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I think many people without anxiety imagine that a person with social anxiety is something like this: shy and quiet with very few friends, doesn't leave their house very often, enjoys being by themselves most of the time. And, while that may be an accurate description of some people with social anxiety, it definitely doesn't define each person. In fact, I have social anxiety, and I consider myself to be quite extroverted. How is this possible, you ask? Let me break it down for you.
The definition of a extroversion, according to Merriam-Webster.com, is as follows: "the act, state, or habit of being predominantly concerned with and obtaining gratification from what is outside the self." In layman's terms, an extrovert is someone who gets their energy from the outside, rather than on the inside. So, a person who is extroverted gets their energy from being around other people, while an introvert gets their energy from being by themselves. Now, this doesn't mean an extrovert never spends a quiet night in or an introvert never goes out to a party... It just means that extroverts and introverts get their energy from different sources.
Let's now look at social anxiety. According to adaa.org, "the defining feature of social anxiety disorder, also called 'social phobia', is intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance setting."
Most people would probably assume that an introvert would most likely be someone who has social anxiety. Quite honestly, that could be statistically true, and it makes the most sense on paper. So I must be an enigma, because I am an extrovert who has social anxiety.
I most definitely get my energy from being around other people. After hanging out with a group of friends, I feel super energized. But sometimes along with this energized feeling comes anxiety. Sometimes I don't know why I'm feeling this anxiety, it just comes out of nowhere. Sometimes it prevents me from going out at all, and sometimes it prevents me from having fun. Here are a few examples.
Example #1: I was invited to a party thrown by a good friend of mine. Let's say about thirty people were invited to said party. Out of the thirty people invited, I know about five. At first, the party sounds like a lot of fun and I'm excited to see my friend! But, as the date approaches, the anxiety begins to loom over my head like a storm cloud. I begin feeling insecure, and thinking that somehow I'm not going to fit in at this party. That somehow, I'm going to embarrass myself or make myself look like a fool. That nobody is going to want to talk to me. That I'm either going to talk too much and be annoying, or talk too little and seem distant. So, in the end...I decide to not attend.
Example #2: I'm at a new job. The manager that hired me seemed to really like me. But, when I walk in...I feel like I'm constantly being judged. By employees and customers. For what? For anything. My facial expression, the way I walk, how I'm dressed, how my voice sounds. I'm excited to potentially make friends with my new co-workers but...I feel as though I don't fit in. I feel as though my new co-workers aren't going to like me. Why? They just won't.
Example #3: I'm in class. It's a class I really like. The professor asks a question, and I feel as though I have a good answer. But, I don't raise my hand. Why? Well, what if I'm wrong? What if I say something that offends someone else, or that someone else disagrees with? What if I stutter? What if I sound stupid? The professor calls on a student who did raise their hand, and the student gives an answer similar to what I would have given. Now, I'm beating myself up.
These are just a few examples of how social anxiety is. Obviously, everyone who has social anxiety is different and experiences it in different ways. I tell my friends all the time that if I didn't have anxiety, I would be the most outgoing person in the world. I do enjoy being around people, but unfortunately, the anxiety lingers sometimes and causes me to not enjoy something as much as I could.
Extroversion and social anxiety don't sound like a logical combination, but I am living proof that it happens. While it can be debilitating and annoying, I'm finding ways to cope with it.
Maybe you know someone like this, or maybe you can directly relate to it? Either way, I hope I was able to shed some light on this topic. :)