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Is Shyness Inborn?

Is shyness hereditary? Is shyness in our genes?

The simple answer is: shyness is not inborn. We do not inherit it from our ancestors or from our parents.

Scientists argue that people are not born shy. This is because shyness has three major features: namely, excessive self-consciousness, excessive negative self-evaluation, and excessive negative self-preoccupation.

These three characteristic features of shyness all have the major component of a sense of selfhood. And based on scientific research, a sense of self in a young person (a baby, if you will) does not develop until approximately 18 months of age.

Since an individual is not born with a sense of self – but developed only later – that individual cannot be born shy.

Sense of self

In trying to learn more of the human psyche, some of the world’ greatest thinkers in the past (including Charles Darwin) first undertook the search for an individual’s sense of self.

It was Darwin who first proposed that the self’s beginnings is when a child is able to recognize himself or herself in the mirror. Later researches showed the initial signs of the sense of self manifest around six months of age, becoming refined in about over a year.

At around the age of six months, children placed in front of a mirror tend to reach out and touch their image as if it is another child.

The logical question follows: how do we know if the child really recognizes itself or is just reaching out to the mirror image perceived to be someone else?

The scientists then applied a touch of red rouge on the noses of children and placed them in front of mirrors. Eventually, at age 15 to18 months, the children would touch their own noses and not the image in the mirror.

The conclusion would seem to point that children 15 to 18 months of age have already some sense of what their faces should look like and are curious about any variations of it (the red rouge on the nose seen in the mirror).

Inhibited temperament

While there is no evidence of people being born shy, there is evidence that 15 to 20% of babies are born what scientists call as an ‘inhibited temperament.’

Generally, temperament is a biological characteristic that people are born with that serves to influence their behavior in their first few months. However, inhibited temperament demonstrates excessive physiological and behavioral reactions to surrounding stimulants.

A baby with an inhibited temperament kicks its legs vigorously, has a higher heart rate, and cries longer and louder when exposed to unpleasant noises like a popping balloon, for instance. Babies not born with inhibited temperament do not exhibit such reactions.

Another example is that two-year-old inhibited children tend to hide behind their parent’s legs upon seeing a stranger. At seven years of age, inhibited children engage in more isolated play rather than playing with other children.

This is when such behaviors are labeled by parents and everyone else as ‘shyness’.
However, these behavioral expressions of inhibited temperament do not mean that such children will grow up to be shy adults.

The idea that people are born shy is just a belief on shyness, and is not a supported fact. There are many documented cases where shy individuals are able to surmount their shyness and become regular guys.

Shyness is definitely not inborn.


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Is Shyness Inborn?
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Important Steps On How To Overcome Shyness
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Ways To Counter Shyness In Children
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