“Tis the season to be jolly” indeed, but what happens when you have to be jolly and you are terribly shy?
Like my client Tilly* who speaks of her dread, not just of the looming office parties, but also of her reaction to the invitation from her new partner to his family Christmas party.
“I can’t bear it,” she said, “my partner’s family will notice how stand out hopeless I am – or they won’t notice me at all, and will realise how I have nothing to offer.”
We are all somewhere on a continuum of confidence and shyness. Most people are lucky enough to have only experienced the symptoms of deep self-doubt and hammering heart on occasion, but for others it is a constant and unwanted social companion.
Stanford University psychologist, Philip Zimbardo, recently highlighted studies of shyness and predicted incidences in the US are at around 48 per cent and rising.
But, he added, only about two out of ten of those shy people would actually appear shy with stumbling words, lack of easy eye contact and unsmiling faces.
Not that (apart from the fact that it’s not very noticeable) being “privately shy” is much better. A calm exterior might prevail but inside there is still that rolling turmoil and excessive self-consciousness, a speeding pulse and a constant and usually negative self-evaluation.