10 Struggles Only Shy Introverts Will Understand

Introversion is not the same thing as being shy. Every decent definition of “introvert” makes that distinction. Being an introvert means the outer world drains you and the inner world recharges you. Being shy means you get nervous and self-conscious when in social situations. They’re different things.

But what if you’re an introvert who’s also shy?

Even though shyness and introversion are different, there are quite a few introverts who are also shy (it’s worth noting there are also shy extroverts as well, though they’re not the focus of this post). And when you’re a shy introvert, there are certain struggles that other introverts don’t always resonate with. In today’s post, we’ll talk about 10 that I’ve dealt with.

1) You don’t always fit in with the introverts

I struggle with social anxiety. When I first started reading about introversion, I kept coming across people saying things like “introverts aren’t shy” or “introverts aren’t socially awkward.” This made me feel a little out-of-place. I’m an introvert and I’m also shy and socially awkward. So where do I fit in? I’m sure I’m not the only shy introvert who has asked themselves this question.

2) You wonder if you need to change

Introversion is an inborn personality trait and it’s not something that you need to “fix.” Social anxiety is a mental-health disorder that can negatively impact your life, and it’s a good idea to seek professional counseling if you’re struggling with that. But what about the in-between area where shyness lives? For those who are more shy than other introverts but not always socially anxious, it can be a struggle to figure out how much of your shyness is just part of your personality and how much is something you might want to work on overcoming.

3) People mistake your intentions

I’ve had so many people mistake me for being rude or stuck-up simply because my shyness made it hard for me to join-in to groups. I don’t think I’m better than others just because I’m off on the side watching instead of in the middle of the dance floor gyrating. I don’t mean to be rude when I have trouble coming up with small talk when I first meet someone. And I’ve talked with or read articles by many introverts who face this struggle, especially if they’re also shy.

4) Starting a conversation is hard

Actually, “hard” doesn’t do the feeling justice. It’s more like well-nigh impossible at times. Not only are you more comfortable inside your safe introvert shell, but you also have your shyness worrying about how terribly wrong this conversation could go. Maybe they’ll think it’s weird you started a conversation with them. Maybe you’ll run out of things to say and embarrass yourself. Maybe you’ll want to escape the conversation later and won’t know how. You know you’re probably over-thinking things, but it still makes starting a conversation challenging.

5) Sometimes you just need to leave

Being in groups of people can be a struggle for any introvert. But when you’re shy on top of being introverted there are going to be times when you’re in a group of people and suddenly feel like you just have to leave RIGHT NOW. Maybe this is more my anxiety speaking than my shyness, but sometimes I just hit a point where I’m overwhelmed and/or totally drained and I have to bail on a group, event, or other gathering. In many cases, my energy starts to return as soon as I’m alone.

6) You feel underestimated

Sure you’re not the most outgoing person around, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have valuable skills and talents. Unfortunately for shy introverts, people often assume that because we’re hesitant to speak up it means we don’t have anything valuable to contribute. That can lead to people vastly underestimating us. From people talking over you in meetings to people assuming you can’t handle a task on your own, it’s often quite a challenge to try and convince others to stop underestimating you.

7) Avoiding people you know

Introverts, even shy ones, don’t hate people. But we vastly prefer interacting with people when we can plan ahead for it. Bumping into people accidentally seems incredibly awkward. If we spot someone we know out in public and they haven’t seen us yet, there’s a good chance we’ll go out of our way to avoid running into them. We might also avoid planning activities with people because we know they’ll be draining and overwhelming, so it just seems easier to not go in the first place than to leave early.

8) Your body gives away your shyness

Shyness and anxiety have some very real physical effects and sometimes they’re impossible to hide. One minute you seem calm, put-together, and in control of the situation. You might be worried on the inside but outside you can make it seem like everything’s okay. Then suddenly your palms are sweating, your voice starts shaking, and your nerves take over so much that you’re not even sure what you’re saying anymore. It’s embarrassing, but it’s not something we’re really in control of so we just have to live with it (though there are grounding techniques that can help).

9) You agree to things you don’t want to

Fear of confrontation is something lots of people struggle with, and it can be a particular challenge for shy introverts. It’s hard enough talking to people at all but when you have to contradict them it’s, like, 100 times more difficult. So you might end up agreeing to things you don’t want to or losing arguments that you should have won. It can get pretty frustrating at times. And if you avoid conflict too much, you might also have to deal with the added uncomfortableness of later trying to get out of something you agreed to when you were too shy to speak up.

10) You listen better than you speak

10 Struggles Only Shy Introverts Will Understand | LikeAnAnchor.com
Photo credit: Free-Photos via Pixabay

Listening is an underappreciated skill that shy people are often really good at. Just because social situations make us anxious doesn’t mean we’re not attuned to other people and their needs. Many of us are really good listeners and we’re often much more happy sitting back and listening than with taking a more active role in the conversation. We get so comfortable listening that it can be really jarring when someone encourages us to speak up more. In fact, the more someone draws attention to the fact that we’re not speaking “enough,” the less likely we are to want to say anything.


