Genes may have something to do with my shyness. People with different genotypes on average tend to have different levels of social anxiety, says Scott F. Stoltenberg, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who has conducted recent research on the topic. But environmental factors count more: We take cues from our parents. We suffer if we're bullied. Even the bold can become shy when faced with certain challenges, like a job loss or a rejection, says Anne Marie Albano, a clinical psychologist and the director of the Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders, in New York City. Half the people in the United States say that they're shy to some degree, according to Philip Zimbardo, a professor emeritus at Stanford University and a pioneer in research on shyness.