By Hannah Masson, Junior Spanish and Linguistics double major
I enjoyed reading the article “Embrace the Awkward: Boise State alumni launch ‘Animal Warmth,’ a web series about introversy and social anxiety.” However, being a very introverted person, it kind of irked me the assumed connection that was made between being an introvert and having social anxiety. It’s true that these things can occur together—this was very true for my younger self—but this is not always the case, and the title of this article definitely perpetuates the stereotype that introverts are scared of social connection.
There is a really cool website called Quiet Revolution that has all sorts of information about introversion and extroversion. From there I found an example of the difference between introversion and social anxiety—and there is a great difference! They tell a short story about Liam and Alex, two introverted college seniors. When asked what they will do on a Saturday night, Liam describes his probable activities, ending with “I’ve never been a raging party guy—it’s not my scene.” When it’s Alex’s turn he says the same thing, with one subtle difference: “I’ve never been a raging party guy—I always think I’m going to say something stupid.”
And there you have it, folks. Social anxiety is a fear of being judged, of being seen, of saying something other people will perceive as stupid, of being revealed as the person you don’t want to be and suspect that you are; like a deeply amplified self-consciousness. Liam isn’t afraid of saying anything stupid; he just isn’t a rager. And he doesn’t let society tell him that he is wrong for not being so. News flash peeps: you don’t have to do what you feel society is telling you that you should do, and if something makes you feel uncomfortable, like small talk, just let it be. Just bask in the uncomfortability and you’ll soon realize that it doesn’t actually hurt. Social anxiety is driven by fear, by worry, by not feeling you are good enough. You are good enough! You just don’t know it yet, and there are so many factors that influence this—check out the website.
Introversion is simply how a person creates her energy. For me, being around people for too long just makes me tired and in need of a good, long alone-time session. My mind gets too scrambled with ideas and undefined emotions and an almost multiple personality-like chattering that will only calm itself when I am given the opportunity to sort it out in solitude. This doesn’t mean that I care what other people think of me, or that I feel “awkward” when talking to other people. In fact, awkward isn’t even real if ya’ll would just stop creating it in your minds out of insecurity and the fear of making eye contact. I’ll try not to start ranting about how the avoidance of eye contact is the most annoying thing to me, but I would like to say one thing: when you avoid someone’s eyes your insecurity in your one true being screams its presence, just so you know.
So please, don’t assume that introverted people are anxious or even shy, because they often are quite the opposite. Maybe they just don’t initiate contact with others and they feel perfectly normal being this way. Their inner worlds are fertile and complex, and sometimes it is too hard to be around so many people for so long without breaks to harvest and channel their energies. Just let people be themselves and any “awkwardness” will disappear. I think this way we can all learn to judge less and to be more kind!