6 Signs You’re Shy, Not Socially Awkward

Have you ever been labelled as awkward or snobbish, but in reality, you just feel tense around people?

If so, you may be shy, not awkward. While it’s true that shyness and social awkwardness may have characteristics that overlap, but there are some key differences that set them apart.

Here are some signs that you’re more shy than socially awkward.

1. You feel uncomfortable around strangers.

Do you tense up when you’re in the presence of someone new?

People who are shy tend to feel nervous and uncomfortable around strangers. They may exhibit these signs of nervousness by clamming up and refusing to speak.

While those who are socially awkward might also feel the same way, they’re not only limited to feelings of discomfort. They could just have a hard time reading social cues.

For example, socially awkward individuals may be outgoing and have a lot of things to say, but they may just come off as a little weird or quirky. Others may be aloof and might not even notice the other person.

Shy people, on the other hand, can be tense at the start, sure. But they also can be graceful and charming once they start coming out of their shell.

2. You don’t like unfamiliarity.

The first day of school… saying your speech in a crowd for the first time… Do these settings make your heart race?

People who are shy might not like new environments. They find comfort holed up in their rooms or in the company of people they already know. They can be less open than outgoing people, but deep inside they also recognize the necessity of doing things despite their discomfort.

This aversion to unfamiliarity can also make them seem uninterested or bored in new situations. But don’t be fooled! Shy people aren’t completely against meeting new people or venturing into new places, they’d just rather dip their toes first into something new rather than jump straight to it. Socially awkward people may also feel this way, but not all of them.

3. Your parents are shy too

Do you ever wonder if you’ve carried over the traits of your biological parents?

Surprisingly, genetics may play a role in whether you’ll become shy or not! According to a report published by Nemour’s Children Health, up to 20% of people have genes that dictate someone’s shyness in their DNA.

While people can be influenced by genetics, it’s also possible for some people not to develop a shy temperament depending on their life experiences.

4. You had negative past experiences.

Did you have a life-defining experience in the past that changed who you are?

It’s possible that negative experiences in the past have led you to be shy. Maybe you were always the new kid at school and had trouble making friends. Or maybe you had a friend that betrayed you, and you are more cautious in finding genuine connections.

The source of your shyness may not even necessarily stem from one event. It could be a culmination of many small events.

While social awkwardness can also stem from past experiences, it tends to manifest differently. Instead of remaining reserved and quiet like shy people, socially awkward individuals may do other things, like overshare in a discussion or overreact inappropriately.

5. With friends, you can be the life of the party

Being shy doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with your friends! In fact, around people you know well, you might be a natural conversationalist and can go on chatting with people you know for hours.

People with social awkwardness tend to act the same way around all people, regardless of how well they know them. They may not find it difficult to chat with a friend who they already know, but they may bring up topics that would strike others as strange, or they may not know when to end a conversation.

6. You’re selective with who you let into your life

Are you the type of person that takes a while to warm up to someone?

It’s not that shy people don’t want to make friends, it’s just that they’re more selective with who they let into their lives.

Shy individuals are often very choosy about the people they talk to and the situations they put themselves in. They like to take their time in getting to know a person before completely opening up to them.

Socially awkward people, on the other hand, don’t necessarily follow the same rules. They may talk to people indiscriminately or try to be friends with everyone they meet. Sometimes, they can do this at appropriate times, this can often lead to them being rejected.

Closing Thoughts

So, which of the two traits do you most relate to? Comment down below!

It’s more than possible for people to relate to both of these traits – as they’re not mutually exclusive.

The most important thing is to not let either of these traits define you. Just like how you can train your muscles, you can also work on improving your social skills by putting yourself in new situations, like saying hi to strangers or complimenting people’s outfits.

That’s all for now, Psych2Goers!


  • Sherman, C. (nd) Shyness. Kids Health. Retrieved at https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/shyness.html
  • Cuncic, A. (April 27, 2021) How to Cope With Social Awkwardness After COVID-19. VeryWellMind. Retrieved at https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-cope-with-social-awkwardness-after-covid-19-5180279
  • Heitz, D. (Sept, 27 2019). What You Should Know About Shyness. Healthline. Retrieved at https://www.healthline.com/health/shyness#causes
  • Retrieved at https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders

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