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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, Professor of the School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra

Shyness as a stigma, a risk factor for bullying

Mon, 20 Mar 2017 12:45:00 +0000 Published in The Confidential

Bullying is a form of violence in which the aggressor seeks to intimidate his victim in the face of the indifference and silence of his schoolmates, due to the fear of being bullied themselves.

 The bully "chooses" a fellow-victim who "stands out" from the others, as a pretext to be ridiculed. The "candidates" to be bullied have some common personality traits, which constitute risk factors: lack of self-confidence; excessive shyness; emotional vulnerability and high dependence on the family environment.

Insecurity makes the shy person topic the gaze and judgment of others. Each episode of shyness induces him to despise himself, lowering his self-esteem, so he tends to isolate himself. Moderate shyness is not pathological; it is simply a personality trait with which the shy person feels good, and which is linked to a certain professional activity, often of subject artistic. It is only problematic when it is excessive, becoming a possible social phobia.

What makes the shy person suffer most is not the shyness itself, but the fact that it is considered by others as a stigma: a mark that is a sign of dishonor. The stigmatized person deserves social reprobation because his behavior is contrary to the norms of group. He is seen as strange, unsupportive and unfriendly.

How did a normal personality trait come to be seen as a social stigma?

Shyness has traditionally been considered a behavioral problem. The isolation and habitual silence of the shy child was thought to be an anomaly. The stigma of shyness grew because - as Flavio Bastos points out - Western culture, based on a psychology of domination, idealized a profile person who talks a lot and thinks little. In this social model the shy person is stigmatized because he/she does not communicate with other people according to the ideal paradigm of extroversion.

The extrovert thinks so highly of his own way of being that he always tries to "cure" his shy friends. He ignores that - as Carl Gustav Jung discovered - each person can be characterized as introvert or extrovert, without either attitude being better than the other.

 Moderate shyness assumed as a normal personality trait is not only not problematic, but has some advantages.

Several recent programs of study conclude that one of the most populated social groups is that of the shy, to the point that we would all be shy at some Degree and in certain situations, such as speaking in public, being interviewed, asking for a claim form or apply for a salary increase. This finding invites us to reconsider the social image of shyness. Now that we know that almost all of us are shy, who could argue that we are abnormal.

 Fortunately, shyness is now beginning to be attributed a social value as opposed to the "culture" of exhibitionism and spectacle. Today we aspire to a society that values modesty and restraint in the forms.

Shyness favors reflection and the attitude of looking inside oneself, leaving the external in the background. That is why the shy person tends to have a deeper personality than the very primitive and daring people.

The timid know how to wait, which is to know how to live in time. They have the wisdom to give time to time. Their slow and patient pace of life allows them to get to know others better. They know how to listen attentively and without haste. For this reason they tend to be good confidants.

Shyness not only does not prevent the emergence of talent, but stimulates it. Shy people are often very innovative. Many successful people have proven that the personality of a leader or genius is not necessarily extroverted, spontaneous and charismatic. Alfred Hitchcock's shyness led him to direct scary and suspense movies; Agatha Christie to write crime novels with characters opposite to her; Mark Zuckerberg to create Facebook; Johnny Depp to become a great movie actor.

One of the most effective preventive remedies for excessive shyness is to help a child discover a hidden talent in herself and give her the opportunity to cultivate it. A Canadian documentary graduate "Shyness" shows how a teacher corrects this trait by promoting a girl's hidden dancing ability and encouraging her to perform at school parties. It sets an example for today's teachers to try to free shy students from the oppressive stigma of shyness and its consequences.