A bit of background
Shyness, embarrassment and feeling whakamā are ‘self conscious’ emotions – they come about when we are aware of others and their potential judgement of us. Being self conscious can, in many ways, be a positive thing – it relates to the fact that we are ‘social’ beings and care about the way we interact with others and what they think.
They are normal emotions and shouldn’t be avoided, just as we wouldn’t avoid feeling happy! Avoidance of these feelings can lead to us withdrawing from activities, sulking and/or disengaging. So it’s really helpful to talk about and normalise these emotions for tamariki. In fact, feeling embarrassed is actually a great sign! It's uncomfortable, but it means we're able to think about things from other people's perspectives - empathise. Good for them (and us) to know!
Other important notes –
- Knowing whether a child is genuinely ‘shy’ (introverted perhaps) or whether they’re feeling ‘shy’, embarrassed or whakamā in the moment will alter how you respond.
- Embarrassment can present as introversion, but it can also present as angry or excited behaviour (to cover up embarrassment). If you think that’s the case, check out our guides on excitement and anger for some extra tips.
- Oh, and shyness can look like worry or anxiety. Recognising the root of what we’re seeing can really help us to get our approach right.
- One more thing – people who seem shy, can have high self esteem. They may feel good about themselves but either not like being in the limelight or have lots of humility and be good at judging when to contribute – attributes that can actually be real strengths.