devalue her theories of human nature can at least give her a nod for nudging along the more rational approach in psychology.

For those who need more clarity, I would be happy to join a pre-existing psychology thread here at OO.

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Wouldnt an Objectivist practice the skill to improve interpersonal communication so it doesnt have that weakness?

It depends on what you expect to gain. I have plenty of interpersonal skills and I'm very adept at using them . . . when I don't have to deal with people in person. I have numerous friendly relationships with people online, for instance.

So the question is rather: should I spend huge amounts of time and trouble so that I can enjoy a situation that confronts me maybe once a year? It's like curing your fear of bugs so that you can enjoy eating live spiders. What the heck for?

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I agree with the Bold One.

: )

I am shy about some things, but most awfully shout it from a Broadway stage about others

I don't know if you meant this literally, but one thing I've noticed that I think is interesting is that many of the most emotive and intimate of public performers have been described in interviews as being shy. From personal experience, I've noticed that many of the musicians I respect, when I have met them after or before performances in which they had a tremendously intimate rapport with the audience, are very personal and reserved. I'm also a musician, and I have no problems or fears about revealing parts of myself to an audience while I'm on stage, but in person I would consider myself introverted and reluctant to open up to people I don't know well in conversations, and also reluctant to initiate conversations with people I don't know.

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I'm also a musician, and I have no problems or fears about revealing parts of myself to an audience while I'm on stage, but in person I would consider myself introverted and reluctant to open up to people I don't know well in conversations, and also reluctant to initiate conversations with people I don't know.

Much of the research I have read on Shyness per se plus the supposed disorders (social phobias, etc) tells us that shyness is a natural part of everyone (meaning shy in certain situations), but that for some, a variety of factors can lead to an restricted life.

I hope that those who feel unduly restricted by shyness take up some research on it, and take advantage of CBT therapies to help them out.

I would post some links to pertinent studies, if there is interest.

Thanks for the Bold Standard answer from Texas!

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I think your definition omits too much behavior that is commonly regarded as "shyness", and too many possible psychological and emotional states that often correspond to such behavior.

I do think your description is accurate to a significant portion of the phenomenon of shyness, but it's not comprehensive. Very often, people who are simply private and reserved by nature, and who do not habitually make an effort to "put themselves out" and assertively engage in certain types of social behavior as described as "shy." I think this is perfectly meaningful even if there is no element of fear present. Their emotion could just as easily be disgust, or utter indifference, or something else. Their psychological state could be a low self-esteem, but not necessarily. It could be they simply have a low or neutral esteem for others, or they might just lack the energy to engage others much. They might also have poor social skills, or they might not have anything to say or any positive reasons to engage others.

You're absolutely right about that, but I'm wondering if those sorts of behaviors should be considered shyness. Iows, perhaps shyness should only refer to fear of others, where as other causes of introverted-ness should be considered something else. After all, someone who is introverted, but not shy, could presumably in a moments noticed demonstrate a lack of shyness without any attendant emotional pain, whereas the genuinely shy person would have real difficulty with this.

For instance, I think it would be meaningful to observe someone who is quiet and conclude he's shy, and for someone who knows him to state “Oh, he’s not shy, he’s just quiet and indifferent. Watch out if you cross him, then you’ll find out how shy he really is!”

Or, to put it another way, the fearful person has no real choice over his emotion reaction. He's frozen with fear. On the other side of the coin, the indifferent or contemptuous person could throw aside his quietness in a moment’s notice, which indicates that the quietness is non-essential to his state.

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There's two or more balls in the air in this thread, some good groping out of definitions and redundancies. For a Canuckistani like me, it is refreshing to be among Americans, who just do not generally have that slightly self-mocking smugmess that is a Canucki's worst attribute. I see an assertiveness and a 'don't f**k with me' attitude that is not the rule up here. I mean we all have it, but Canucks pull the sweater just a little lower and pull the nose up just a little bit more, if you know what I mean.

