Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success focuses on how our mindset profoundly influences the way we approach life. Rather than being a quirk in our character, our mindset creates our entire perception of what’s possible. According to Dweck, a fixed, inflexible, mindset causes us to avoid failure, at any cost, and a flexible, forgiving, mindset turns mistakes and challenges into learning opportunities. Mindset can also influence the course of shyness. She cites compelling research that suggests shyness “harmed the social interactions of people with the fixed mindset, but did not harm the social relations of people with the growth mindset”. When a child or teen with a tendency towards shyness views a social situation as a challenge rather than something to avoid, their worry and nervousness dissipates. Even though some children will warm up more slowly than others, with time their initial discomfort in meeting new people melts away.
As parents, it’s important to consistently expose our kids to new social situations, even ones that make them nervous. We don’t want to unwittingly give them the message that feelings of insecurity and self-consciousness are permanent and mean they should avoid situations that make them feel that way. Shy kids with a growth mindset can embrace the challenge of socializing with peers.
For a deeper dive into fixed and flexible mindsets, watch this video.