As I write this, the scare and panic created by coronavirus is at its peak. Social distancing is the new IT word and I am shuttling between feeling calm and anxious. There are jokes flying on Twitter about how this is the ideal world for introverts, and Memes being created by the second about quarantine life.
And while the world is panic buying toilet rolls, I am not sure how this is going to play out for an extrovert with social anxiety. Am I relieved that I will not have to indulge in social chit chat with strangers which is part of my job, or will I finish an entire jar of Nutella to fill up the hollow space created due to not being able to hang out with my friends?
Living in parallels. Walking on a tightrope of a life that is an oxymoron. Welcome to my life! Human connections, nurturing relationships and connections is one of the things that keeps me energized and motivated. Now imagine how difficult life would be if we are in constant fear of the things that also boosts us up? Draining! As a socially anxious extrovert we care so much about being judged by others; what are people thinking about you, saying about you, we read too much into how we come across in person or on social media. But at the same time we experience a great deal of FOMO, and avoiding social situations is depressing.
So here’s to extroverts who struggle with social anxiety! Chin up; don’t be afraid to talk about how you are feeling. I did what I do best when anxious, and made a list to cope in this new world of social distancing. Let’s check-in.
Planning and routine are your two best friends. Whether it’s a bank visit that is making you anxious or a call to the doctor to figure out if you just have a mild flu or the dreaded coronavirus, slot the minutest of social interactions in your diary. You will automatically feel more at ease.
It’s okay to say no to impulsive plans. You can blame it on the current environment or you can actually find the courage to say that last-minute plans make you anxious. Embrace the No and feel a huge burden lifted off your shoulders.
Can’t order in a takeaway because you will have to make pleasantries with the delivery guy, or feel the need to shut the blinds in fear that the neighbors are watching you? Take one step at a time. Push a little out of your comfort zone and expose yourself to your fears rather than avoid it. You can’t eat out at restaurants in any case, why not order a pizza for yourself today and just ask the pizza guy if he is doing okay!
It’s okay to feel confused. There may be days where you can chat up a total stranger or feel energized to make those five calls to friends and family you have been stewing over. Or there may be bad days where you let all your calls go straight to voicemail. Your reactions or over-reactions might not make sense to you or those around you, but know that they are real and don’t judge yourself harshly.
Stay connected. Know that there are people like you who are battling between the want to socialize vs social anxiety. Talk about your feelings and stay connected with your community in any way you can. Video chat with your friend or talk to the camera on your socials because who knows someone out there needs to hear exactly what you have to offer.
I know that the fear of judgment is HUGE in extroverts with social anxiety. I have been called lazy and selfish and flaky for certain behaviors that I am unable to control. I have lost a few friendships and been called silly when I have tried to explain how I feel. People who know me as an extrovert, fun-loving and self-assured woman would never believe how this anxiety has put a dent on my self-confidence. And yet I try. We all do. We currently live in an unsure world, let us not make things more difficult for ourselves than they already are. Live your truth.