Shyness - Self-Consciously Perceived Relative Social Incompetence

Scott, Susie (2019) Shyness - Self-Consciously Perceived Relative Social Incompetence. In: Jacobsen, Michael Hviid (ed.) Emotions, Everyday Life and Sociology. Routledge, London. ISBN 9780367897291

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This chapter explores the sociological dimensions of shyness, using the theories of Goffman and symbolic interactionism. Shyness is a situational feeling of relative incompetence about managing interaction, arising when we compare ourselves unfavourably to others who appear more poised and competent. It is one of the self-conscious emotions, related to shame and embarrassment: the fear of making a mistake and being critically judged creates feelings of anxious inhibition. The shy social self is engaged in an internal reflexive dialogue, whereby the person evaluates themselves from the imagined perspective of others. Shyness is different from quietness and introversion: it reflects a desire to belong and participate, but this conflicts with an ambivalent attitude towards social visibility. Its public display involves embodied expressions like blushing and gaze aversion, which can be misperceived as rude and evoke negative social reactions. People repeatedly labelled as ‘shy’ may eventually internalise this, adopting the role as a deviant self-identity. However, they can also devise dramaturgical tricks and strategies to perform and manage their shyness in everyday situations. These include conducting backstage rehearsals, wearing camouflaged costumes, and carrying props as involvement shields. Shyness is therefore a self-conscious emotion that emerges from and is performed within social interaction.

Item Type: Book Section
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Depositing User: Susie Scott
Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2018 09:59
Last Modified: 30 Apr 2020 13:40

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