Instead of focusing on any positives, you’re playing out every worst-case scenario in your head.
You were bopping around your day and things were going pretty well — your coffee was great, the commute to work wasn’t so bad, and your office was finally clutter-free. You sit down to check your email and boom, there it is in front of you: an invite to your coworker’s baby shower. You like this person, you really do — and are excited for them and their future offspring. But a baby shower?
More than likely, that’s a social event with uncomfortable games and petty small talk. Well, maybe it could be fun. (Who are you kidding?) Your finger lingers over the “accept” button, then to the “decline” one… then back to the “accept” one…
You’re hesitant at first, but then you go for it — only to immediately regret your decision to attend. What were you thinking?! Too late! You can’t back out now because here she comes to your office door all smiles that you accepted.
Mentally Preparing for a Social Event
I get it. As introverts, big social events are just not our thing. Feeling trapped and awkward, even when it’s people you know (but especially if it’s people you don’t know), creates unwanted anxiety. For me, I guess you could call it introversion with a sprinkle of social anxiety. We introverts have to have all of our ducks in a row, so to speak, in order to feel comfortable in social gatherings. When they are not, the experience can be undesirable — or even downright miserable.
However, the big event is in a week, so you have plenty of time to think about it and prepare yourself. Or do you?
Here are six worries I experience as a socially anxious introvert getting ready to socialize. Can you relate?
6 Worries of a Socially Anxious Introvert Before a Social Event
1. Instead of focusing on the positives, you’re playing out every worst-case scenario in your head.
So you have this invite and part of you is telling yourself it’s going to be fine… but the other part of you is directing every single scene in your head, playing it out like a bad film. Your mind is jumping from one possible scenario to another (hello, overthinking!), sometimes with the grand ending of a rom-com and sometimes with a slasher horror feel.
For example, I don’t know how many times I have gotten cornered by the close talker. Of course, silly me is too introverted to politely excuse myself from the conversation, so by the end of the night, my brain is in overload, my eyes have a deer-in-headlights appearance, and my face hurts from the now-permanent fake smile embedded into my cheeks. (No one likes ending the night looking like the Bride of Chucky!)
Truth is, you are wasting your time. No amount of thinking and analyzing will predict the outcome of a situation. You can’t will a social event to go the way you want. I know because I have tried and probably, well definitely, will try again. For some reason, my inner monologue likes to have the upper hand, so no matter how hard I try to suppress the urge not to think about all of the scenarios that could happen at a social event, my inner self loves to think of everything. In fact, it’s so imaginative, I should be writing a screenplay!
2. You’ve never been to the venue before, which makes you uncomfortable.
Google Maps has been checked a dozen or so times and the event venue is in an unfamiliar area of town — plus, there isn’t anyone who can carpool. Maybe there will be time to drive to the area and check it out first, but in the meantime, I will just create images in my head of what I think the place might look like and how the parking garage might be.
Wait, let me check Google Maps again. Hmmm, looks like the garage is about a block away from the venue. Why can’t anyone carpool? But then again, do I really want to sit in the car with someone for that long? And I’ll probably want to leave before them… I need to check Google Maps again.
Ah, the inner struggle of facing unknown territory for us introverts. It’s probably not that driving is a problem; it’s just that “familiarity breeds contempt” and the event is already bringing up doubts and uncertainty. At least if the venue was in a familiar place, that would be one less thing to obsess over.
In reality, it will all be fine, and having technology as a wingman is a good thing. I mean, what did introverts do in the Dark Ages before satellites and cell phones? After all, a paper map can’t recalculate how long it will take to get someplace. Although you might feel less guilty when the excuse for not going is that you got lost. Which brings me to my next point…
3. You’re not sure if leaving early will be an option.
So, peace has been made with the fact that attending the event is non-negotiable. Changing my mind at this point would just be rude and I do want to show support for my friend by being there. However, an escape plan is always a rational idea. I mean, being stuck at an event can be uncomfortable, and having a way out might make the day a little more tolerable, right?