What are your experiences with living as a shy introvert? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

Featured image credit: Free-Photos via Pixabay

10 Confessions of a Socially Anxious Introvert

For introverts like me, learning about your personality is often a huge relief. We read books like Susan Cain’s Quiet, Marti Olsen Laney’s The Introvert Advantage, or Laurie Helgoe’s Introvert Power and we marvel that there are other people like us. We’re not alone anymore. All our weirdness finally makes sense.

Except, introversion didn’t explain everything about my personality. Those writing about introversion were careful to point out that it isn’t the same thing as shyness. I was shy, though, so how did I fit in? Learning from Elaine Aron’s books that I’m a highly sensitive person helped explain why certain environments and situations feel overwhelming, but it didn’t explain the racing heart, sweaty palms, and anxious thoughts that followed me into interactions with people.

I had my first panic attack in a Blockbuster when I was about 14 or 15 years old. That was when I realized there was something going on other than just shyness. Another 15 years later and I now know that I struggle with generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and depression. I won’t get into all that here but if you’re curious you can click to read “My Anxiety Story.”

One of the good things that has come out of all this is that I can write about introversion, social anxiety, and what it means to have both. I can’t speak for everyone, though. Our personalities and anxieties are highly individual and if you’re socially anxious it’s going to be a different experience for you than it is for me. There are commonalities, however, and I think there’s a good chance you’ll identify with some of my confessions as a socially anxious introvert. Read more

Personality Type Myth-Busting: Are All Introverts Quiet?

I think most people would tell you that one of the defining traits of introverts is that they are quiet. It’s even the name of one of the most popular introvert books — Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. This also happens to be the book that first got me started on studying and embracing introversion, and it’s still one of my favorite books.

But in the midst of this “quiet revolution” that’s pushing for greater acceptance of introversion, we might get the idea that all introverts are characterized by being soft-spoken people who rarely talk. However, that’s not entirely accurate and that’s not what really what Susan Cain meant when she named her book Quiet.

Confusing Introversion and Shyness

One of the most common mistakes regarding introversion is to assume it’s the same thing as shyness. But introversion is simply a description of how about 50% of the population’s brains are “hardwired.” It’s a preference for the inner world and a need to recharge in solitude. Shyness, on the other hand, is related to social anxiety. Read more

Could Unselfishness Be The First Step To Overcoming Shyness?

Once again, I failed to introduce myself to someone. I’m 27 years old — by now I should have mastered the incredibly complicated art of walking up to someone visiting my own church group and simply saying, “Hi, I’m Marissa. Welcome. What’s your name?”

It would probably come out more as a squeaky “Hi” followed by awkward silence as I frantically tried to come up with words resembling normal small talk.

*sigh* So much for INFJs being “the most extroverted introvert.” Perhaps some INFJs are, but I’m not. I’m shy. I thought it was getting better, but apparently I still need more work battling my social anxiety.

click to read article, "Could Unselfishness Be The First Step To Overcoming Shyness?" | marissabaker.wordpress.com
photo credit: “Viene and friends” by Barry Pousman, CC BY via Flickr

Introversion is healthy for introverts. Shyness … not so much

Despite Google’s antiquated definition of introvert as “a shy, reticent person,” shyness and introversion are far from the same thing. “Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments” (quote from “Are You Shy, Introverted, Both, or Neither (and Why Does It Matter)?” by Susan Cain). Shyness produces anxiety in social situations, while introversion means you lose energy when around other people. The traits often go together, but extroverts can also be shy.

Introverts who aren’t shy still prefer the inner world of thoughts and ideas to the outer world of people and things, but they’re capable of socializing and even enjoy it. Extroverts who are shy want to spend their time in the outer world, but they’re scared of people.

One of the most genuinely friendly extroverted women I know was once shy. For her, the turning point from shy to social was when she realized her fear of talking was rooted in self-focus. It was about “I’m scared to talk with people,” or “Socializing makes me nervous,” or “What if they don’t like me?” Read more

Walking by Faith (and next e-book announcement)

I just got back yesterday from an incredible  service-themed Young Adult weekend. It didn’t start out all that well for me, though. The day before I left I started feeling nervous (which is normal for me going into social events) but then by the time I left on Friday I had a shaking-crying-hyperventilating panic attack (which is becoming less and less normal/frequent for me).

I was really caught off-guard by this. I knew several people there — not just as acquaintances, but as friends — and I’d been eagerly looking forward to this event for weeks. I chalked it up to my too-active imagination combined with uncertainty about Friday evening’s schedule, breathed deep, prayed, turned Fallout Boy up, and started driving …

… and hit heavy traffic and rain (my two least favorite things to drive in). That left me running 20 late to met the people I was supposed to be car pooling with to the house I didn’t have an address for. Thankfully, one of the people I was meeting is also one of only 2 out of 100+ people at the weekend with my phone number, and he texted me the address. I proceeded to enter said address in my GPS and it took me to a house with no cars in the driveway.

