No one is truly fearless. There are always things that we’re going to be nervous about doing because they put us out of our comfort zones; that’s just part of being human. Introverts who are also shy or socially anxious tend to have their own set of unique fears that they must face each day. These are some of the fears that many shy or anxious introverts, in general, may have:
1. Small Talk
Ah, the dreaded meaningless chatter that makes me more uncomfortable than anything else. In situations where I’m forced to make idle conversation, I find myself getting nervous and forgetting how to talk to another human being. I always have things on my mind, but when I’m put on the spot, my mind often draws a blank. Introverts love to talk about things that matter or allow them to get to know the other person on a deeper level. Small talk, to me, feels not only pressuring, but pointless.
If you’re an introvert who’s been labeled as “quiet,” or you’re selective about when to use your voice, it’s likely that things like small talk feel irrelevant to you and spend a lot of your energy. I’m someone who often finds more comfort in silences rather than in conversations I’ll forget about later. In my humble, introverted opinion, things like the weather that you could learn about on dozens of news channels or by simply stepping outside really don’t need to be a focal discussion piece unless it really is your passion or career.
2. Meeting New People
Anytime I’m entering a situation in which I know I’ll be interacting with strangers, my heart starts to race. Getting to know new people can sometimes be hard for introverts, along with the earliest stages of forming a relationship. The way society often dictates how we go about making and sustaining those interactions is against us. My introversion does not lend itself to relationships being started and sustained by small talk in large, loud group settings. I like to get to know people one-on-one and by talking about things that will help me actually get to know who they are. Days like the first day of school or the beginning of a new job are often incredibly stressful because they bring with them the prospect of meeting new people.
3. Big Crowds
I steer clear of hordes of people every chance I get. Much like our fear of new people, being in the middle of large masses who we likely know nothing or little about can be overwhelming. Swarms of strangers can be a fear for many people for various reasons, but it is particularly common for anxious introverts. Introverts gather their energy from being alone, but that doesn’t mean the “all alone in a crowd of people” thing always works. Big crowds may isolate introverts in a way they don’t enjoy or gain energy from. We feel most included in small groups of people we’re close to and comfortable with. A huge group full of unknowns is about as bad as it gets — and for some anxious introverts, it may even induce a full-on panic attack.
4. Talking on the Phone
I get a lot of grief for this one. I really do have a fear of talking on the phone, but I’m not the only one. It’s called Telephonophobia. (Yeah, it’s really a thing!) For me personally, I do okay talking to people I know, but I do best if the interaction has been planned out ahead of time or if I am the one initiating the call. I do worst with unexpected calls from people I don’t know or don’t know well, whether it be a telemarketer, employer, or the dreaded unsaved number. (I never pick up for those.)
I really can’t explain why I have these phone-calling idiosyncrasies, but other introverts have told me they have similar problems. Something about talking to someone without being able to see any of their body language is a bit unsettling to me. Introverts are often extremely observant, so when part of our ability to observe is stripped away from us, we can sometimes go into panic mode.
5. Long Social Engagements
People tell me, “It’ll be fun,” when they’re trying to get me to go somewhere I’m poised against. “Fun” is a relative term, my friends. As an introvert who spends a fair amount of her time with extroverted friends, I’m used to having people try to talk me into going to an all-day or all-night event. While the prospect of spending quality time with my friends is definitely desirable, I still find long hours with anyone (like them or not) to be tiring. And the anticipation of those long hours can be stressful, especially if I’m going into the time commitment with no escape plan for when it becomes too much. The people pleaser in me is always pushing me to say “yes” to long, extended plans, but the introvert in me knows just how badly I need to say “no.”
My introversion certainly plays a role in my fear of embarrassment. As an introvert who spends a great deal of her time listening and observing, I try to avoid having other people hearing or seeing me do something they would remember in a negative light. As an intuitive person, I spend a lot of time in the midst of a speculation fallacy — I think up a lot of scenarios about things that might happen, often as a way to talk myself down from entering a situation at all. And the things I speculate about could be anything from no one laughing at a joke I make to a scarier Worst Case Scenario of some sort. Being intuitive can often be a great thing because it can help you feel more prepared. However, when you’re an easily-embarrassed introvert who already doesn’t like having attention drawn to yourself, it can make life more difficult.
My dear introverts, it’s okay to have fears. It’s also okay to have fears that fall under what society dictates as “irrational.” You being your truly introverted self does not make you faulty; you are valid.
But just because you have fears doesn’t mean they need to stay that way for good. It’s by facing our fears that we can begin to grow as people. That doesn’t mean you need to only talk about the weather and how the Cubs are doing, go to loud parties every weekend, and find ways to intentionally publicly humiliate yourself. Introverts, you can still be you, while occasionally stretching yourself past your comfort zone.
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