My generation romanticizes being an introvert as an acceptance of loneliness, sulking, curling up in bed and never wanting to leave, and binge-watching Netflix over choosing to go out with friends. Overall, being an introvert has become synonymous with having social anxiety. Sometimes, it seems as if possessing social anxiety somehow makes you much more deserving of attention than the attention-seekers of the world.
Similarly, the Internet seems to polarize the introverts and extroverts of the world, which is something that used to make me question whether or not I had some sort of a personality disorder. I randomly took the Myers-Briggs test when I was drunk one night and got a result that said I was an introvert. When I took the test again soberly, I found the result that I had originally anticipated and wanted: that I was an extrovert. Not to say that a test I took online was a determinant of the person that I am (otherwise I would be going to Buzzfeed for life advice over my friends), but finding that my personality could be both through this test frightened me.
I need human interactions to stay sane. At the same time, I have days where I realize by the end that I never even left my room. I’m pretty well known for being someone that brings energy wherever I go. In fact, I’m positive that my personality has landed me jobs and internships that I’ve been far from qualified for on paper. However, sometimes when I feel like I’m missing that spirit that is so strongly attached to me by others, being social seems like a chore.
The social anxiety that I feel in certain situations could be innate, although I’m hardly qualified enough to self-diagnose. It could also be a product of my cultural background, where girls are taught to stay more reserved, an expectation I’ve tried hard to break in the most respectable way. It could be a result of having been bullied so much when I was younger (don’t worry, I’m fine now). Whatever it is, sometimes I start to anticipate my hands and feet getting clammy and my heart seemingly beating between my ears.
Big or small, are a few situations where my social anxiety has come out:
Being in big crowds. Apart from my claustrophobia and having grown up around my mom’s constant paranoia of thieves, big crowds mean more people to judge me.
Seeing someone I vaguely remember being drunk around when I’m completely sober. The possibilities for what I said to them are endless.
Waiting my turn to introduce myself in a big group of people. Sure, I can introduce myself confidently in any other situation. The waiting just makes me extremely aware of everything from how my makeup looks to how loud I’m breathing.
Eating a meal alone in public.
Running next to an athlete at the gym.
When someone is using the treadmill next to my favorite one at the gym, and I don’t wanna seem like the weirdo that chose to use the machine next to them when every single other treadmill is empty.
Leaving my bathroom stall at the same time as the person right next to me.
Eating (anything) in front of someone I’ve just started to like.
I’ve pretty much established that by writing articles such as this one, I’ve given up any claim to being mysterious or cool. I’m okay with that because not being mysterious or cool in person has made me friends and gotten me to many places. What’s helped me confront my sudden bouts of social anxiety is the realization that wearing my heart on my sleeve has made up my extroverted self.
Believe it or not, I have little to no issues with speaking or singing publicly, going through sorority recruitment (as both someone who wanted to join and as an active member), writing personal articles, or creating content for YouTube.
I love being social, I just don’t always think I’m good at it, but I’m trying to change that. I’ve always liked math, but I might just have to accept that I won’t be able to isolate the variable that makes up the secret formula to the anxiety that even someone as outgoing as me can get.