As introverts, it seems only logical to go into a situation with a good old plan for leaving early. Of course, a well-thought-out plan that doesn’t involve drawing attention to ourselves. (Hint: fainting or becoming suddenly ill are bad). Instead, we will probably opt for a more subtle approach, like a phone call from a friend needing our help. The nice thing is, if it does happen to pan out that we are having a good time, our planned excuse is unnecessary.
We introverts can only handle so much “peopling,” so a well-thought-out excuse — and knowing we have the option to leave an event early — sometimes sets our mind at ease. And note to event hosts: Just because we leave early doesn’t mean we don’t like you. Our social time was simply up!
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4. You don’t know anyone else who is going.
Asking around the office, you can’t find a single person you know who is also going to the event. You don’t really know most of your coworkers that well, but if you had confirmation from a familiar face that they, too, were going, you would feel much better. You know, the buddy system. Sometimes even introverts even need a person to lean on: someone to talk with, to make it seem like (ahem) we have everyday friendships. Standing alone at a social event is cause for a wee bit of anxiety (or a lot).
We introverts have all been there before, you know, casually sipping our drink (that we don’t really want) and making it seem like we are busy — standing on the outskirts of the crowd so it looks like we are a part of everything. I don’t know about you, but I hate the awkward feeling of being in a group, but not part of the group. At least having someone you know at the event to casually make small talk with — okay, just to stand next to and smile at once and a while — makes things a little more bearable.
5. You’re anxious about having all eyes on you when you get there.
What time is it? You’ve checked the place and time of the event endlessly. If you get there too early, you will have to enter the venue alone and talk with the few people already inside. However, if you get there too late, people will notice as you make your entrance. What if they have been waiting for you to start the silly party games? Getting to the event at just the right time is crucial to your introvert comfortability factor.
My strategic plan for arriving at the perfect time is to get there on the early side, but wait in the car while others head in. This way, I can quickly jump from my car to the group and seamlessly walk into the event unnoticed. Come on, I know you introverts have done this on occasion. Word of advice: Just make sure the group you tag along with is actually heading into the same event as you, or things may get even a tad bit more, um, awkward.
6. You (and your social anxiety) try to talk yourself out of going (multiple times).
Your mind has gone over all the details. Let me start again: Your mind has overthought and overanalyzed all of the details. Going to the event seems like it is more work than what it’s worth. Seriously, no one will even notice if you are there or not. This is your mind rationalizing that it is okay to skip out. Let’s face it, you go through most of your day hardly being acknowledged by people, so maybe if you sit this one out, it will hardly matter.
Wrong. You were invited to this event by someone who was thinking of you and wants you to be a part of their big day. Take that risk and put yourself out there. Your host will know if you aren’t there, and that’s what matters. I try to put myself in their shoes. How would I feel if I selectively chose my guest list and no one came? Just stop with the what-ifs and move on with the here-I-go’s!
Socializing on Your Own Terms as an Introvert
Socializing as an introvert is, well, hard, and can also be awkward. We tend to overthink simple situations and turn ourselves off to big events. Although I am able to find humor in my anxiety concerning attending social events, at times it is a real struggle. As I have matured and my experiences have become more vast (okay, I’m old), I still find myself hesitant about attending events… but I do eventually come around. I will probably forever go over all possible scenarios in my head and dwell on things that, in the end, really don’t matter much. But that’s just me being my introverted self and there’s nothing wrong with that.
As introverts in an extroverted world, we tend to develop our own coping mechanisms for socializing. Being ready to socialize will never be a natural thing for most of us — so if we have to take steps to make ourselves ready to “people,” so be it! We tend to socialize on our own terms, but every once in a while, be prepared to take some chances. You just might find you are the life of the party. (Um, yeah, who are we kidding?) But at least we can say we got out of the house for once!
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