Aren't they the same thing? Nope. At one point I thought they were. As I talk to more people about what I do, I realize that many people do as well. For me, each term was just a slight variation of the same thing. I was definitely introverted and certainly shy growing up. But as I started learning more about introversion in my 20's, I was able to clarify the distinctions. First off, introversion or extroversion signifies a certain relationship to energy, which is an inherent preference that does not alter. Introverts gain energy from being alone and expend energy while interacting. Extroverts gain energy from being social and expend energy when alone or in reflection.
Shyness is a kind of social anxiety, discomfort and extreme self-consciousness around other people. In the book, The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy. D., it states that "It is not an issue of energy: it is a lack of confidence in social situations. It is the fear of what others think of you." Shyness can affect introverts and extroverts alike. Shy people want to connect with others but feel inhibited to do so by their self-critical thoughts and lack of social skills. These are things that can be remedied. Being shy is not who you are, it's what you think other people think of you. It is possible to think about yourself and others differently to reduce shyness.
Whereas, introverts aren't automatically shy. We can be shy but we can also be well-spoken and social. We can approach social situations with confidence and warmth. However, we introverts have a preference for solitude, introspection and meaningful interaction and can become overstimulated in social situations which can be draining. We're not hermits or anti-social people. We want to connect and be heard, we just don't particularly like small talk or large groups that make meaningful interaction difficult.
In recent years, I've stopped thinking of myself as shy, I'm quiet but not shy. I can be reserved, scared, and awkward but not shy. Introverted but not shy. Shyness is such a loaded word for me. It's like some defect, some sign I'm less than, some painful memory of childhood. I'm not shy. Well...that's not completely true. It's hard to admit. And it's uncomfortable to realize that I am indeed shy in certain situations (not all the time). Painfully so. I didn't recognize it as shyness, I had moved beyond being a shy little girl. And I have, I'm an adult and as an adult, it's up to me to overcome this shyness. I think the first step is awareness, to realize and observe when I'm feeling shy (I'll tell you more about that in the future) and to slow down and look at what's spinning around in my head. It's gonna take some time and definitely some discomfort but I'll get through it. I've got to go through to get where I want to be.
I'd love to hear your reactions and thoughts. Please comment, share and of course reach out, I'm here to support you.