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Silenced by Labels: How the 'Shy' Label Hinders Children's Self-Expression

Speaking up in a group discussion isn't easy. Especially so, if there are plenty of vocal people who tend to talk more than listen or notice that some in the group haven't voiced their thoughts. What does a shy child do in such a situation? Accepts that he or she is shy and doesn't bother thinking or contributing to the discussion.


Science says that being shy could be 30% genetic but the rest is the environment. Often it is a reaction to the fear of judgement and low self- esteem. There is a tendency to stay away from engagement if possible. Situations in which it is not possible to stay away makes these children feel nervous and they tend to freeze. It only becomes worse when an adult makes an excuse, "Sorry, he is just shy" and then the world moves on. But what we fail to notice is that this label gets reenforced each time it happens. Eventually, it becomes a convenient reason not to speak up at all.

The "Shy" Label sticks

There are several situations in life where it is important to speak up, contribute one's thoughts and make sure that one is heard. Be it a matter of right or a chance to help someone, shyness cannot be an excuse. Children need to know that this trait can be a huge impediment and given help to deal with it rather than simply accept it.

Difficulty in coming up with ideas/thoughts

Being quiet becomes a habit and there is no need to make an effort to think. So when asked to think of ideas, the general tendency is to say "I don't have any ideas." There is no effort to try even as it has become a habit. Someone will come up with an idea. I don't have to. Even if I do, I am shy to say it. What if someone laughs at me? What if no one hears me? A child who thinks in these lines is far more likely to stick to the "shy" label.

"It is ok to be shy, but let it not stop you from expressing your thoughts."
Seeing oneself from a different perspective

By being shy, it is possible that we might just miss a chance to help someone in need. Looking at the same situation from a different perspective, will help the child feel far more useful and capable than what they give themselves credit for. This changes things completely. As now they have an upper hand and not under the pressure of feeling judged. Reenforcing this perspective repeatedly helps build empathy towards others and at the same time helps build confidence over time.

Shy people too have a lot to contribute. They need a chance to realise that. They need recognition and not labels.


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