It is either a testament to my stupidity or my faith that I walked up and rang the doorbell. Turns out, my friend accidentally sent me to another church member’s home (whose name I recognized, though I’d never met them) and they fed me cheese, gave me the correct address, and sent me on my way. Oddly, that’s when I felt a sense of peace for the first time all day. I was late, I was temporarily lost and yet God showed me that these worries coming true weren’t anything He couldn’t handle.

Walking by Faith | marissabaker.wordpress.com
photo credit: Dan4th Nicholas, CC BY via Flickr

Saturday brought a great round of seminars and an excellent sermon on foot washing and Passover. Nothing to worry about, until game night happened. I’m sure I’m in the minority judging by how many people said they had a wonderful time, but any sort of game that involves doing something in front of other people or in a group or on a team makes me intensely uncomfortable, especially if you add competition. The first two games were mixers where you asked someone a question and their name. I literally remember nothing from meeting people this way (does it even count as a “meeting” then?). Next was that game where you tie a balloon to your ankle and try to keep it from getting popped while popping everyone else’s balloon. I could have kissed whoever it was that popped my balloon the moment the game started.

That’s the last game I “played” (I stepped on my own balloon when they started round two) and I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of my evening talking with two other people who saw no appeal in participating. Give me a deep conversation with someone over competitive and/or rambunctious games any day. Now that’s how to meet new people. (Side-track back to the topic of social anxiety: game night continued throughout my conversations and there was a Bag of Doom from which they were drawing names to participate in a novelty challenge which you had to do while standing in the center of a room surrounded by 80-something people watching you. Can anyone say “introvert’s worst nightmare”?)

I think one of the biggest lessons I learned this weekend was that my fears were either 1) groundless or 2) didn’t have the power to hold me back. The fact that I had a panic attack before leaving turned into a blessing because it gave me the choice between either canceling my plans or praying through it and trusting God. I chose the later, and I kept encountering situations that could make me feel nervous and which reminded me to stay in prayer all weekend. Every single one of the things I was worried about worked out for the best, and the only part of that I can take credit for is that I took the step to go to the weekend and start a few conversations. The rest was all God.

This brings us in a very round-about way back to the topic of the weekend — service. Specifically, “Unlocking Your Desire To Serve.” As many of you know, I consider this blog a sort of ministry and it’s been growing in ways that amaze me and make me want to do more. One of the big things that holds me back is my own fears, including my fear of panicking when it’s important that I talk with people about my faith. So for me, blending this weekend’s focus on service with a need to rely on God for help working through my anxiety was a powerful experience.

  • If you gave up reading that long rambling post and started scrolling, here’s the e-book announcement:

Something I haven’t shared with many people is that in my local Messianic congregation I’ve been receiving words, prayers, and hints from brethren for the last several months along the lines of “God’s going to do something big in/with your life soon.” I even finally have a hint as to what that might involve after I came back from services a few weeks ago with a title for an e-book in my head which I promptly sat down and outlined. I’ve barely worked on it since, but this weekend was exactly what I needed to reconfirm that God wants me to be sharing my gifts through writing and that He’s more than capable of overcoming deficiencies on my part.

My first step is officially announcing the project here on this blog. The working title is “Rise Up, My Love” and the focus will be on reigniting the church’s passion for God (so, basically this blog in book form). I’m not committing to a release-date quite yet (it would be lovely to have it out by Sukkot/Feast of Tabernacles this fall, but I think a full year might be more realistic judging by how long it took to write The INFJ Handbook). I’ll keep you posted on details.

 

Dancing the Night Away

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me and my sister

This post will be a bit random. I’m writing on Sunday, after a few hours sleep following a dance we got back from just before 3:00 in the morning. And that was after staying up past midnight the evening before talking about Myers-Briggs with someone who just learned he’s an INFJ. Dancing and typology being two of my favorite things, I’m happy. Add the fact that many of my good friends were at the dance, and I’m delighted.

On the topic to typing people, sometimes people online ask me, “How do you find out the personality types of so many people?” It’s really not all that difficult to bring up in conversation. When people ask what are your hobbies/interests or how you spend your time, I often bring up this blog and/or mention psychology. Then I just ask people if they’re taken a Myers-Briggs test. People love to talk about themselves, so it’s not usually all that hard from there. If they’re a good enough friend and haven’t taken the test yet, just point them to Personality Hacker. If you’re really ambitious, guess their personality once they have the result but before they tell you (the reaction is great if you’re right).

Taking this in a different direction, I think I’ve hit a personal growth milestone. My shyness/social anxiety really only showed up once last night. Once! And a week ago I raised my hand and said something in church (this is accepted/encouraged at my Messianic congregation, but I haven’t done anything like that in the 3 years since I graduated college and there wasn’t mandatory class participation). I think I’m actually starting to conquer a fear that’s been a part of me for so long. For INFJs, this sort of personal growth usually involves tapping into your secondary function, Extroverted Feeling, and I feel like I’m doing that with more consistency and confidence. The dance was a a great place to realize this, since it’s a setting which could have made me intensely uncomfortable a few years ago.

What about you? have you attended any events or had any experiences lately that highlighted some area where you’ve grown as a person?