A healthy self-esteem is crucial to your overall well-being, as it is a measure of how you value yourself. Low self-esteem and shyness can overlap in their symptoms, despite being distinct in their origins and definitions.
So, what are the differences between low self-esteem and shyness, and why do they seem so similar?
While self-esteem is an intimate experience — a sense of self that resides at the core of one’s being — shyness is a discomfort with social and interpersonal situations.
Self-esteem is a way of being/thinking/feeling/acting that implies self-acceptance, self-trust and belief in oneself. Those with high self-esteem can live comfortably with both their strengths and weaknesses, and are not overly self-critical. This high self-esteem is linked to feelings of control, empowerment, resourcefulness, and the ability to make decisions and make things happen.
Likewise, those with low-self-esteem do not believe in their own talents. Because they do not have a deeply rooted self-value, they don’t have the confidence that they can fulfill their deepest dreams and aspirations.
Self-esteem is, literally, about “core values.”
Low self-esteem and shyness do have a lot in common, and will often be experienced similarly.
Shyness refers to the apprehension, discomfort or awkwardness a person feels in social situations or interpersonal engagements, especially when those situations or people are unfamiliar. It actually has potential roots in genetic traits, personal experiences and the environment in which one is raised.
Shy people are uncomfortable in social situations because they feel intimidated. They worry about sharing who they are because they fear rejection. They have excessive self-focus and preoccupation with their own thoughts, feelings and physical reactions, and experience timidity, apprehension and discomfort in at least some social situations.
To the shy person, nothing is more difficult than random interpersonal relations.
Obviously shyness can interfere with one’s social interactions, and even the potential for romantic relationships and professional opportunities. It can lead to social anxiety and fear that culminate in isolation and avoidance, and ultimately diminished relationship quality. How can a person enter into any kind of intimacy if he or she is terrified of being “not liked” or rejected?
Extremely shy people usually also have low self-esteem. And because they are preoccupied with what others think of them, they tend to self-sabotage to avoid intimacy and social situations.
Shy children are more inclined to internalize problems. The ensuing depression, anxiety and/or loneliness, carried into adulthood, ultimately leads to poor relationship quality compared to those with greater social confidence. They can also diminish underlying beliefs about one’s self-worth and ability to trust…
…and those get right to the heart of low self-esteem.
The differences between low self-esteem and shyness may seem fuzzy and intermingled at best. In the simplest terms, self-esteem is an “inside job.” It’s not always visible to the outside world — especially if a low self-esteem is masked by confident behavior or a healthy self-esteem assumes a more introverted approach to the outside world.
Shyness, while its roots and internal components may buddy up with those of a low self-esteem, is visible. It is expressed as lack of confidence and comfort in dealing with the outside world in a social or interpersonal way.
Regardless of the differences between low self-esteem and shyness, one thing is unequivocally the same: how we feel about ourselves really does create the difference between intimacy and isolation.
If you struggle with low self-esteem and/or shyness, please reach out and allow us to help. You deserve to be valued and happy — within yourself and within your relationships.