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Self-actualization and Self-concept: Nucleus of Shyness and Social Anxiety Disorder

Ruy Miranda
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As I see it, in the dynamics of the self-concept and in the tendency to self-actualization are found the primary causes of Shyness and Social Anxiety Disorder / Social Phobia. It seems that these conditions result from the introduction, in the self-concept, of the elements that obstruct self-actualization. This obstruction is damaging and experienced as discomfort inasmuch as it precludes that a given force, self-actualization, expands. We will detail each part.


What the self-concept is – It is the set of values and beliefs, conscious or accessible to one's consciousness, as well as attitudes and opinions the individual has of himself, and of himself as regards others, the world and all that one's mind can reach.

In the case of Shyness and Social Anxiety / Phobia, the concepts must be examined:

  • as regards himself;
  • as regards himself vis � vis the other person.

Concepts as regards oneself – Examples: "I've got nothing to talk to other people about"; "I am not able to face life"; "I am ugly"; "I am not knowledgeable"; "I am not intelligent"; "I feel unprotected, like a child"; "It is awful when someone belittles me"; "I cannot stand being rejected"; "I am not nice to be with"; "I have no presence of mind"; "I cannot tell jokes or interesting tales"; "Indeed I do have 'that' problem"; "I am ashamed by 'that' problem of my parents."

Many of these concepts – or similar concepts – fit neatly into what is known as low self-esteem.

Concepts of oneself vis � vis the other person – Concepts of oneself vis à vis the other person – This "other" being perceived as stronger, more capable and intrinsically hostile. Examples: "People are ready to jump on me and criticize me"; "Everybody has a boy /girlfriend, except me"; "Nobody gives a hoot about what I say"; "People may not actually come right out and say it, but they do not think well of me"; "Everyone sees me as a child and will try to take advantage of me"; "If I react, he will catch me from behind"; "Other folks are always judging me"; "They will make fun of me , depending on what I say"; "If they do not laugh at me in my face , they will surely do it behind my back"; "What if they discover 'that' problem?"; "If I blow it or shoot myself in the foot, everybody will know about it"; "No one looks at me with respect."

Previous experiences – For these concepts to be impregnated into one's self, the person must have gone through lasting experiences.

Self-actualization Tendency

Tendency to Self-Actualization – A concept created by Kurt Goldstein in 1940 and later widely used by Carl Rogers, it means a basic force that drives the person forward and onwards. This force has biological and psychological aspects.

In the psychological field there are forces that drive us on in several directions. When these forces are obstructed, we feel discomfort.

Shyness and Social Anxiety Disorder - Feelings

Feelings experienced through Shyness – These are feelings one experiences when a situation brings up depreciative aspects of self-concept and the threat represented by the other person. Example: The individual whose self-concept says, "I have nothing to talk to other people about" faces someone whom he figures is about to criticize him; he will feel discomfort in that situation.

In fact, this discomfort is a set of feelings and emotions of threat and danger is rather common and is known as anxiety.

Anguish is also highlighted, and in many situations it precedes reactive depression, i. e., it precedes the depression as a consequence of the problem.

The person feels threatened in social situations or when facing the prospect of such situations. In feeling the threat, the person undergoes physiological reactions that prepare the organism for flight in order to survive. Flight is one's natural way out in Social Phobia because, according to his self-concept, the person has no weapons to fight off the threat.

Although there is no physical risk, what is felt is at the same level of physical risk and can be as high as the risk of losing one's life. It is a threat of psychological death, of no longer existing as a person, of disintegrated self. At a lower intensity level, one's impression is that of coming to suffer major losses.

Instinctively, the person avoids threatening situations, i. e., avoids contacts with others. If the person is alone or with relatives or with a friend, then there is no threat or the threat it is lower. A natural consequence is the loneliness of solitude .


Deadlocks – In many situations, flight is impossible. In other situations, the inner force, in the form of desire, of need, is very intense.

What to do in such deadlocks? People find ways to adapt. Example: They develop behaviors in order not to allow the hostility—which they think others harbor towards them—to come to the surface. Among such behaviors are common changes in one's tone of voice, the use of auxiliary verbs, the use of the verbal conditional tense, milder gestures, and verbal economy. Through such actions, they judge that they control the hostility that they think exists in others.

Concretely, they begin to speak in a lower voice, use expressions such as "I wonder whether you could?"; "Perhaps you might be able to"; "Could it be that you might do this?"; "Were it possible, I would like"; and they develop verbal mannerisms, speak little, beat endlessly around the bush before coming to the point, and so forth and so on.

The person who is not able to make these adaptations or regards them as insufficient constantly feels that disintegration is about to take place. In other words, she lives in constant apprehension.


It becomes evident that the dynamics of self-concept and self-actualization play a central role in the Shyness and Social Anxiety Disorder. To overcome them the person needs change the dynamics.

May, 2004. (Updated on April, 2005)

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This web site, the Social Anxiety Disorder and Shyness Directory and these articles contained on this web site are not solicitations, are not medical advice and are not intended as medical advice. This web site, the Social Anxiety Disorder and Shyness Directory and these articles are intended to provide only general, non-specific medical information and are not intended to cover all the issues related to the topics discussed. This web site, the Social Anxiety Disorder and Shyness Directory and these articles do not create any physician-client relationship between Ruy Miranda and you, and they do not replace the eventual relationship between you and your physician, psychologist, or other healthcare professional. This article�s author recommends no particular medication and does not represent the interests of any person, company or pharmaceutical laboratory.

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You may want to read other articles on Social Anxiety Disorder / Social Phobia and Shyness:

Basic Articles:

Self-Concept/Self- Actualization – Shyness Nucleus

Self-concept, Body Image, Self-depreciation and Shyness

Shyness and Social Anxiety Disorder: Neurophysiological Approach

Shyness Articles:

What Is Shyness? Fear, Anxiety, Anguish?

Questions and Answers on Shyness

Humiliation Stories, School Spankings: Examples of Shyness Causes

Social Anxiety Disorder Articles:

Social Anxiety Disorder: What It Is, The Anxiety Attack Symptoms

Social Anxiety Attacks: Incidence, Onset, History, Evolution

Social Phobia / Anxiety Disorder: Treatment

Social Phobia / Anxiety Disorder: Differential Diagnosis

Avoidant Personality Disorder

Medications in Social Phobia: Side Effects - Part 1

Antidepressants Tricyclics: Side Effects - Part 2

Metabolic Pathways Individual Differences and Medications Side Effects - Part 3

Genetic Changes: Medications Side Effects - Part 4

First Line Antidepressants - Side Effects - Part 5

Social Anxiety and Shyness Articles:

Panic Disorder, Shyness, Social Phobia - Differences

Why Self-Help in Shyness and Social Anxiety Disorder / Social Phobia Doesn�t Help You

Shyness and Social Anxiety Disorder:Medication Action

Facial Blushing, Redness of the Face, Ears and Neck

Psychoses, Shyness and Social Phobia

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