“Shy People are Narcissists”

I recently saw a quote attributed to Freud to the effect that shy people are narcissists. This is undoubtedly true, in many if not most cases. I say this from the inside, as an obviously shy person. I–perhaps we–am extremely focused on my internal emotional state and the high amounts of distress socializing generally causes, either by its presence or lack.

(I feel duty-bound to interject that this is not necessarily the shy person’s fault–experiments have found, for example, that introverts have stronger unconscious reactions to noxious stimuli, eg, salivating more in response to lemon juice than extroverts do.)

After a social interaction, the shy person will generally dissect all of their faults and failings, feel anxious about any friction in the situation, and often feel hopeless and incompetent.

The obvious advice to introverts is to stop being neurotically self-absorbed and realize that other people do not hyper-analyze and criticize them nearly as much as they think other people do.

That advice, though, rests on a critical assumption: that the introvert is wrong. As I see it, there are actually two possible scenarios:

1. The shy person is wrong, and other people actually like them fine. The setbacks they experience are totally normal setbacks that everyone endures. Successful people recover from setbacks, get back on that horse, and keep going until they have lots of friends.

2. The shy person is correct, and has become intensely self-critical after years of social failures indicating that they are clearly doing something wrong.

2.a. The thing the shy person is doing wrong is being neurotic and self-absorbed instead of gregarious and other-focused in conversation. In this case, the Obvious Advice, while based on a slightly wrong assumption, is still functionally good advice, as it tells the shy person to stop the bad behavior.

2.b. Alternatively, the shy person may just have some different set of conversation styles or cultural norms or interests or aggression levels or whathaveyou than the other people around them, meaning that interactions generally don’t go very well, are stressful, and the shy person and the other person actually don’t like each other for reason other than the shy person being shy. In this case, simply acting more extrovertedly won’t solve the problem–it will probably just make the shy person an annoyance to those around them.

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