I’m the poster child for social anxiety, but it took me a long time to realize that not everyone does these “weird” things.
I’ve done plenty of things throughout my life that I thought was normal human behavior, albeit feeling uncomfortable at the time. I’ve always felt different and a bit wackier than the average person, but it never occurred to me that I was the poster child for social anxiety behavior. I honestly thought everyone reacted the same way in certain situations, but it’s only until I married the complete opposite of me that I finally saw that my way of doing things might seem strange or funny to others.
Although introversion and social anxiety are not the same thing, it’s common for us “quiet ones” to experience it. If you happen to be a socially anxious introvert like me, you’ll relate to this list. If you’re not, pay attention, because we can’t be the only ones dealing with this nonsense. You might as well be aware of what we’re going through, damn it.
Here are 10 “weird” things I’ve done as a socially anxious introvert.
‘Weird’ Struggles of the Socially Anxious Introvert
1. Planning out each conversation in advance
If there’s a party to attend, a happy hour, or any other event where there are people involved, I plan out my topics of conversation. I play out all the scenarios in my head from the hugs I’m going to give, to the handshakes I’m going to extend. I think about how to start each conversation and I memorize a bunch of questions to ask. For each person I know will be there. Should they deviate from my plan, I’m screwed. Sometimes I even role-play the whole conversation back and forth to have the upper hand and prepare myself.
2. Making the “mistake” of waving at someone — and they don’t wave back
I cannot explain to you how many times I’ve waved at someone I know from across the room only to have them look perplexed at me. Or completely ignore me and keep going with their conversation. No big deal, right? Hello, social anxiety. The adjacent stares. The feeling of being seen as a waving weirdo. And the total rejection burning straight through my skin, all the way to my racing heart, and down to my sweaty feet. Why the hell did I wave? It’s not like I want to TALK to this person, so why am I subjecting myself to this? Probably safer next time to just walk by without acknowledging them? Damn it, I don’t know what’s worse.
3. Running across a store aisle to avoid being seen by someone
This is my favorite game to play. Peek-a-boo, you don’t see me. I can’t recall the number of times I’ve strolled into a store and out of nowhere, launched myself behind a rack for cover because I recognized someone. Did they see me? Oh God, I hope they didn’t see me. What if they saw me hide? What if they come my way now, what do I say? Oh God, why am I like this? Usually, I’m by myself, so I don’t have to explain my behavior to someone else and feel extra stupid. But when I’m out with my husband, I have to deal with him too because he snickers and leaves me to my own insanity. Hello, social anxiety. I trail slowly behind and intermittently ask him to check if the coast is clear. I keep track of that person’s whereabouts until they leave the store. Don’t ask me how much time I’ve wasted doing this.
4. Asking someone else to make phone calls on my behalf
Like everyone else, I have a long to-do list. Schedule car maintenance, figure out why my heating bill is 2x the regular amount, and sign up my kid for soccer class. That’s just for today. Tomorrow I have 10 more phone calls I need to make. How on Earth am I going to survive ALL these calls?! Hey Mom, can you come over and call for me please? I know I’m 31 but pleeeeasseeeee?? There was a time that would have worked beautifully. I never had to make a call. These days, it sounds more like this… Honeyyyyy, can you call that guy for the car?? Honeyyyyy, can you call the bank and ask them to refund the transfer fee? Honeyyyyy can you please call daycare to let them know we’re coming in late? I mean, isn’t that the number one benefit of being married to an extrovert?
5. Asking a friend to ask someone to take a picture
I never ever ever ask anyone if they can take a photo. Nope. I’m not doing it. I’d much rather take a selfie, put a timer on, or lose my camera over the edge of a cliff. Most of the time, though, I ask the person I’m with to go ask someone else to take the picture. I can’t put myself in that position where I have to:
1. Stop a stranger
2. Ask them to take a picture
3. Hand over a still unpaid phone
4. Walk all the way back
5. Take time to pose properly
6. Go get the phone from them
7. Check the picture
8. Acknowledge it’s good
8.1 Ask for another picture if it sucks
8.2 Accept the sucky picture
9. Say thank you
That’s too many steps, too much involvement, and too much human interaction. I’d rather stay at a distance while someone else handles all of that. I’ll happily just do #9. Thank you!
6. Refusing to call out someone’s mistake
“Bob, I think you misspelled your name” is something I probably should blurt out. But I won’t, because I don’t like to put people on the spot. Because that means I’m putting myself on the spot. So, sorry Bob, you’re going to have to lead the meeting with your name spelled “Boob” on the board. Not sure what you were thinking there, but it sure as hell ain’t my problem. Just like it’s not my problem the date is wrong on the report, or that you spelled my name wrong, or that I shouldn’t be in this meeting in the first place because you added the wrong Roxana to the meeting. I’ll just sit here silently…
7. Not asking a question when I need help
Hi, my name is Roxana, and it’s been 5 years since I’ve asked a question. Okay, let not’s exaggerate, it’s more like 3 years. Asking a question is scary for a socially anxious introvert. I mean, chances are pretty high that it won’t come out right, which means I’ll sound stupid, so people will roll their eyes, and then life is over. It usually goes like that. So, it’s much better to sit quietly and pray that someone else has the same question and that they don’t have social anxiety. Not sure what the chances are of that, but I’m doing just fine blazing through life waiting for someone else to ask my questions. I simply can’t afford anyone thinking that I don’t know something, let alone something that everyone else seems to know…
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8. Accepting an invitation to a social event and hoping it gets canceled
I’ll be honest with you. As strange as it may sound for an introvert, I hate not being invited to events, because it means I’m intentionally being left out. Yuck. But what I also hate is being asked to come because then I have to muster the brain strength to prepare myself for social activities. The BEST outcome is for me to accept the invitation and then it gets canceled. Maybe you can only invite me when you know you’re going to shut the whole thing down? (I’m only half joking here.)
9. Pushing the button to close the elevator door super fast
Tell me you can relate to this. Tell me I’m not a horrible person. You walk through the sliding doors of your apartment or office building, walk up to the elevator and press the button to go up. There’s no one else around you. You look back at the sliding doors and notice someone you know is about to come in, and at the same time, the elevator dings. You run into the elevator, start pressing the close button in a panicky maniacal way and manage to barely make it as they walk up. Phew, they were too late. Shit, did they see me??
10. Going in the wrong direction in order to not inconvenience other people
I do this thing where I become overly polite at my own expense. For example, if I’m driving and I need to make a left turn across the median but there are five cars behind me waiting, I’ll take a right instead and drive for 10 miles if I have to — all in order to not be an “inconvenience” to the cars behind me. I hate making people wait for me, so I’ll go in the opposite direction if I have to. Please don’t get out of your car and yell at me for not taking the initiative to go the moment I should have gone but was too scared to!
I’m sure there are plenty of other things I’ve done that scream social anxiety, but these are the most prevalent ones, and the ones I still catch myself doing. Social anxiety is no joke, and I know because I’ve lived with it many years. For me, the easiest way to conquer it is to simply laugh at the things it makes me do.
I also wrote an action plan to start getting over my social anxiety, which you can read about here. And if you find yourself feeling like you’re stuck in social anxiety “hell,” here’s how to get out of it.
What are some things you’ve done that are deemed socially anxious behavior? Let me know in the comments.