Website owner:  James Miller

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Nature predisposes some children to shyness, lack of confidence

   Nature gives each one of us a certain set of personality traits 
   --- a certain set of inclinations and tendencies of the mind.  
   In general, these traits show up in early childhood. Whether 
   they are innate or not, or which ones are innate, is an open 
   question.  However many tend to stay with a person all his life 
   and at least act as if they were innate.  For example, I was 
   abnormally slow as a child, am still abnormally slow and 
   "abnormal slowness" would seem to be a pronounced personality 
   trait of mine.  When we observe children we observe that each 
   child is different with his own set of personality traits.  We 
   also observe that when nature hands out the traits it marks 
   some children with some very pronounced ones.  And some very 
   pronounced traits predispose a child to problems of shyness, 
   lack of confidence, insecurity, low self-esteem, dislike and 
   distrust of people and an Inferiority Complex.  They are seeds 
   already in the child, put there by nature, ready to germinate 
   and cause these problems.  What kind of traits or personal 
   idiosyncrasies am I talking about? I will name some problems that 
   afflicted me as a child:

     1. Abnormal slowness (mechanical and mental) 
     2. Inability to "think on your feet" 
     3. Tendency to panic under pressure (tendency to get rattled 
        easily, fluster easily, inability to think under pressure) 
     4. Tendency to panic and get confused and rattled when 
        someone is watching you or looking over your shoulder 
     5. Tendency to panic and get confused when someone is trying 
        to explain something to you (especially something complicated) 
     6. Poor memory (in some ways, at least)

   Now why do such traits or personal idiosyncrasies predispose a 
   child to shyness, lack of confidence, low self-esteem, etc.?  
   How does it happen?

   1. The individual becomes aware of his shortcomings, weaknesses 
   and inabilities through incidents that occur as he grows up.  
   And he becomes self-conscious about them.  For example, he may 
   be picking raspberries along with a number of other people and 
   find out that he picks berries much slower than anyone else.  
   He may listen to other people reminisce about their experiences 
   of years past and realize that they recall things in far 
   greater detail than he does.  In general he sees his 
   performance as compared with others in a particular situation 
   and senses that he falls far short of the average person in a 
   particular ability and he becomes self-conscious about it.  And 
   if it happens more than once the impression is reinforced.  
   Depending on the situation, the incidents may be cause for 
   great embarrassment --- he may be humiliated before others.  
   All this results in a put-down to his ego, a put-down to his 
   self-esteem.  We all have pride.  We need to have it.  It is 
   healthy.  A blow to our pride, our self-esteem, our self-regard 
   is a blow to the most central part of ourselves.  It is a blow 
   to our basic spirit --- it is the most devastating blow of all.

   We live in a competitive world.  He who realizes he has 
   weaknesses also realizes that we live in a world which has 
   little patience with weakness --- a cruel world that just 
   coldly walks over the weak --- a world whose basic law is the 
   law of the jungle where the strong live and the weak die.  He 
   realizes he is highly vulnerable and in real danger.

   2.  Society regards alert, active, quick-to-learn children as 
   intelligent and slow-to-learn children as dull or stupid.  Society 
   praises the alert, lively child who learns quickly  and makes a 
   lot of him while it looks down on the slow child and regards 
   him with contempt, scorn and shame.  The slow child senses all 
   this, senses this social stigma.  No matter how much pride he 
   may have he knows he is an object of shame; a pariah, an 
   outcast.  Even if he attempts to defend himself against 
   society's assessment of him, even if he has the spirit to defy 
   society in its beliefs and outlooks, he is still on the 
   defensive.  And the simple fact of being an object of contempt, 
   be it justified or not, is a blow to his ego, a blow to his 
   self-esteem.  Just as  physical handicaps (such as being a 
   hunchback) cause a reaction of repulsion in people so also do 
   mental handicaps.  Society regards the slow child as inferior 
   and the slow child senses it.  The IQ concept that modern 
   society mades so much of heightens all of this.  One's 
   intelligence is so important to a person that it becomes almost a 
   measure of your worth and consequently your IQ score represents a 
   "scientifically derived" measure of you (if you are gullible 
   enough to believe in the IQ concept).  Thus society's beliefs, 
   attitudes and values are part of the mechanism that gives a 
   person an inferiority complex. 

   What is the effect of having weaknesses on a person?  The 
   person tries to avoid exposing his weaknesses.  Exposure means 
   embarrassment, humiliation and mortification.  So he tries to 
   keep people at a distance.  He doesn't want people to see him 
   too clearly, know him too well.  He becomes a "closed" 
   personality (in contrast to the "open" personality that is open 
   to people, invites examination, confides in people, trusts 
   them).  He becomes angry and antisocial.  He becomes defensive 
   and inclined toward self-doubt and lack of confidence.  He 
   becomes cautious of people and insecure.  He becomes negative 
   towards himself.  He becomes obsessed with his weaknesses, 
   exaggerates them, sees only them, and loses sight of any strong 
   points he may have.  He develops a habit of continuous negative 
   thinking in regard to himself.  He is continually seeing and 
   noting evidence that would substantiate the hypothesis that he 
   is inferior.   He is always comparing himself to others in one 
   way or another and coming up short.  He becomes very sensitive 
   about certain things.  It is all a vicious circle that gets 
   worse and worse.  No matter how much he achieves he can't get 
   that monkey of self-doubt off his back.  He is always on the 
   defensive, always feeling a need to "prove himself".  He is 
   driven by a need to prove himself.  His mind is hung up in his 
   personal problems.  He is forever trying to think his way out 
   of his problems.  His preoccupation with his personal problems 
   prevent him from relaxing and enjoying life and acheiving that 
   healthy perspective on himself and life that is so vital to 
   good mental health.  

   What could be done to prevent all this?  If such a child could 
   develop the right outlook and philosophies towards these 
   "inabilities", "handicaps", or "weaknesses" of his, if he could 
   get the right perspective on them, realize that everyone is 
   intelligent in different ways, that these "inabilities" aren't 
   really that important, that he ought not worry about them or 
   make a big thing of them, then possibly he might be saved from 
   this kind of tragedy. 

   One last important comment.  I had this monkey on my back from 
   childhood until sometime in my mid-thirties.  Then in an 
   instant of time that monkey was lifted, never to return.  It 
   didn't happen over a period of time.  It happened at a 
   particular instant.  When it happened, I knew a really 
   momentous thing had just happened to me. I knew I had just 
   walked out the door to my freedom, out that door I had been 
   looking for so long, out into the light of day.  What happened?  
   Well, I can say it was just some reflective thoughts and a personal 
   decision.  A decision involving a change in outlook and 
   attitude.  As much as I was accustomed to writing up such 
   things, I delayed trying to write up the experience, trying to 
   describe just what had happened.  I knew I should but didn't.  
   Part of the reason I procrastinated was because I wasn't just 
   sure how to explain it.  I felt writing it up would be a 
   sizable project that would require a bit of thought.  So I put 
   it off.  In addition, I was afraid it might be bad luck to write 
   it up.  Then I forgot about it.  When I later wished to write 
   about it, it had faded from memory.  But the only thing that 
   happened was a shift in outlook and attitude towards people and 
   life.  Through all those years of suffering, the way out of 
   that trap was within me.  I was held in the trap only by my own 
   mind, by outlook and attitude.  

   Oct 1977

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