That said, I still boldly stand with the Texan.

I think your definition omits too much behavior that is commonly regarded as "shyness", and too many possible psychological and emotional states that often correspond to such behavior.

I do think your description is accurate to a significant portion of the phenomenon of shyness, but it's not comprehensive.

In pith, better than my "I'm a Las Vegas Show Queen, but still Shy" post. Still, a couple last wrinkles . . .

[P]erhaps shyness should only refer to fear of others, where as other causes of introverted-ness should be considered something else.

It's not like people have an Innie or an Outie. Introversion can mean a contemplative personality, and quiet, introspective, thoughtful passion, or a solitary, refreshing walk through Five Mile Wood. But once Mr Innie/Outie gets back out of the wood, then what? What are all those two-eyed beings trundling about? What is his 'social' gambit or personality, stripped of all outliers? What does an extrovert do with people that an introvert does not?

What does a shy person do with people that an unshy person does not?

Does your metaphor, Thales, extend this far? As far as traits (if not the Big Five)?

After all, someone who is introverted, but not shy, could presumably in a moments noticed demonstrate a lack of shyness without any attendant emotional pain, whereas the genuinely shy person would have real difficulty with this.

I almost see this, but need an example to flesh it out, to put human figures interacting in my mind. I need to play out a scenario on the shy introvert and the non-shy introvert, introduce them to the same situations, and see what they do. If their behaviour is markedly different, then you may be right, and more likely right if the behavioural variable can be put down to "other causes of introverted-ness."

Or, to put it another way, the fearful person has no real choice over his emotion reaction. He's frozen with fear. On the other side of the coin, the indifferent or contemptuous person could throw aside his quietness in a moment’s notice, which indicates that the quietness is non-essential to his state.

These make interesting avenues indeed. A frozen, fearful person with no control right this way, and a quiet person concealing the tightly coiled spring down this way. Either one might be considered to have taken a walk down Pathological Boulevard (especially if the frozen one is this way at work, in the bath, on the phone, and the tightly-sprung one especially if he has a quick re-cinch in between demonstrating contemptuously that he's mostly quiet because 'You Are All Fools!'**) -- neither one is an exemplar; moreover, that which seems to be measured (the S of shyness and I of introversion) seems not to extend from one to the other, thus is not likely the scale we want. We may be seeing the extreme end of two different variables.

Essentially, to many less-mighty minds (like mine) and to greater (so many) the frozen one needs help, whereas the second needs to be avoided. We are more likely to be able to help the frozen one. The frozen one is less likely to be able to handle a gun or fist or knife quickly and essentially.

Luckily, we have more than one fork in the road.

WSS

+++++++++++++++++++++++

** a. Of course one reason we are not hearing from more 'shy' or 'shy'-ish people could be that many students of and active elaborators of Objectivism are not generally shy in a way that causes them significant anquish or even interest. I see, pollyanna me, the Ur Objectivist and a generally very socially-competent person, but cut through with steel, like a king -- genuinely benevolent, informed, courteous to a fault, but with steel in the scabbard.

b. The other, more likely reason is a bit of the Showboat that is WSS. I hope this thread continues to let itself out as a ramble, I'll step away from the main drag for a while. I would actually like to read some more engaging personal examples of 'shyness' and its benefits and values.

c. an afterthought makes me wonder how many youngerish Rand-influenced people (such as are attracted to this site) also use the formal social networks (e.g., Facebook, Orkut, etc) as alternatives to the normal social scene (in which it seems obvious Objectivists are less than one in a thousand) or perhaps as a way of obviating any of the S-factor they feel otherwise.

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The reason is I am stuck on this is the following:

"Can you truly make an objective value judgment that somebody is shy?"

And from there it goes, if you cannot, then does shyness even matter?

Let alone exist?

What brings rise to this question is my observation of 'shyness'.

You cannot literally observe it.

