afraid of one's own shadow

afraid of (one's) own shadow

Easily scared; jumpy; timid. Everyone was surprised that Janice led the meeting with confidence, as she normally seems afraid of her own shadow. Please don't take my sister to a haunted house on Halloween—she's afraid of her own shadow.
See also: afraid, of, own, shadow

afraid of one's own shadow

Very timid and fearful, as in Richard constantly worries about security; he's afraid of his own shadow. This hyperbole has been used in English since the early 1500s, and some writers believe it originated in ancient Greece.
See also: afraid, of, own, shadow

afraid of one's own shadow

Extremely timid, excessively fearful. In Richard III (ca. 1513), Sir Thomas More wrote, “Who may lette her feare her owne shadowe,” although a few years later Erasmus cited Plato as having said the same thing in Greek hundreds of years before. Henry David Thoreau used the phrase to describe the timidity of Concord’s town selectmen in refusing to toll the parish bell at John Brown’s hanging (1859), and by then it had been in use for at least two centuries.
See also: afraid, of, own, shadow