I’m guessing you have seen the Facebook memes that say something like; “I want to be invited but I don’t want to go”. I think this sums up a tricky piece about being introverted. No matter who we are, we want to belong. So when we get the invite, it tells us that the person thinks we belong, and that feels nice.
Except, the thought of actually showing up can be overwhelming. Let’s cue social anxiety…Does this happen to you too? You receive an invite and social anxiety arrives and gives you a long list of what you need to worry about?
Introversion & Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is really hard when it takes over; anxiety in general is hard. The best way to avoid anxiety is to say no to the invite. Now the anxiety is gone (will kind of) You may now be worrying about what the person is thinking about you- but that’s another post.
Actually, one of the worst things you can do is cancel or say no to an invite because of anxiety.
When you cancel, you likely feel relief. The anxiety now thinks it saved your life, so it will continue to show up to help keep you safe. I know this might sound confusing but anxiety is ultimately a signal of danger.
Introverts are more likely to be anxious, and then the more we listen to anxiety and let it make decisions, the more it will show up.
Now to bring this back to social anxiety and friendships- we may avoid making and maintaining friendships because of the increase in our anxiety.
Introvert worries that go with friendships
One of the great insights I have learned from working with my introverted people is that we think a lot about everything, like really everything. So when it comes to overthinking and social anxiety, the possibilities of what our brain can worry about is endless.
Here are some common examples of how the worried thoughts that show up with social anxiety:
- Is this person inviting me because no one else wanted to go?
- Will I have anything to say?
- What if I say something stupid?
- Who else will be there?
- What if I want to leave but I can’t?
- What if it goes really bad?
- Should I bring anything?
- What if I bring the wrong thing?
I’m guessing you have a few more that I missed.
I also wanted to say that some of the worries are experiences you may have actually had. I know I have been a ‘filler’ before and it feel pretty terrible. And I’ve also been asked a question that I just couldn’t put the words together to answer. I just wanted to make sure that it doesn’t sound like I’m suggesting it’s all in your head.
Tip to Handle Social Anxiety
Start to notice when you’re thinking is productive thinking or worry.
Productive thinking is when you can come to a positive conclusion as to what you should do. An example might be deciding to let your manager know that you need a quieter work space and deciding on when you will have the conversation.
Worried thinking is when you continue to go from problem to solution without being able to follow through on any solution.
To bring this back to social anxiety and friendships, notice how you might worry about an invite, and label it as worry thinking. It can also be helpful to add that the worry thinking is trying to protect but is just coming on way too strong.
Notice what happens as you continue to label the worry thinking whenever it shows up. Does this feel calming, disoriented?
Another issue that also comes up for Introverts, is wondering if they are the only ones who struggle with friendships or relationships in general.
In next week’s blog, I will share what life looks like for Introverted people when it comes to friendships.
To learn how to deal with social anxiety when it comes to friendships, my course: Building better Relationships; Introvert style will be available soon. Join the waitlist to be notified: Building Better Relationships; Introvert Style when it’s available for purchase.
Tracy, a fellow introvert and therapist, helps introverted people manage anxiety, find success in the workplace, and build better relationships.