Monday, August 08, 2011

Monday Mood: Shyness

After a recent visit with some friends, I found myself wondering more about the featured Monday Mood for today. For most folks, you are either a people person or you are not. Most people enjoy the company of others. Some people would love to enjoy the company of others but they are hopelessly awkward and feel more comfortable in one-on-one or small group atmospheres (that is me... hopelessly awkward lol). However, social awkwardness should not be confused with shyness. Shyness is "the feeling of apprehension, lack of comfort, or awkwardness experienced when a person is in proximity to, approaching, or being approached by other people, especially in new situations or with unfamiliar people." It can be a result of genetics, or a result of rearing.

When kids are shy, hiding their faces in their mother's neck or their father's pant leg, we chuckle and smile at how "cute" they are. Yeah, I get it. Some kids take a while to warm up to strangers. In itself, that isn't a terrible thing. Don't talk to strangers rule holds up well in such a situation. However, children should grow out of this behavior! Humans are social creatures. We rely on others in a give and take world that requires social interaction outside of giggling behind Daddy's knee. At a very minimum, kids need to feel comfortable addressing groups of people in a scripted, controlled environment (like a speech class). Children exhibiting extreme shyness as they progress through adolescence are at a huge disadvantage compared to their peers. If they can't speak in front of classmates they have known for 12 years, how on Earth are they going to manage sitting through an interview? Heaven forbid they walk into a panel interview!

In 1980, shyness was classified by the DSM-III as a rare social phobia. In 1994, the DSM-IV reworked it into commonly occurring social anxiety disorder (SAD). The prevalence of social anxiety disorder was in part due to doctoring by prescription-pushers looking for the next big drug wave. The actual numbers of those affected by SAD is unknown as those that truly suffer from the disorder are unlikely to visit a doctor's office for help in the first place!

Parents, pay attention to your child's behavior. What is cute now may develop into a very real problem later in life. Help them to develop social skills that allow for them to interact with society without feeling like the ugly duckling. Some kids really can't do it alone. If, despite your efforts, you find your kid entering grade school and still taking every opportunity to hide from your friends, your mother-in-law, and the neighbors, you might want to consult a doctor or therapist. You are your child's first champion and advocate.


Booksteve said...

Nicely written.

In 1976, as I recently wrote on my Geek's Journal blog, I spent much of the year looking forward to a big comic book convention in Louisville. I was 17 years old and talked my parents into basing our summer vacation around that convention.

The time came, we went. We arrived on the night before the convention. I remember being so excited! But then,,,I procrastinated actually leaving our hotel room to get to the show and when I did, I stayed about an hour and a half, saw only one of the celebrity guests, spent most of my money, returned to the room and told my parents I was ready to go home now. It was about Noon. I stayed in the room all that day and we took the bus home the next morning.

My painful shyness kept me from really getting anything other than purchases out of an event I had been looking forward to all year. A few years later, I wanted to go to a convention in Cincinnati. I got as far as the block it was on and turned around and came home instead.

Those are only two of the incidents I could site where that cute little boy shyness that never left me has been quietly debilitating to my life, my career my interests and most likely my success. Sigh....You're right. It's NOT necessarily something one grows out of without matter how well we fake it.

Dee said...

I was never a shy child. In fact, I never met a stranger to be honest. My mom ran a salon so there were always new and different people in and out every day. Later on, participating in Drama Club, Speech, and Debate was cake for me. My high school teachers and professors would use me as an example of how to "perform" or whatever they called it.

I am socially awkward though. I talk to loud, fast, and much for most people. I dominate conversations. I say the dumbest shit and people just stare at me and blink. I can't help how I am in that regard. Because of that, I don't make friends very easily. The ones that accept me at face value though, they are immediate friends.

I'm glad I was never shy. If I had been, that wonderful chance meeting in the bookstore would not have resulted in the awesomeness that is our friendship. I'm glad you weren't feeling particularly shy that day either. :P

Booksteve said...

Awwww....thanks! <3

And you, more than most people know the extent that my shyness just totally disappears when I'm comfortable with someone. But that uncomfortable feeling, when it rears its ugly head, still makes me miss out on things today.