The Benefits of Being Shy

Are there benefits of being shy? Let’s talk about it…

I was quite shy as a little girl, and that certainly didn’t change as I got older. I could easily spend hours upon hours in my room playing “pretend” in the company of my dolls and teddy bears. As an adult, I preferred a movie outing alone rather than dinner with friends.

As a kid, I think a lot of people took my shyness as weakness. In fact, most people thought of me as the “sweet little girl.” But I’ll have you know that I got into a scuffle once with a next-door neighbor around the same age. I’m sure she thought I was not the kind  of girl who would retaliate. But when she made a remark that set me off I shoved her, knocking her off her bicycle. I don’t think she saw that one coming.

In school, teachers praised me and considered me a top student not only because of my academic record. I was seen as trustworthy and competent — partly because I sat quietly in my seat, diligently completing classwork. Having it my way even as a teenager meant keeping to myself all day, not ever having to walk the halls, make small talk with peers or interact in small groups. I simply preferred being by myself. But when circumstances required me to step outside my comfort zone, boy was it tough.

What did change as I matured and grew older was my ability to adapt and socialize in small as well as large groups. I’m even a decent public speaker with and without practice.

In social settings, I always thought I was an odd ball because I wasn’t as outgoing as other people appeared. And I struggled to talk about myself and other things in social settings. Having to do so was mostly always anxiety-producing.

Before giving birth to my daughter five years ago, I worked in two workplaces (at different times) after graduating from college. But after deciding to leave my job to become a stay-at-home mom full-time, I realized (and embraced) something unique about myself. And that is, I didn’t care for offices very much. Unlike many people, I don’t need the buzz of a newsroom to motivate me to write. The water cooler chatter and office gossip doesn’t entice me. And round table meetings can be extremely stressful.

Could I grin it and bear it? Sure. Did I learn to “fake it, till you make it?” Absolutely. But honestly, it was … grueling.

Because of the job-inducing stress, I ended up having high blood pressure and my anxiety levels always seem to be through the roof. Does this mean that I’ll never again work in a traditional office? Not necessarily. But as long as I’m in a position to work from my home office or in the field — in solitude — that’s where you’ll find me, thank you very much.

Now that I think about it, my shyness and natural inclination to be introverted led to my decision to become a journalist; I didn’t necessarily have to do the talking, just ask good questions. Because I didn’t enjoy hearing my own voice, I became a great listener instead.

Isn’t it funny how you choose a career path based on your personality?

This brings me to today’s topic: What are the benefits of being shy or introverted?

The Feb. 6, 2012 edition of TIME magazine highlights the topic in a featured article entitled The Upside of Being an Introvert (And Why Extroverts Are Overrated), written by Bryan Walsh. I have to tell you. It brought me much solace to know that so many prominent individuals are considered introverts, which means I’m in good company. Among those profiled in the article: Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Mother Teresa, and Moses.

But what about those benefits I referred to earlier? Walsh writes:

Introverts may be able to fit all their friends in a phone booth, but those relationships tend to be deep and rewarding. Introverts are more cautious and deliberate than extroverts, but that means they tend to think things through more thoroughly, which means they can often make smarter decisions. Introverts are better at listening — which, after all, is easier to do if you’re not talking– and that in turn can make them better business leaders, especially if their employees feel empowered to act on their own initiative. And simply by virtue of their ability to sit still and focus, introverts find it easier to spend long periods in solitary work, which turns out to be the best way to come up with a fresh idea or master a skill.

In contrast to introverts like me Walsh defines extroverts as those who find “large crowds and social situations energizing, becomes bored easily when alone.”

The fact is, however, as Walsh points out, we live in an “extrovert’s world.” And he suggests that even though your inborn personality is introversion, it shouldn’t limit your abilities.

He concludes, “[W]hile our temperaments may define us, that doesn’t mean we’re controlled by them — if we can find something or someone that  motivates us to push beyond the boundaries of our nerves.”

What about you? Are you shy and introverted or outgoing and extroverted? How have your personality traits benefited you in career and business? How do you push beyond the boundaries of shyness to achieve success in your daily life?Weigh in in the comments section below.



