Everyone these days claims to be an “extroverted introvert,” or “introverted extrovert,” or whatever means that you are both sociable and not at the same time. Whatever translates to the fact that you can equally enjoy being out for Taco Tuesday and margs with friends AND being wrapped in a blanket burrito at home on the couch. (Olé!)
But the reason I believe this is such a ubiquitous discussion topic nowadays is that we’re all trying to express the same inner dilemma:
HOW DO I EXPLAIN THAT I AM A COMPLEX PERSON?
(and in an uncomplicated way?)
For some reason, it’s not as commonplace to remind people in a social setting that we are extremely unique…and sometimes make mistakes…and are not usually perfect. We all know this to be true. But we are uncomfortable owning it. It doesn’t wrap up nicely in a bow. There’s not a *cute* way to explain that we’re multi-faceted, at least without coming off as “quirky” or “adorkable.”
But this seems silly to me. We’re all individuals.
For me, I am outgoing, love people, am energized by social settings.
BUT…and the is a huge BUT. (does that mean I have a big but? yes, lol)
I. HAVE. SOCIAL ANXIETY.*
Yes. I, Rose, get very anxious in social situations. Surprised? Don’t be.
I mean, it makes sense in my brain. Think of everything that could go wrong. You could say or do something embarrassing in front of people. They may not like you. They may laugh at you.
That dream sequence shown over and over again in TV and movies (you know the one…), where you’re suddenly naked in class or in a presentation? That feeling. It’s what I get every now and again. At parties. Events. Work. ETC.
I try to hide it well, but my body is constantly working against me.
Stress sweating is real. When I’m nervous or excited or freaking out…I sweat in weird places. Obviously I sweat in my armpits like a regular person, but did you know your elbow could sweat too? Ha!
I blush at everything. Not like rosy cheeks. Like red, blotchiness on my chest and neck. Hawt.
I have absolutely ZERO% of a poker face because of this. And have considered dressing exclusively like Steve Jobs for the remainder of my life — turtlenecks anyone?
It happens when I’m happy. Upset. Nervous. It’s definitely connected, but not mutually exclusive with, my caffeine intake. It’s exacerbated by alcohol. But coffee and drinking aren’t things I plan on giving up anytime soon. Sorry I’m not sorry.
My favorite story tied to my ruddiness (rose-i-ness?) is when I read aloud a rather personal piece at the end of my Creative Writing class in senior year of college. Midway through me pouring my heart out, a younger classmate stopped me mid-sentecnce to ask if I was having an allergic reaction. “Rose, are you okay? You look like you have hives or are allergic to something? ARE YOU OKAY??!!!”
My worst nightmare. People acknowledging this embarrassing attribute in public.
But then, a fellow classmate. A sophomore bro on the baseball team. Came to my rescue. He turned to this girl and exclaimed: “YOU’VE BEEN WATCHING TOO MUCH GREY’S ANATOMY. SHUT UP.”
Thank you. I’ve never laughed harder.
Now, I’ve come to terms with my social anxiety. It reminds me I’m human.
I firmly, strongly believe in pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. For me, sometimes that means pushing myself to go to a party. A bar. A networking event.
And most recently, last week, A SPEAKING EVENT.
Where I was the speaker. Zoinks.
I made it through 45 minutes of speaking to 40 women in a hot conference room under fluorescent lights. This was a group of women who did not necessarily *want* to be there. I was the Tuesday night “activity” at a women’s rehabilitation center. I was there to cover goal setting and getting back on your feet. Tough stuff. Tough crowd.
I became hyper aware of my privilege in life, and also how much I had overcome to get where I am now. I needed to find a balance in speaking to them that was neither condescending nor unrelatable. Tall order.
My main goal, ironically in a presentation on goals, was to try to inspire even 1 woman in the group. To help them realize how amazing they are. How amazing we all are. How everyone is human.
Nothing is more humbling than that friendly reminder.
And isn’t that what we all need? To remember that we’re all complicated?
We’re all complex. All unique. Not one thing or another?
Not just introverted. Not just extroverted. Just ourselves.
As a few of the women came up to me at the end of the event, shaking my hand like I was a celebrity and showing me their filled out worksheets, their goal maps, it struck me how important this moment was.
If I had not faced my fears of public speaking, I may not have touched these women’s lives that day. And it’s not really about me being there, it’s about the interaction and discussion and thoughts that they came up with. That’s what’s important. Those women have big things in store for them in life. We all do.
Actions speak louder than words. And despite needing to shout loudly throughout my presentation so the back row could hear me, if I had never even shown up. If I had chickened out. The entire night wouldn’t have existed.
So…I promise to keep putting my big girl pants on, one leg at a time, and continuing to pair them with high-colllared shirts, as long as it means I can make a difference.
My social anxiety will not keep me quiet. Will not keep me home. Turning red just means there’s a fire inside, a passion so intense, my body can’t contain it. ; )
I look forward to the anxiety-inducing moments to come.
Bring it on.
Note: *To clarify, it’s quite manageable social anxiety. Not diagnosed. I do not want to discount those being treated medically for this. They are strong, and choosing to get help, and I acknowledge that.