Shy or Introvert?

This post is for my 2-year old daughter who is oftentimes labeled as shy, to which this Mama constantly clarifies — She is an introvert. What’s the difference? And why does it matter?

“Hey, baby, why didn’t you say hi back to your teacher earlier?”

“Because I’m shy.”

That was one of the saddest responses I’ve ever heard from her. Would she have behaved differently if she were convinced that she’s not shy?

How does she know she’s shy? She overheard it many times from the adults around her. There came a point when I would say it so myself, just to end awkward and painful conversations with adults who insist that my daughter talk to them and be cute and bubbly “like the other kids”. I hate myself for that.

So I will attempt to clarify, for the sake of my daughter and all the other kids who are like her. (I am an extrovert, so I did my research.)

SHY. A person who is easily embarrassed or frightened away; lacking in self-assurance or courage.

INTROVERT. A person characterized by concern primarily with his or her own thoughts and feelings (as opposed to with the physical and social environment). INTROVERSION is defined as the act of directing one’s interest inward or to things within the self.


Introvert gets energized by being alone. Extrovert prefers and enjoys social interactions.


Both end up “in the corner”, but the key difference is the intention.

  • A shy child wants to engage in social activities but is afraid to do so.
  • An introvert child, who may have great social skills, prefers to be alone.


  • Introversion is not shyness.
  • An introvert is not necessarily a person who is shy.
  • An introvert is a person who is energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around other people.
  • Shyness has an element of apprehension, nervousness and anxiety.
  • While shyness is not so bad, children can be helped to overcome shyness.
  • Introversion is fixed. Forcing an introvert to become extroverted can cause stress and affects self-esteem.

With my Toddler, I think she is naturally an introvert, and because she is constantly labeled as “shy”, now she is becoming one.

WHAT IS MY ISSUE about her being labeled “shy”? My problem with it, as with any other labels, is that they may not necessarily be true. But when everyone keeps on tells you, “you are shy, you are shy, you are shy”, eventually you will believe that, even when you really are not. And I don’t want my daughter to begin defining herself with that label. I don’t want her to limit herself because of the belief that she is shy.

If she is really just shy, I can respect that. I will help her appreciate the advantages of this personality trait. I will support her in the areas where she can address it.

But if she is only an introvert, then please do not call her shy. The label confuses the child, and eventually it can hurt her and her self-esteem.

When I shared these thoughts with my husband, he told me that he prefers that our child is shy because she can still work on it, it’s not permanent. I, on the other hand, would rather that she is an introvert, because introversion doesn’t necessarily impact confidence and self-esteem.

As I think more about it, I concluded that whether she is shy or introvert, the important thing is she is happy, healthy and herself, her true self.

//Thoughts? Do you have a shy/introvert child? How do you deal with adults when they label your child?


12 thoughts on “Shy or Introvert?

  1. I kind of agree with you as I also think that it’s easier for an introvert to work on it than for someone who is shy. One of my best friends is an introvert. But she is successful and in her own way ‘outgoing’. And I like how you bring up the self-esteem as I think you have a big point there!


  2. I suppose an introvert works with a very different energy and tend to find that interacting with people can be quite draining. And you are right in saying that because she hears it so much, she may very well believes it such. But she may change later. I’m curious too how others would react to an adult who “labels” a child. Both my kids are shameless extroverts and because I’m the complete opposite, I find them draining…and I’ve just labelled them as being shameless! :p

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! It’s a different struggle with extroverted kids. I have friends who feel embarrassed by the energy of their extroverts. Very interesting parenting topic you have there –what it is like for an introvert to parent extroverted kids.

      Liked by 1 person


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