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luckylefty
Shyness 
16th-Jul-2004 04:45 pm
slanty, martha
So an outgoing, socially adept friend of mine recently explained some behavior I asked him about by saying that he was shy. This caused me to realize that lots of my other friends who I don't think are in the least shy consider themselves shy. Why is this?

Here's my theory. Why is it that 75% of all people polled consider themselves to be above-average drivers? Because there are a lot of skills involved in driving, and everyone grades drivers on the skills that they think are important, which are the ones they are good at. Those who have few accidents rate themselves as above-average because they don't have accidents. Those who get to their destination a minute earlier by fast aggressive driving rate themselves above-average because of time saved. And so forth.

So I think the same thing happens with self-ratings of shyness, but (for some reason I don't understand) in reverse. Those who are outgoing in a group of friends, but quiet with strangers, consider themselves shy because of their quietness with strangers. Those who do OK in a large group, but have trouble sustaining a one-on-one conversation because they can't think of anything to say, consider themselves shy even if they do great in a large group of strangers. And so forth.

I have my shy moments, but overall I no longer consider myself shy because I'm so obviously less shy than I was two years ago, so I have a standard of comparison.

So why does everyone self-rate high on driving ability, but low on social skills? I guess this is part of the more general question "Why do so many of my friends, who are so obviously way cool people, have such low self-esteem?"
Comments 
16th-Jul-2004 03:22 pm (UTC)
I think many of these shy people (myself included, although I'll get to that later) were much more shy as children, and in the process of growing up either learned good coping techniques or fought past their shyness. Since you're seeing these people in their comfort zone where they've learned they can interact well, you wouldn't see the shyness, but they know it's there.
I very definitely was shy, but I forced myself to get past it when I started college and just needed to learn to deal on my own, without anyone I could hide behind who would do things for me. However, I no longer consider myself shy -- just quiet, depending on the situation.
16th-Jul-2004 09:03 pm (UTC)
What she said, but also that people's perceptions of themselves are sometimes slow to update as their skills change.So it takes them a while to notice that they aren't being shy anymore.
17th-Jul-2004 09:38 am (UTC)
Not only skills. In my mental picture of myself, my hair is somewhere between chin- and shoulder-length. =)
16th-Jul-2004 04:28 pm (UTC)
Maybe it has to do with comfort level? Most people are comfortable driving, even if they're only moderately-skilled by most objective measures.

Lots of people who appear to be outgoing and social actually have to work fairly hard to be that way.
17th-Jul-2004 12:06 am (UTC)
I'm a lousy driver. :) (Just to get somebody on the record willing to say it.)

I don't think of myself as "shy" per se, but I am cognizant of situations which make me more or less comfortable. e.g.: I'm very comfortable in small groups of people that I'm even vaguely familiar with; I will almost never make the first social move; with large groups of people that I don't know, I'm still quiet/withdrawn/watching.

Perhaps it's more a failure of language -- I'm lacking a simple and easy term to describe how I interact with complex arrangements and groups of people, so I do occasionally fall back on the term "shy."
17th-Jul-2004 03:59 pm (UTC)

I'm curious as to which person in particular you're referring to, since this has been a common thread among a lot of people I've talked to lately.

Some comments on other comments first:

  • I still think my hair is about 3mm long.
  • I suck at driving.

Although I consider myself shy, I don't normally verbalize it as such. I'll generally say something like:

I'm not a people person, I just play one in public sometimes.

What makes me say that I'm not a people person and that I'm shy?

  • Interacting with people takes energy out of me. I hear rumour of people who get energy from interacting with people. Too much interaction and I need to go hide for a while.
  • Though I'm usually comfortable with silences, not everyone is. I don't care enough to break them, which make certain types of people uncomfortable around me.
  • I tend not to want to talk to new people unless introduced to them. Dating for me when I was younger was a huge pain in the ass because of this.
  • I generally find most people frustrating to deal with.
  • I don't like interacting with large groups of unknown people (such as parties (other than the ones I throw) and contra dances).
  • At Tech, often-times I have no idea how to sustain a conversation, and no idea how to gracefully exit when a conversation is done (kinda like my swing, actually). I also have no idea how / if / when to approach an existing set of people and join in.

But y'all knew / feel / have felt some of that too...

I think the most important thing is that I don't think I have low self-esteem with respect to this. Though I could do better, and might want to do better in most cases, I don't really care that much that I can't do these things.

Hmmm... analogy time yet? If I can't do something at squares, I'm frustrated, and obsess about practicing until I can do it. If I can't do something at contras, I'm mildly frustrated at it, but in the end, I shrug my shoulders, and it's out of mind in a few seconds.

Not being a people person is like the latter. It's how I am. My life works quite nicely that way. I can interact well with my friends, and I squeak by with other interactions as necessary. There are some people I have no idea how to approach and talk to, but that's OK because my life is too full anyway.

One of the few times I ever remember feeling badly about this was when my dad tried to make me be social. It just wasn't me. I was happy doing things my own way.

18th-Jul-2004 02:11 pm (UTC)
moments of shyness come with extreme awareness that you're feeling shy/out of place/awkward. there's not reason for you to notice a moment of unshyness.

on the other hand, often being a bad driver is related to not paying enough attention, and when you're paying more attention, you're better.

therefore, it's weighted average of perception.

(o:
20th-Jul-2004 12:20 am (UTC)
it's sort of the same thing how the percentage of people who think they're 'fat' is MUCH higher than the percentage of people who are actually overweight.
14th-Sep-2004 07:30 pm (UTC)
It's easier to notice bad drivers than good drivers, so people underestimate the average driving ability level. Similarly, it's easier to notice non-shy people than shy people, so people underestimate the average shyness level. (This is related to why people think they can turn off streetlights by walking under them.)
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