7 Things You Need to Know About Being an Introvert With Social Anxiety
People get social anxiety and introversion (and sometimes shyness too) mixed up and think these labels are all one thing. They are not. I’m here to shed a bit of light on this because I have social anxiety and I am an introvert.
First, let me say this: introversion is not an illness. Being an introvert mostly relates to our energy. I feel more energized and able to get more work done alone than with people. Being an introvert means being in your own bubble, and also allowing people you trust to come into the bubble as well.
There are plenty of times where my anxiety is more prevalent than my introversion, but also I am still an introvert through and through.
1. When meeting new people, my social anxiety is in full takeover mode.
When I meet new people, I am so concerned. My anxiety kicks in and I am obsessed about whether I’ve made a good impression. I am also nervous when speaking and tend to ask the person more questions than talking, which is a good tactic but can get old real quick when all I’m doing is nodding and smiling the whole conversation. It’s hard to start conversations with people you don’t know and I always start to overthink and then get tongue-tied.
2. I actually enjoy talking, just not for too long.
When there is a subject that interests me, I can talk about it for days to anyone who will listen. Because I am introverted (INFJ personality type), I think before I speak a lot. I like to take my time thinking and recalling information when in a conversation with friends. It does take me some time to gather my thoughts, but I am always up to share my opinion. I like hearing what others have to say about some of the topics I enjoy. Talking with one to three friends is fine, but more than that for over an hour… then my battery is drained. An introvert hangover is a real thing and one night of deep conversation with many people can keep me inside, recharging for about two days.
3. No, I won’t meet you at a crowded restaurant for lunch.
A while ago, I met a friend for lunch and I’ll never do it again. No one likes crowds, and especially when you’re hungry. My anxiety is at a mild level when eating out, but mix in standing in a crowded line and then waiting for a table to eat all while you only have 30 minutes for lunch; it’s maddening. I get so flustered at the people because of my anxiety and I can’t enjoy my meal or even talk properly. Me and restaurants around lunchtime is a no-go. I’d rather meet for a late lunch or early dinner — somewhere to fully be comfortable and engaged with my friend.
4. I truly enjoy being quiet and doing quiet activities.
People have always been shocked and kind of amazed at how quiet I really am. I was always the quiet one at holiday parties with the family, always the one with a book, and always the one who was fine sitting in her room alone. Family members were concerned, but I didn’t mind (not too much, just a bit). I love reading. I love walking in nature. I love writing. I love listening to music. These are all quiet activities that are rewarding in their own ways. Being quiet helps me to focus, understand the world around me a bit better and engage all my senses. Being quiet helps to bring a sense of mindfulness in my life that I enjoy.
5. Small talk was made by the devil.
I’m not a fan of small talk at all. Small talk is just a way for me to not pay attention and just smile and nod (which is not good when it’s for time to talk). At this one place I used to work, the kitchen was a landmine for small talk. I never wanted to reveal too much because I didn’t want to embarrass myself. I was also dealing with imposter syndrome at the time. Talking about pets, the weather or whatever you did over the weekend is not interesting to me. I’m more interested in how you see the world, what are some of your aspirations, or who is your favorite Spice Girl and why. But those things are not as popular to talk about at 9 a.m. on a Monday morning.
6. Books will always be my friend first.
I am an avid reader and many people in my life know that. I recommend books, I write my opinion on books, and I reread books a lot. I might go dark and not communicate with friends or my mom for a while and it’ll be because I’m wrapped up in an awesome book. I would rather read in the park on a sunny day than go to the beach with some close friends. I have always loved books, the ability to learn more about something and to be transported to an entirely different state of mind. The friends I have made in life are great and I love them to pieces, but I can say I love my books a bit more.
7. I’m more prone to sadness.
When a situation or piece of news triggers me, I am quicker to spiral into a depression loop. I shut down and all communication is off the board. My anxiety leaves me to negative self-talk and how I do need to be alone. Sometimes being alone works to get me out of my “funk,” but sometimes it makes it worse and harder to get out. I’m still working on what triggers me, but I know for sure that when I am triggered, it takes a lot out of me.
I hope these few examples show how both social anxiety and introversion can be in one person. Being an introvert is not a negative and having social anxiety isn’t either; both just mean you need to see how they work within you. If being an introvert (not a mental illness) who has social anxiety (a mental illness) has taught me anything, it is that you have to honor yourself. For sure, being an introvert and having anxiety is challenging in certain situations, but it doesn’t stop me from being me. I’ll always be anxious and I’ll always be an introvert and that’s OK.
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash