Some people are "privately shy," meaning they appear confident but are internally self-critical and worry what people might think if they revealed their true selves, said Lynne Henderson, director of the nonprofit Shyness Institute in Berkeley, Calif.
Such people can have trouble with intimacy, she said.
Overcoming social anxiety dating
After mustering the courage to ask out a woman he met in a grocery store candy aisle, Christopher Gray's lifelong struggle with shyness got the best of him on the first date."I had this extreme bout of nervousness," remembers Gray, a writer living in Toronto. He enrolled in acting lessons, forcing himself to perform in front of groups.
Frustrated that his romantic life was continually being stymied by social anxiety, Gray, 30 at the time, decided to take control.
Now in a yearlong relationship with a woman he approached at a bookstore, Gray said he has become a happier person generally, more comfortable speaking up in meetings at work and striking up conversations with strangers at bars."It's like night and day," said Gray, now in his 40s and author of the new book "From Shy to Social: The Shy Man's Guide to Personal and Dating Success" (Sunbow).
Some 40 percent of Americans consider themselves to be shy, which in itself is not a negative trait — shyness is actually highly adaptive, compelling people to pause and size up a situation before proceeding — but it becomes problematic in dating when fears of rejection, failure or being disrespected prevent people from going after what they want, said Bernardo Carducci, professor of psychology and director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast.
Others are socially anxious but outgoing, and they are at higher risk of drinking too much or jumping into sexual experiences to facilitate the connections they seek, Henderson said.
Though people aren't born shy, studies suggest shy people have a genetic tendency to be very sensitive to people around them, Henderson said.
He went to speed dating events to practice conversing.
He committed to talking to every woman he was attracted to and to shrugging off the 9 out of 10 times he got rejected.
Other factors that can contribute to shyness are teasing, being labeled as shy as a kid or having overprotective parents.