Shyness is a reflection of awkwardness or apprehension that some people feel when approaching or being approached by other people. Shyness is a response to fear, and research suggests that although it reflects the neurobiology of the nervous system, it is also strongly influenced by parenting practices and life experiences. Unlike introverts, who feel energized by time alone, shy people often desperately want to connect with others, but don't know how or can not tolerate the anxiety that comes with human interaction. The shy often experience low self-esteem, fear of rejection, or acute self-consciousness—which can prevent them from developing new relationships if they are perpetually turning inward to monitor their own behavior and perceived shortcomings.
Approximately 40 to 50 percent of American adults consider themselves shy. But the trait varies greatly in populations around the globe. The cultural values that children absorb from their parents and the larger society influence their social tendencies. For example, in Japanese culture, a parent may receive credit for a child’s success, but a child bears responsibility in the case of failure—circumstances that fosters modesty in children and and, often, a subdued approach to social situations. In Israeli culture, a child receives praise when they succeed and even when they don’t, as parents often attribute the failure to an outside cause. These cultural forces may influence the social risks and choices a child makes moving forward.