Posted by David
In an earlier post, I implied that shyness is an outgrowth of vanity. Why is it important to realize this?
As a child many of us are shy and this sort of shyness is clearly an important part of a child’s development. We hide behind the legs of our parents to keep physically safe from those things that can hurt us. It would be careless for children to not be careful around other kids and adults. This type of shyness is an important developmental characteristic.
In adults, however, shyness is an outgrowth of vanity. As we morphed from the child to the adult, if our shyness remains it takes on altogether different characteristics of the shyness of a child. I’m speaking for myself here and my experience, which may not be yours. But I expect that it is applicable to many of those who are shy adults. Also, let’s not confuse shyness with being a quiet person. We’re talking about a state of anxiety with shyness.
Each of us have a particular identity that we think of ourselves. Call this a self-visualization. We picture ourselves as something usually in relationshiop to someone. We say to ourselves I want to look this way or that way for this person or that person. Sometimes we have divergent self-visualizations based on who are trying to impress (or simply relate to). This can get us into relationship strife. This is one reason why some teenagers don’t want to be ‘seen’ in public with their parents. The parent has known much of the true child all his or her life. The teenager has created a new self-impression for the group to which he or she is trying to belong.
Divergent self-images not only causes problems in relationships, but they also cause trouble to the self. By focusing on these differing self-derived self-images, especially when we have multiple ones, we actually can become people who we are not meant to be. We become a person who we think others want us to be. We run around daily putting on different faces. How tiring can that be!
In post-modern culture, there’s a tendency to believe that one should find out who one is. Adolescents and adults alike spend much time trying to become someone unique. However, we are special and unique based on our relationships to others and to our environment. We don’t need to find out who we are. We just need to stop being someone who we think others want us to be. We need to stop putting on the different faces for different folks.
What does this have to do with shyness? As adults we can become shy because we are afraid to bust the self-image that we have provided to others or that we want to provide others. We are afraid to fail that self-imposed, family-imposed or culturally-imposed image. We are afraid that people will see us at our best: humble. Our shyness comes out of fear of humilation. But it is in our humiliation that we can truly become children of God.
We don’t need to manufacture who we are for others. It is our self-image factory that needs to be abandoned. God has made each and every one of us unique and we are unique only in our relationship to his children.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
– Matthew 5:8