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Shyness - are you shy?

shy; shyness; anxious; worried; confident; confidence; self-esteem; worry;


What is shyness?

Think about…

  • going to a new school
  • starting something new, like sport, music or a special activity
  • answering questions in front of the class
  • going somewhere by yourself for the first time
    it's all new
  • having to speak in front of the class
  • going to a party or having a meal in a restaurant
  • meeting friends at the shopping mall
  • meeting new people
  • joining a new activity, e.g. sports team, choir, computer club, etc.

Do you feel a bit worried about doing these things? Most people do, even adults!

Shyness is when people do not join in with others but they would like to.

  • It can mean:
    • not speaking to others, even when asked a direct question
    • not taking part in games and activities
    • not going into places such as the school playground unless they are with someone they know
    • being very embarrassed if they get attention - even good attention.

How does someone become shy?

  • Some kids seem to be born shy, while others seem to be really outgoing from the very first.
    feeling shy
  • Some kids have really quiet and shy parents, and they have learned that behaviour from them.
  • Some kids may have had a bad experience and that has made them shy.

Everyone feels a bit shy sometimes, and that's a good thing to remember.

  • If you and a whole group of people are doing something for the first time, most of them will be feeling shy too.
  • Being shy about talking to strangers or trying out dangerous stuff is a really good thing!

What does it feel like?

  • Maybe you feel like you have butterflies in your stomach when you need to try something new.
  • Maybe you feel that you would like to be invisible.
  • shynessMaybe you feel like hiding if you are supposed to talk in front of your class.
  • Maybe you feel like you want to be somewhere or even anywhere else.
  • Maybe you feel all hot or all cold.
  • Maybe you can't think of what to say if anyone talks to you (but you might be very good at listening).
  • Maybe your hands feel all sweaty.
  • Maybe you go red in the face
  • Maybe your heart beats faster.
  • Maybe you even feel sick!

What does it look like?

It might look like someone is scared and trying to hide.

It can look like someone is blushing and very unhappy.

feeling sick and tearySometimes it may look like someone is unfriendly or even a bit of a snob!

It might look like someone may be about to throw up or burst into tears.

Sadly, someone might be teased because he is too shy to say anything.


Some good things about being shy

shynessShy people are often good listeners, and many people like to have them as friends.

Shy people usually are well-behaved, and teachers and other adults tend to like them.

Shy people often work hard in class, and may have good results.

How to become more confident

If you are shy, it can be hard to act more confidently, but you might find that, if you give these ideas a go, being around other people can be more fun.

  • Make friends. If you have problems making friends, look at our topics on 'Making friends' for some good ideas. Remember, other people like having friends, and if they are a bit shy too, they might be really happy that you want to be friends with them.
  • exercisePractise skills like ball skills, skipping, running, bike riding, or playing computer games, so that you get some confidence to join in or talk about what you are doing.
  • Build up your self-esteem. Our topics on 'Self-esteem' and 'Resilience - don't let things get you down' have ideas to help you.
  • Practise in front of the mirror and in front of your family if you have to give a talk at school.
    • Make a plan of what you want to say, then write key words onto pieces of card so that you can remember what to say.
    • Reading out the whole lot is OK at first until you get better at it.
  • Smile at people and encourage them to try something, and then they will encourage you.
  • Give compliments, such as "You gave a good talk", "I think you are a good runner" and people will want to encourage you too.
  • Look for other shy kids and tell them that you are feeling a bit shy.
  • Tell your teacher if you are really scared to talk, and she will support you to try and to improve in confidence.
  • Realise that everyone feels shy sometimes, but watching others do things is not as much fun as having a go yourself.
  • Once you start to get over your shyness, you will become more confident some of the time - but you might still be shy when you are with new people or when you are trying to do something in front of others. Shy kids often grow into shy adults, but if they learn how to behave in more confident ways they do not have to change themselves. There is nothing wrong with being shy!

Helping your friend

If your friend is very shy you can help her by…

  • being a good friend, listening and not telling anyone else what you have been told in confidence
  • letting her know that you feel shy sometimes
  • helping her to practise skills and improve - you could be her 'practice audience' for a class talk
  • not answering questions for her
  • inviting her to do things after school with you
  • including her when you are talking with other friends
  • giving her compliments when she has done something you know she was shy about doing
  • inviting her to your house and visiting her too.

What some kids say about shyness

Angus says, "I feel shy when I meet mum and dad's friends."

"I felt shy when I first came to this school." - Beth


"I feel shy when I have to give a talk in front of the class." - Chloe

"I feel shy when I am trying something new and there are other people there." - Brittany

"I used to feel shy all the time but now I know that everyone else gets shy sometimes so I just don't worry about it." - Matt

I'm really shy but sometimes I act loud and silly and get into trouble.

Dr Kate says

Dr Kate
"Going to drama lessons, learning a musical instrument and joining after-school clubs are great ways to get to know more kids and build up your confidence. Drama can be especially good, because if you 'pretend' to be confident, you might find that you are really becoming more confident.

There is nothing wrong with being shy. Most people are shy sometimes, but if your shyness is making you feel unhappy and lonely and you just can't get over it, then a visit to your school counsellor or a psychologist may be just what is needed to help you enjoy your life more." Have a look at the topic Counselling - when you need to talk about it .

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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