Is shyness different from introversion? Is it related to self-esteem? It’s common to have these and more questions if you’re a shy person.

Feeling shy is a unique experience. What shyness is for you may not be for someone else.

Maybe you associate shyness with being quiet, or perhaps you think it’s about getting blushed when someone talks to you. Sometimes, you might link shyness to difficulty meeting new people or giving a presentation to a large group.

So what is the difference between being a shy person and having social anxiety, for example? And how does shyness relate to introversion and self-esteem?

The American Psychological Association (APA) says that shyness typically means that a person feels nervous, uncomfortable, or on edge when they’re in a social setting or when they’re around someone they don’t know.

A shy person might feel anxious in new or social situations, and tend to worry about what other people think of them.

Sometimes, shyness can mean that a person also experiences physical symptoms such as sweating, rapid heartbeat, or a stomachache when faced with certain situations.

If you’re shy, you might find yourself blushing quite often, for example. You may also prefer to avoid social gatherings or meeting new people because these experiences can feel quite overwhelming.

Not every shy person experiences shyness in the same way, though.

Maybe you’re shy in romantic scenarios only, while someone else is shy with every person they come in contact with. Or someone else might be shy in one-on-one interactions but have no problem speaking in public.

All these are valid manifestations of what shyness is.

Myth 1: Shy people are introverts

Fact: Shy people can be extroverts, too.

Introversion is about overstimulation, and shyness is more related to anxiety.

A shy person may experience fear of interaction because they feel others may evaluate them negatively. Because of this, they may avoid social situations.

On the other hand, introverts may tend to avoid large social gatherings because they are easily overstimulated, which leads them to feel overwhelmed.

Once an introvert takes some time to reset, they can interact actively with other people without worrying about judgment.

Is it possible to be both shy and introverted? Yes, some people are both, but one isn’t a requisite for the other.

Myth 2: Extroverts can’t be shy

Fact: Anyone, including extroverts, can be shy in some or all situations.

Extroverts tend to be people who recharge from human interaction. However, it doesn’t mean they can’t be shy.

Since shyness is about fear of being judged or viewed negatively, an extrovert can still find joy in social situations but feel anxious about how others see them at certain times.

While a 2015 study showed that extroverts are less likely to be shy, each person is different. Certain social situations may make an extroverted person feel shy once in a while.

Myth 3: If you’re a shy person, you can’t be a public speaker

Fact: Many shy people overcome shyness and become great public speakers.

Being shy doesn’t mean you can’t develop fantastic communication skills. You might feel anxious and insecure when speaking in public, but you could still do it very well.

Myth 4: Shyness is the same as social anxiety

Fact: Social anxiety is a mental health condition, and shyness is a personality trait.

Shyness and social anxiety share some similarities. Both involve fear of being judged by others in social settings.

But according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), if you live with a social anxiety disorder, you experience more intense and long lasting symptoms, including:

  • heart palpitations
  • nausea or vomiting
  • intense sweating
  • shaking
  • fear of social situations
  • feeling confused during conversations
  • persistent and uncontrollable thoughts about social situations
  • having a hard time making eye contact

Shyness could manifest in some of these ways too, but it tends to have a lesser impact on how you navigate life.

For example, as a shy person, you may get nervous when meeting someone new. This could lead you to experience a rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, and losing track of what you’re saying.

However, it’s likely that after a few moments, this reaction will lessen. It’s also probable that feeling this way doesn’t keep you from engaging in activities like work, school, parties, or hobbies.

For someone with social anxiety, these symptoms are so intense, they tend to lead to avoidance of all social situations. This can affect how they make decisions like finding a job, performing at school, or making new friends.

In some instances, shyness may lead to symptoms of social anxiety.

Myth 5: Shy people have low self-esteem

Fact: Shyness and self-esteem may be related but aren’t the same thing.

Self-esteem is related to self-worth or how you think of yourself. Shyness can affect how you see yourself and may make you feel insecure in some aspects.

While a person with low self-esteem might act shy or have a tendency to keep to themselves, it doesn’t mean that someone who experiences shyness is also experiencing low self-esteem.

A 2022 study found that shyness has a greater impact on your self-esteem when you tend to navigate social situations by presenting yourself as helpless or unsure. If, on the other hand, you constantly try to get others to see you in a favorable light, shyness may not negatively affect your self-worth.

A shy person typically feels anxious about what other people might think of them. This may lead them to react in certain ways in social situations, such as blushing, losing track of conversations, and experiencing a rapid heartbeat.

Even if some of these reactions are common among people with social anxiety, it doesn’t mean that each shy person lives with this disorder.

Shyness also doesn’t mean you’re an introvert or vice versa. While some introverts are shy, these two traits have different reasons to be.

An introvert may enjoy socializing but requires some alone time. A shy person may not enjoy alone time but still fears social interactions.

Shyness can be worked through. Working with a mental health professional can help you identify the cause of your shyness and develop coping skills to help you navigate social situations without experiencing intense emotional or physical reactions.