You cannot observe a trait called shyness, you're really observing other traits and then you pop out some silly blanket, un objective abstract concept like shyness.

For instance, I think that every single human being, even the most confident, feels intimidated by a query in which they have to state their reasons for example, "But why did you do X?".

I know it sounds counter-intuitive, as us Objectivists love reason, and I personally love to explain my reasons.

But focusing on the human communication and that moment a query is posed at you, you feel intimidated, at least subconsciously.

That's my theory, I think such intimidation is not based on false premises, but just human to human communication and probably genetics.

Especially to strangers. Observe a monkey has to smell another monkey before he feels safe to hug that monkey. It's the same underlying force.

I hope I'm not going off topic here, to intimidation, and I am probably the most bubbly person around, but it had to be said.

You can impact this 'momentary intimidation response' through your premises and practice, but you cannot completely eliminate it.

Most people cannot talk about this stuff explicitly, so please be candid as I have.

Or maybe I'm wrong about all this and shyness is a socially objective abstraction.

Edited by Yankee White
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I used to be extremely shy when I was a kid. I think you're right, Thales and ALS, the reason for shyness is Malevolent Universe Premise caused by negative experience. I remember being almost physically unable to greet and thank my teachers in the daycare. In school I unexpectedly (even for myself) have overcome this and began messing with others. However, for the reasons I still didn't uncover (partly because of evasion, maybe; I'll think of it) I switched to some arrogant type of closed paranoid.

What was the final cure? Right, Objectivism. The root of my behavior was probably what caused Bertrand Stadler to sell himself to the government: the notion that real world is unknowable and hostile, that people cannot be dealt with rationally. Naturally, as I integrated my knowledge and learned philosophy, that notion have vaporized.

I still have some minor difficulties in dealing with strangers: I find myself staring at them. However when I engage in vocal contact, this problem vanishes, and if I'm relaxed, it also vanishes.

Good luck in overcoming your shyness, Yankee White. Remember, they are not out to get you, they don't even know you :P

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  • 1 month later...

The shy person isn't actively fearful of interactions with other people. Rather, he avoids interactions with other people. This might be due to an irrational fear.

The thing is, once you overcome that fear, you are not magically granted the powers of clever and appropriate social interaction. Some people pick it up right away; others move from a global, irrational sense of low self-esteem to a specific low estimation of their own social awareness, which can be just as crippling.

Shyness and introversion are similar, but I think they view the same phenomenon from different angles. The introvert prefers to work and/or play alone; the shy person is difficult to draw out into conversation. An introvert might be shy, or he might be great at a party. The shy person might also be introverted, or maybe instead he loves hanging out with his friends (but shuts down when faced with meeting a stranger).

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  • 1 month later...

I consider myself shy, so when it comes to meeting strangers or starting a conversation with people I'm usually not the one to take the first step. But that's not always the case. I don't have a problem starting a conversation when I have something meaningful to ask, or say to a certain person. The problem arises when I'd like to meet new people; someone outside my usual social circle.

For example, in an appropriate setting, I see a girl whose physical appearance I like and naturally I'd like to start a conversation. The reason I don't do it isn't my fear of rejection; it isn't a fear at all. It's a sheer lack of things to say. I could introduce myself, but then what? I don't know this person or anything about her. The very amount of things I can say is so overwhelming it produces nothing. (Like the question "Do you love life?" from Atlas Shrugged; Dagny says it can mean so many things it means nothing.)

Now I come to think about it, maybe I should start using some pickup lines or what? Are there any suggestions?

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Source, just a hint - I find that making a somewhat trite omment to a stranger ("My, what nice weather we're having today") can result in the start of an interesting conversation. Don't overthink it. That may be where you get into trouble. A simple sentence ("Will that bus ever get here") can be quite sufficient. A stranger will probably be overwhelmed (instead of impressed) by some heavy philosophical statement). Anyway, try it sometime. Ginny

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