“Shyness is very difficult to define precisely because it’s so contradictory” | New Humanist
You write about the changing perceptions of shyness. It wasn’t viewed as a negative trait in the 18th and 19th centuries – why not?
tended to talk then about “constitutional shyness”. In other words,
shyness was seen as a misfortune but it wasn’t your fault, because it
was just part of your temperament. There was also the idea of English
reserve, of course, which was seen as something to be cultivated: a
combination of strength and diffidence. There was also a bit of a strain
in what you might call “respectable” working-class British culture that
tolerated, even valued, shyness. They valued a trait that was
associated with the middle class – reserve – as a way of dissociating
themselves from the supposed brashness and bolshiness of those below
them in the social scale. They saw shyness as the opposite of being
‘vulgar’ or ‘common’.