I’m not sure if you’re like me, I’m sure some of you are and hopefully the vast majority of you are not. I’m a bit of an isolationist and it’s not something I’m proud of. Growing up I always wanted to be the outgoing girl, a trait that did not come naturally to me. I thought if I pushed myself hard enough eventually I would love giving presentations or starring in the school talent show. So I joined drama class, cheerleading, and student council. I am proud that I forced myself out of my comfort zone but it didn’t fundamentally change who I was, it just exposed me to uncomfortable situations. There is certainly value in challenging yourself to confront your fears and weaknesses but I eventually accepted that I would not magically change into an extrovert. I think owning my introverted nature gave me a sense of inner peace and self acceptance that I craved to validate that I wasn’t messed up in some way.
Just as diagnoses don’t heal all ailments, labels don’t make issues disappear. I like that I can own my place on the introverted-extroverted spectrum (none of us are fully one or the other of course) and it’s given me the liberty to take time home alone or on my own without feeling guilty for blowing off a party or outing. However, I’m not just introverted-I have a bit of social anxiety and it’s effect has impacted my life in a negative manner. By the way it is worth noting that not all introverts have social anxiety and vice versa).
Put me one on one with practically anyone and I’ll fall in love with their story. I love coffee dates and long intimate conversations. I ALWAYS prefer the company of one friend than a large group or party. Unfortunately life doesn’t always cater to my social preferences and I’ve found my social anxiety combined with my comfortable introverted nature has led me to isolate myself a time or two.
I’ve sat alone in large groups while others chatted and socialized simply because I felt incapable of making conversation. I’ve turned down invitations to parties and dinners and networking events because they overwhelmed me. Worse yet I’ve attended parties only to sneak away or hide in the bathroom. It’s a miserable cycle because the more you reinforce that large social gatherings are traumatizing the more anxiety forms around future events.
This isn’t a self help post, so I hope you didn’t click here looking for answers (because I don’t have them). I’m actually searching for the next steps and wondering what they might be. I’ve considered seeing a therapist about my social anxiety and tendency to isolate myself in large groups. Maybe therapy is the best step? I’m not sure and if you’ve had a similar experience I would really appreciate your suggestions. I’m all about growing and evolving. I don’t want to be the person that lets her experiences own her and I’ve realized this form of isolation has impacted me for a LONG time.