  • Geoffrey Neumann

    Saying we live in an extrovert’s world is a massive understatement. This is why the very extroverted are always such jerks- they are incapable of empathy because everything is easy to them. A true extrovert never has to struggle or work at anything in their life because confidence is literally the only thing that matters in the world. To say that confidence helps in job interviews and that confidence is attractive to the opposite sex is the two biggest understatements on the planet- in both cases confidence is literally THE ONLY thing that matters. This is the same for every single career without exception, even ones that appear to be more suited to introverts. It’s also the same for every single person. Anyone who says that they attracted to shy people is lying. If you can’t fake confidence you are GUARANTEED to be unemployed and single for the whole of your life. Fortunately most of us can fake it to some extent. But we will always be behind the naturally confident.

  • how to get over shyness

    Have you ever asked yourself question like; why was I not audacious like my friend, why do I almost lose my breath at a sight that seems uncomfortable, why do I find it very difficult to talk to the opposite sex confidently? These and many other questions are still hanging in the hearts of many youths and singles today, and were yet to be answered.

  • Josephwhiting

     I am currently working on my masters degree in health Education online.
    I’m currently on a unit in the course on technology in the classroom. We are
    discussing back channeling in the classroom and its benefits. I wish I had
    something like this when I was a child because of the anominity. My
    predisposition is on the scale of the introvert  and even today, I have to push myself
    consciously every time there is a speaking engagement involving large numbers
    of people. I never told anyone but there was one incident I deliberately missed
    giving a Yoga demonstration in front of a large number of college students at a
    university’s student activity in South Carolina! That was 2005 and I was 51
    years old! I’ve been practicing Kundalini Yoga for 12 years at the time. That didn’t
    make since. Just like you, expressing myself in writing is my communication of
    choice. I feel that in the core of my being there is something special in me
    desiring to be birthed. There are things I wish to accomplish on a grand scale
    before my life is done and I feel that I must come out of this shell before
    it’s too late and the window of opportunity is closed. Is there anything you
    can suggest I do. Help me quick, I’m wide open for suggestions for “the
    bird of time has not far to fly; and the bird on is on the wing”

  • Charles

    Very interesting Emily. I am currently reading a great new book titled Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I am really enjoying it. I also learned that being an introvert and being shy are actually different traits. You can be introverted and not shy like Bill Gates. You may have no fear or anxiety of strangers but still prefer being alone than at a party.

    • Anonymous

      Charles, thanks for the book recommendation. I’ll have to check it out! And great insight about the difference between being shy and being an introvert. Cheers!

  • Rosita N.

    I don’t think I agree with that statement or the article. I would think that people adapt to their surroundings. Not all places  require you to be introverted and vice versa. You have to know how to act and adapt to wherever you are working or hanging out at that moment. I would consider myself an extrovert, but I understand that every is not like me, therefore you have to be conscious of that. I can sit quietly and work alone just fine as if I was in a group. Don’t know about Walsh’s article? 

    • Anonymous

      He actually does make the point you’re bringing up — that people who are shy or introverted do, indeed, adapt and make do in situations they’re uncomfortable with. Not sure if you’ve read the article in its entirety, but that’s also explored. But I’m sure there are things in the article one could disagree with, as he’s also injecting much of his personal views as an introverted person.

      But based on the purpose of his article, he’s simply making a case that, even though we tend to live in a society where the “extroverted” seem to dominate, there are certain traits that tend to be strengths among shy and introverted people, and that’s something to celebrate. With that, I agree. That’s not to say, however, that extroverted people are devoid of the same or similar traits. But again, his article focused on the topic of shyness, not on people who typically do well and are extremely comfortable in social settings.

  • Arlice Nichole

    Well I feel better. I’ve been shy my entire life, and feel that it has been a hindrance in my professional life. But it’s good to know the upside of being an introvert. That information above can even be used to better sell myself.

    • Anonymous

      I hear you! I think a lot of folks can relate to you. We see it as a hindrance mostly, but when you according to the article, it can serve you well in the long run.