You’ve been asked to give a presentation in front of your entire company. Do you see this as a chance to further your career, or do you feel like you’re about to be violently sick? If you feel sick at the thought of speaking to the masses, then your shyness is controlling you.
You probably already know that you have issues with being a shy person, but have you ever considered that you might also be an introvert? There are subtle differences between the two personalities, but there are variations that can’t be ignored. Many people automatically think that someone shy is also introverted, but that is not always the case.
When it comes to meeting new people, neither the shy person nor the introvert is up for the challenge. However, shyness doesn’t mean you prefer to spend time alone, but introverts crave solo time. Two children are sitting in a classroom, one is shy, and the other is introverted.
When it comes time to come to the chalkboard to work out a problem, the introverted kid refuses because they would rather stay at their desk. However, the shy kid also declines because they are afraid that everyone will be looking at them. It’s not that the timid kid doesn’t want to participate. It’s that they can’t.
Now, both kids refused the invitation to go to the chalkboard, but the reason they declined was not at all similar. Using this example, it’s easy for you to see that introverted and shy people may appear the same, but their mindset is quite different. Shyness may make you afraid to step out of your comfort zone, but it’s not that you don’t want to do things.
An introvert doesn’t want to do something as they prefer to be alone. Is there a way to overcome shyness and introversion?
Genetics and Environment Matter
According to a study reported by the Chicago Tribune, it’s estimated that about 30 percent of your shy nature can be from your genetic makeup, and the environment around you will cause the other 70 percent. When you combine both your genetic components with your surroundings, it can make you shy and reserved.
Understanding Shy Folks
Consider a child on the playground at recess. The kid finds that all the running, screaming, and confusion is scary to them. So, they prefer to play on their own where they can control things better.
They soon learn that they prefer to be alone, so they develop this as a routine. Fast forward 20 years later, and the shy kid is the one who is in a cubicle off by themselves and doesn’t interact much with others.
It’s not that they’re unfriendly or even a good worker, but it all comes down to the fact that this person prefers to be alone because other folks make them uncomfortable. However, did you know that these learned behaviors can be unlearned? Counselors have found that they can give their clients techniques to help them cope by using psychological therapies.
Understanding the Introvert
Consider the introvert. Are they like the shy person that learns such isolating behaviors early on in life? Is this person just as much a victim to their surroundings as the shy individual?
The answer is no. An introvert is not formed in the same capacity as a shy person. People tend to group individuals into classes as either introverted or extroverted, and they think that the two personality types are nowhere similar. So it’s easy to blame genetics on being introverted.
Consequently, much research has been conducted regarding the brain of the introvert and extrovert, and Discover Magazine covered such research. For the introvert, their brain’s reward center is stimulated differently. You reward yourself by going to a party when you had a great week at work, or you may buy yourself a new outfit when you lose 20 lbs.
When you reward yourself, you release the neurotransmitter dopamine in your brain. Before you even make that purchase on a new item, your brain is already feeling the buzz from this vital chemical. However, researchers have discovered that introverts don’t get nearly the same euphoric feeling from this burst of brain chemicals as the extrovert.
An Illustration of the Difference Between the Introvert and the Extrovert
The difference in how the brain processes these rewards is essential. Imagine you and your sister are opposites. Your sister is the life of the party and an extrovert, but you tend to be more introverted. You both receive an invitation to a big event where all the local legends will be in attendance.
Your sister is so excited at the thought of a party, and she immediately starts daydreaming about food, fun, and good music. However, you aren’t so happy about the invitation. You automatically start thinking about how loud music bothers you, and you don’t like small talk with people you don’t know.
You start to think that this event will require more effort from you than it’s worth, but your sister is feeling its little effort for a night of fun. Do you see how the two brains work differently? While this comes off as personality differences, it has everything to do with how the brain reacts to stimuli.
Since the brain is thinking and processing information differently for the introvert, it’s a genetically based link stopping them from attending the party. Now, what about the shy person? Is their brain to blame too?
No, the shy person has learned the behaviors of being withdrawn, but the introvert’s brain process things differently.
To further confuse things, a shy person can also be an introvert by nature. This individual may avoid the limelight and prefers to be alone. Additionally, some introverted people don’t battle with shyness. They don’t mind being out with others, but it’s their preference to fly solo.
There’s no right or wrong personality type unless it’s holding you back from doing what you want in life. It’s okay to be shy and reserved if it’s not causing you any issues. However, if you need to overcome your shyness to get the job you’ve always dreamed of, then there are ways to help.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy has proven to be amazingly effective in retraining the brain. CBT works well on those who are shy, but it’s not so great with the introvert. See, introverts are fighting genetic ties that often cannot be undone. The shy person is overcoming learned behaviors from their environment.
A Famous Extrovert Who Displays Shyness Traits
You’ve probably heard of Barbra Streisand, the famous singer. She is known for her outgoing personality that makes her larger than life. However, few know that she hasn’t done much public singing for 27 years, with the few exceptions of a few events, according to Closer Weekly.
She won’t get on stage because she is terrified that she will forget her lines, and she did go blank once in a concert. It’s easy to see that Streisand has an extroverted personality, but she also is shy because a previous event changed her brain to fear it will happen again.
Consider another scenario. The phone rings. The shy extrovert pauses before answering. They wonder who is on the other line, do they really want to talk to them, but they want to find out. Sadly, they’re too afraid to answer, so they miss the call by picking up the line too late.
The shy introvert gets a phone call. They instantly think that they can’t answer the phone for they’re afraid they will make a fool of themselves when they speak. They decide to let it go to voicemail because they don’t want to talk to anyone.
Both people denied the call, and both people had shy natures, but one was introverted, and one was extroverted. The reasons they rejected the calls were different, but the outcome was the same as the call didn’t get answered.
Final Thoughts on Understanding the Difference Between Introversion and Shyness
Shyness is the concern of adverse judgment, and introversion is a liking for tranquil, marginally stimulating situations. The two cross many lines and often seem connected, but the reasons behind the two personalities are contrasting.
Remember Albert Einstein, the most famous physicist and all-around brainiac? The genius received a Nobel Prize in 1921 for his work in physics. He often stated that he enjoyed the solitude that a quiet life brought because it helped stimulate his mind during these times.
Where would society be today without his development of the theory of relativity? You’re only limited if you allow yourself to be. You can do or be anything you want, but you must change your mindset. Whether you’re shy or introverted doesn’t matter, it’s how you overcome these character and personality traits to accomplish everything you need to do and more.