Self-Esteem and Shyness: Two sides of the same coin

We don’t often dwell on this and may never discuss it with others but when it comes to responding to the challenges we face around our careers, many of us have voices in our heads. We have a murmuring stream of thoughts inside of our minds that constantly comment on our aspirations and achievements.

Most of the time the voices are warm and encouraging, urging us to find more strength, like: ‘ Speak up, you have the solution they are looking for.’ But we suppress the voices and remain silent because we are too shy. But the truth is, the ‘ shy ‘ aren’t awkward around everyone. They are tongue-tied around those who seem most unlike them on the basis of a range of surface markers: age, designation, tastes, habits, beliefs, backgrounds, and many more.

Now, letting your shyness control your actions may seem less harmful, but another person in a similar situation might have in their head a very different kind of inner monologue. Eventually, they might reach their goals more effectively as a result. Being successful is, after all, to a critical degree a matter of confidence, a faith that there is no reason why success would not be ours.

We can imagine that in the history of humanity, shyness was always the first response. But we also have to take into consideration that the shy provincial is a pessimist at heart. Because shyness can grip us in such powerful ways, it’s tempting to think of it as an immutable part of our emotional make-up. But in truth, shyness is based on a set of ideas about oneself, that merely mirrors the world around us and their opinions. These people had no faith in themselves and therefore – without necessarily wanting to do us harm – couldn’t have much faith in our own abilities.

Now, these voices have become our own and cloud our capacity to take an accurate measure of what we are capable of. We have internalized voices of irrational fear and fragility.

What often distinguishes fulfilled from unfulfilled lives is an ingredient that’s not part of the educational curriculum, i.e


On the other side, liking oneself – having a high self-esteem or confidence, as we tend to put it is crucial to any feeling of well-being. Confidence seems to involve the courage to accept imperfection. Confidence begins with the capacity to forgive oneself for the horrors of the first go. It is tempting never to get going when everything has to be perfect. It’s a recipe for remaining under the bed. And yet how often so-called great lives have been riddled with errors that nevertheless didn’t sink them.

It turns out that high self-esteem seems largely to be a prize of psychology rather than the fruit of anything we actually manage to achieve out in the world.

The risk of not doing anything is at the end greater than the risk of messing up. Our fear of messing up should give way to the only real danger there is that of never trying. We need to incorporate a voice that separates achievement from sympathy which reminds us that we may be worthy of affection even when we fail and that being a winner is only one part, and not necessarily the most important part of one’s identity. In huge part, the results in understanding our past and the dynamics of shame, conditionality, and humiliation that might exist in one’s life play an important part in getting the confidence to shine out.

So, at certain moments, we need an alternative voice that can pause our runaway fears and remind us of the strengths we have latent within us, which the currents of panic have hidden from us. Our heads are large, cavernous spaces; they contain the voices of all the people we have ever known. We should learn to mute the unhelpful ones and focus on the voices we really need to guide us through the difficulties of our careers.

This way we would be able to let go of the shyness or the fear of being shamed at the times when we should be confident and make the most of the life-changing opportunities that are in front of us!

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