For a long time, I hated the fact that I was shy. Quiet. Reserved. My dad is the opposite. He is loud and boisterous and friendly. He can talk to anyone, about anything, and immediately put them at ease. He is a pro at small talk. It used to bug him so much that my brother and I were not more like him in this aspect.
Over the past few years, I’ve grown more and more at ease with myself in being quiet and shy. Don’t get me wrong – I am just about the opposite around some people. With my mom and my brother and certain friends? I am loud and boisterous. I tell (witty?) jokes and feel completely at home with these people.
But it takes me a long while to let down my guards and open up. And even with people I’ve known my entire life – even with family – I remain shy and quiet and reserved.
Social situations are terrifying for me. I didn’t know what this churning in my gut, the sweaty palms and racing heart, meant when faced with social situations. I didn’t know why I remained locked inside my shell, watching everyone around me chatter and laugh. Why did my brain shut off? Why was the thought of being social so exhausting for me to think about?
Being an introvert and furthermore, having social anxiety can make you feel like a failure. As if there is something wrong with you and it’s better to not even try. I experienced these emotions more than ever a few weeks ago. I’ll remain mum on what exactly it was, but trust me: I thought I would be fine. I was nervous as hell and thought about turning the car around more than once, but kept telling myself I just had to go for it. Put myself out there. The worst thing that could happen would be that I would have a horrible time. It wasn’t going to kill me and maybe? Maybe I would meet a new group of friends through it.
Well, it was every bit as awful as I had imagined. While everyone chattered around me, I thought of ways of leaving without anyone seeing me. My brain turned off and I don’t think I could have held a normal conversation if I tried. I have never in my life felt more out of place than I did there. The truth was, I thought I would be fine. It wasn’t my first time doing something like this, but every time I think I’ll be ok. I envision myself being friendly and chatty, but can never seem to take that vision and make it a reality.
I’m learning that being quiet and shy is a part of who I am. I’m never going to be the most friendly girl in a room. I am reserved upon first meeting someone and even more so when I’m faced with a group of people I don’t know. I don’t want to be the girl who hides behind her blog. I want to put myself out there and stop living so small, but it’s scary.
I came home from the social event and cried. I was so incredibly disappointed in myself, so upset that I couldn’t be normal. Why was it so hard for me? What chromosome am I missing that social situations stress me out so much? Is this why I have a pitiful amount of real-life friends? Is it me? Is there something wrong with me? Just thinking of it all, thinking of all the ways I wanted my introverted ways to change was exhausting.
I am an introvert, plain and simple, through and through. I crave silence and solitude. I am happy being alone. I recharge my batteries being away from people, while extroverts recharge by being with people. And more than being an introvert, I think I also struggle with social anxiety. I haven’t been diagnosed with it, but the symptoms are there. Big, red, flashing symptoms that make me take a step back and think, “Oh, my God. This is not just me being shy. This is not just me being unfriendly. There is something bigger going on.”
I gave myself credit for trying it. For not letting my social anxiety completely define me for that moment. Even though I let it get the best of me in that situation, at least I tried. It can be so easy to let my introvertedness and (self-diagnosed) social anxiety grab me and hold me captive. Keep me at home, away from situations that stress me out. There’s nothing worse than being surrounded by people talking around you, laughing and sharing stories, and feeling completely out of place and invisible. If I had been more like my dad, I could have easily joined into the conversations, cracked a few jokes, and made everyone love me within minutes.
But I’m not.
I’m just Stephany. I’m quiet upon first meeting people, carefully taking everything in and piecing together my words in my head. I’m shy and not the best at small talk. I’m uncomfortable in social situations, especially when I don’t know the people I’m meeting. I quite possibly have a social anxiety disorder but I’m determined to fight against it, determined to take whatever steps needed to not let it define me as a person. I am so much more than my shyness, my introverted nature, my social anxiety.
So yes, if we one day meet, I may appear different than I am on my blog. Not because I put on a show for my blog, but because writing comes easier than talking. I could have a whole conversation with someone over gChat but get me in front of their face? I shut down. My mind stops working. My tongue gets tied.
And that’s okay. It’s okay that it takes me longer to warm up to people than others do, it’s okay that I keep my thoughts to myself until I feel ready, it’s okay to be quiet. But it’s not okay to let myself be ruled by this so much, it keeps me from being social. It’s not okay to use social anxiety as an excuse.
I’m taking baby steps. I’m not always getting it right, I’m not always beating it, but I’m taking measures to get there. And that’s the best I can ask of myself right now.
Are you more of an extrovert or an introvert? Do social situations stress you out, or excite you?