Keep reading to find out what the difference is between an introvert and a socially anxious introvert.
Introversion is part of your nature. Your genetics. Your inner YOU. Either you are, or you aren’t an introvert. But being introverted doesn’t automatically mean you’re a socially anxious individual. You can learn skills to manage your social anxiety, but you cannot stop being introverted.
We know this to be accurate; next time you’re in a park or anywhere where kids are (which is every day for me), take a moment to observe their personalities.
Who knew I was a scientist too?
You’ll see some that are running around playing with every kid on the playground, and you’ll see some that are hanging out by themselves, away from the commotion. I was that kid hanging out a mile out from everyone else.
We once took our 11-month-old son to a music class. All of the older kids aggregated right in front of the music teacher. We could easily spot those who weren’t comfortable dancing among those who danced their little hearts out.
We saw one little girl jump around, dance, and sing while the one next to her stood still as a statue, taking it all in.
Extroverts, if they find themselves in an anxious situation, they’ll (probably) talk more, while introverts will speak less. That’s why so many people equate introversion with shyness. The socially anxious introverts stop talking and fail to express themselves even if they want to.
This is the bucket I fell into for most of my life.
But I’m able to control and override them. As an introvert, I spent most of my time doing puzzles, colouring, and reading from a young age.
Making friends or navigating social interactions were never my strong suits. I went through most of my childhood with just two friends while envying the popular girls who had no issues talking everyone’s ears off.
As time went by, I slowly added social anxiety to the mix. Unfortunately, I assumed those feelings came with being introverted, so I told myself I had to “deal” with it.
I know precisely the moment that social anxiety got a hold of me. In the second grade, I asked the girl sitting next to me to be friends.
Let me tell you; it took a LOT of courage for me to ask her that, especially in French, because I wasn’t too proficient in it at the time, so to get her response of “I already have friends” was like a knife straight to my heart.
That moment in time, and those four words, really did a number on me. My therapist tells me I need to let go, but what does she know?!
Fast forward to some circumstances that made my parents home-school me from the time I was 13 up until I went off to college, and you can imagine how nice of a home social anxiety found in me.
Do you know what that does to someone that’s already introverted by nature? It ACCENTUATES it. I didn’t have any extracurricular activities to practice my social skills, as I was training to be a professional tennis player.
Let me tell you that trying to be a professional athlete is a highly isolating thing to go through.
After five years of being home-schooled, traveling the world alone, and not having any close friends I could turn to, I was the poster child for what a socially anxious introvert looks like.
I went to college not being able to raise my hand in class to ask a simple question. Let that sink in. I wasn’t ABLE to ask a question in front of people.
I studied a lot, got the highest honours, completed three internships before graduation, and immediately got a full-time entry-level job as a Financial Analyst.
I credit my introverted nature for keeping me focused all those years, but I severely lacked social skills when I entered the workforce.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t be promoted simply because I did my job. I had to interact with colleagues and upper management to prove my worth as an employee.
What’s that all about?
I was in my mid 20’s and socially anxious in every area of my life. I didn’t have any close friends. I didn’t put myself out there to connect with people (I was scared they’d find me boring). The only light in my life was my relationship with my boyfriend (husband now). I found a like-minded soul in him.
I realized I was perpetuating my anxiety by not taking the necessary steps to diminish it. Being introverted isn’t something we can change, nor should we want to, because it’s a beautifully woven and intricate design. I love that my energy comes from being alone. I enjoy nothing more than solitude because it genuinely makes me feel alive in this vast universe of ours. But social anxiety is something we can work on and lessen its stranglehold over us.
How to stop being a socially anxious introvert:
Call me an INFJ if you must, but I LOVE making plans and detailed roadmaps. I love thinking ahead and knowing what to expect. Spontaneity is non-existent in my vocabulary.
After years of living with myself, I was done being debilitated and holding myself back. How can I become a CEO if I can’t ask a question in a meeting? That was my ultimate wake-up call.
It’s not enough to put pen to paper. Sure, it puts things into motion, but you play at the superficial level until you start acting upon your intentions.
You have to act.
So I exposed myself daily because practice makes confidence (grab my 35-task workbook to test your social anxiety).
I took the first action item from my action plan and repeatedly banged my head against it at every opportunity. I faced it straight on. It didn’t matter how I felt about it. Whether my cheeks flushed, my upper lip sweated, or my demons came out to play, everyday embarrassment paid a visit.
I worked towards overcoming my social anxiety by exposing myself to it.
Little by little, I stopped sweating. And then I stopped overthinking. Finally, each action that seemed like a mountain to climb became a leisurely walk. It was no longer something I couldn’t do but was now part of my personality.
It’s incredible what practice can accomplish.
Time to challenge your social anxiety with progressive and intentional exposure therapy. Managing your social anxiety starts with not avoiding it. Grab this 35-task workbook!
As I worked my way through the action plan and resolved all my internal feelings, I realized I needed to push my boundaries. I needed to seize every opportunity to get out of my shell.
That meant writing ALL the social anxieties I wanted to conquer so they’d be top of mind. I’d be all up in it when an opportunity would present itself at work.
These are some of the internal conversations I had with myself the moment social anxiety presented itself.
Whenever I felt terrified of speaking up, I told myself, “I’m going to stand up and speak my mind RIGHT NOW.”
If I felt uncomfortable interrupting someone, I told myself, “I’m going to interrupt this person RIGHT NOW.”
And if I was scared of having nothing to say at a group lunch, I told myself, “I’m going to sit there and eat my silence peacefully.”
I did the opposite of what I was feeling. Every. Single. Time.
I had everything going against me to overcome my social anxiety, but I kept forging forward, one actionable step at a time. It’s easy to remain frozen if you only look at the big picture.
Try to break it down into smaller pieces that are much more manageable to swallow.
Keep in mind the end goal, but don’t focus on it because it takes a million tiny steps to get to it, so look right in front of what.
Together we can drop the words “socially anxious” from a socially anxious introvert.
I’m sharing my personal experience of being an introvert and also of being a socially anxious introvert. There’s a difference between the two.
Here are the 3 things I did to stop being a socially anxious introvert:
Go back up and read why each step is important if you want to stop being socially anxious.
I went from being scared to ask a question out loud to hosting summits online. I love coffee, french crepes, and working from home. My mission? Help others build their social confidence to make friends, have conversations, and be comfortable around people!
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As a social anxiety expert I share my best strategies and tips that I’ve learned on my journey to help you manage your social anxiety.
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I’m obsessed with social anxiety. In a healthy way! After a decade of being debilitated by it, I finally have the tools I need to manage it (the journey itself is no joke). I now use my experience to help others.
Coach. Content Creator. Introvert. Mom. Lifelong learner. Psychology lover. Awkward human. Welcome.