I enjoy a good ‘What it’s like to be an introvert’ article. A collection of memes from Tumblr and Twitter, a doodle on Instagram and my thumb double-tabs the screen quicker than you can say ‘Sorry, I’ve got plans already’. But as I was sniggering away at a Buzzfeed article the other day, finding a piece of me in every single one of the ’21 jokes that will make introverts laugh harder than they should’, I thought to myself, “Actually, this isn’t fun at all.”
Much like mental health problems, being an introvert gets somewhat glorified on social media. It is seen as ‘cool’, it makes you different and ‘not like everyone else’. It seemingly gives you an excuse to get out of every social situation and people almost seem to envy you for it. It’s something I cannot get my head around. Why would you envy someone for seriously struggling with social interaction?
As an introvert and someone who struggles with social anxiety, I have been in many situations where I was dreading plans I had made. Much like those memes and doodles show, there are extrovert moments in which I am determined to turn my life around and turn myself back into a social butterfly. I seem to have undergone a reverse development; where a few years back, my diary was booked out days in advance and Wednesdays and Saturdays were dedicated clubbing days which were not to be missed under any circumstances, I have cocooned myself more and more over time, until I had reached a point where my room, a book and a cup of tea was all I ever wanted from life.
You might argue that this is a natural development that comes with age but I’m not sure this is something that should have happened to me at the age of 24.
Either way, with that in mind, I have now put myself in a situation where I cannot avoid social interactions. Not only because, well, that’s what happens on a daily basis for most people but because despite the common perception that self-employed people are sitting at home in their PJs all day doing nothing, you actually have to go out and get what you want. Which means networking. Which does not only mean social interaction but selling yourself and your work in a confident, convincing manner.
As much as I’ve grown confident in my ability to be a writer, going to networking events is still somewhat of a challenge for me. I am quite fortunate in the sense that a lot of my work is online and via email but in order to get new contacts and get yourself out there, you have to physically get yourself out there. A thought which fills me with nervous twigs every time I think of it.
Social interactions and networking events literally tire me out. After a few hours of smiling, chatting and complimenting – even though 99% of the time I do enjoy the event that I was dreading for days before –, I feel like my social batteries are absolutely drained and I need a while to recharge them. This can vary from a day to a week.
At this point, I would also like to point out that this has nothing to do with the people I’m meeting with. Most of the time, they’re lovely, and I’m glad I went. It’s the scenario of a room filled with people, having to look presentable and put together (more often than not do I not reach the standard I set for myself), asking questions about me and, in return, me having to come up with witty and clever answers that make me sound interesting (or so I think), despite not wanting to share much about me at all.
A lot of my recharging time is then spent going over the conversations I had again and again, picking my responses and behaviour apart and being convinced that all I achieved was giving people a good story to tell about that awkward, derpy girl. The constant assumption that people do not want your company and couldn’t care less if you were there or not really doesn’t help.
And above all, I like getting to know new people. I like networking. I’m not anti-social per se, I’m just not very good at the whole malarkey. I haven’t come up with a cunning plane on how to overcome this whole issue yet but I reckon acknowledging it and realising that you are the only person who can work on this is a step in the right direction. Fiona from Fiona Likes to Blog wrote a post about this topic, too, which includes a five step plan: Read it here.
What are your tips for overcoming social anxiety?
’til next time x