Shyness, a common personality trait characterized by a tendency to be self-conscious and uncomfortable in social situations. The shy person often feels anxious, embarrassed, confused, or tongue-tied when meeting people or when asked to speak before a group. Shy individuals are afraid they will be viewed as foolish, unattractive, unintelligent, or unworthy.

Most people experience some degree of shyness at some time in their lives. Individuals who suffer from situational shyness have problems some of the time and only under certain circumstances. Persons who suffer from chronic shyness are distressed in almost all social circumstances. Researchers believe that shyness is a serious problem for at least two million people in the United States. For these people, shyness inhibits social and professional growth.

Researchers have identified three potential sources of shyness: (1) heredity, (2) lack of social skills, and (3) social development that fosters low self-esteem instead of self-confidence. The circumstances of an individual's upbringing often determine the extent of that person's shyness. For example, parents who constantly criticize a child can undermine the child's self-esteem.

With professional counseling or individual effort, shy persons can develop the self-confidence necessary to face social situations. They can build self-esteem by such activities as focusing on their strong points, identifying and then sharpening specific social skills, and learning methods of relaxation.