Shyness means feeling awkward and worried when you approach someone or when someone approaches you, especially when it’s the first time you meet them or when you don’t know them well.
Many shy people regularly experience blushing, sweating, pounding heart when they are thrown into social situations.
Shyness and introversion are not the same
One of the things I’ve learnt is that shyness and introversion aren’t synonyms. Introverts aren’t afraid of socializing, they aren’t just interested in it, while shy people want to socialize but are afraid of social interactions.
Why are we shy?
According to research shyness has both a biological and an environmental component. From a biological perspective, it appears that everything has to do with the way the amygdala of shy people reacts to novelty. Researchers showed the images of faces to a group of shy and non-shy people in their 20s. They found out that shy people had a stronger activity in the amygdala both to novel and to familiar faces compared to non-shy people.
However, also the environment where we grow up matters a lot. In fact, people who grow up with parents that are harsh or overprotective have much more chances of becoming shy adults.
Will I stay shy forever?
Yes and no. Research has shown that children can improve their shyness if helped and supported. However, a certain level of shyness will always be there.
I want to learn Italian but I’m shy. What can I do?
Luckily for shy people, like me, learning a foreign language today is way easier than it was before thanks to internet and language apps.
1. If you think the main thing that’s preventing you from talking to a native speaker is the lack of vocabulary in Italian, then you can easily learn basic sentences and vocabulary without even having social interactions thanks to internet and language apps.
Just be sure not to do like me and keep using the “lack of vocabulary” excuse even after years you’ve been studying a foreign language!
2. By contrast, if you think the main thing that’s preventing you from talking to a native speaker is the fear of not understanding what s/he says because s/he talks too fast, then you can improve your listening skills through podcasts, tv series, movies, etc.
3. Choose your teacher carefully. This is of paramount importance. There are plenty of teacher offering Italian lessons that are equally good. However, being good isn’t always enough. It’s important to find the right fit for you. Someone who’s prepared but also empathetic, someone who understands you, your needs and is able to put you at ease no matter what, in short someone you feel comfortable talking with.
4. Mistakes aren’t a bad thing. I know it’s hard to start thinking like that because if you’re like me as soon as you get something wrong, you’ll probably feel embarrassed, inadequate, and even sorry for your poor language skills. However, truth is if you don’t start talking and making mistakes you can’t start speaking Italian or any other language well. And with the right teacher or language partner this will become easier to accept.
5. Start talking. Yes, it’s scary, you’ve to fight all your insecurities and your mind that keeps telling you you’ll just make a bad impression, people will laugh at you, etc, but it’s necessary.
In the past I took some group language classes to improve my English. Needless to say, I used to think I was the worst student in the class, when I made a mistake I blushed, and I talked only when the teacher asked me a direct question. When I ended the course, I was still happy because I learnt new expressions and I had gained more confidence in my language skills. However, I do know that I didn’t take the most of it. If I had found the courage to share my opinion without constantly being asked for it, I know that my English would have improved a lot more than it actually did, and my confidence would have increased as well. But it didn’t go that way that time.
One year later, I decided to take another course in the same language school. Before entering the classroom, I decided I would talk a lot more than I did the previous year. My mind was set. However, when I met my new class mates, my brain started to work against me, again: “they’re way better than you”, etc. So, when the class ended, I hadn’t talk much. The story was repeating itself! However, this time, while I was leaving, a girl approached me. She praised my level of English and told me she wished she was like me. That was completely unexpected. I thought she was way better than me but she thought the opposite. This made me think that maybe my English wasn’t 100% bad, maybe just 90, lol.
Anyway, that was enough to boost my confidence a little bit. And during the course I managed to make some attempts at sharing my opinion during debates without waiting for the teacher to ask for it. For me, that was something.
It didn’t “solve” my shyness problems, of course, that took years of attempts until something in my brain clicked and allowed me to care less about what other people might or might not think when they hear me talk in a foreign language.
My shyness didn’t disappear but it’s less strong today than it used to be.
Getting out of your comfort zone, speaking, is the only way you have to really improve. And if in the beginning it will be really hard, it gets easier.
If you’re shy and you’re learning Italian or another foreign language I’d like to hear about your journey. Was/is it difficult? What did you do to overcome your shyness?
Original image by ShiftGraphiX