Extroversion typically means that you draw your energy from being around other people, and social anxiety is characterized by emotional distress or uneasiness about social interaction. Combined, these two make for the worst possible mental battle. The extroverted part of my mind loves being surrounded by people and craves new interactions, but my brain constantly overthinks these scenarios. "Did I say something wrong? What if they don't like me? Why is he looking at me like that?" While I may be having a blast at the party on Saturday night, my mind is racing with anxieties that I cannot turn off no matter how hard I try. I want to have fun with my friends, but at the same time I don't want to socialize because of how mentally draining it is. Staying home is an option, but that leaves me feeling sad and bored. I'll be excited to go out to the bar on a Friday night, but get there and immediately be overwhelmed with the number of people, voices, and energy surrounding me. These are just a few of the examples where I am torn between expressing my personality and fighting my anxiety.
Embodying both sides of the social spectrum makes it very difficult to express to others how I feel. Relationships are difficult because, no we are not insecure control freaks, our brains just function differently. My relationships with people are the most important thing in my life, but my anxieties often cause problems and get in the way. People just have to understand that no matter how social I may be, I think, a lot. Being alone makes me just as anxious as being with people does. I constantly want to be surrounded by people but overthink my interactions, yet the thoughts of sitting alone in my room sends me towards a downward spiral.
The simplest things are never simple. I probably send more than one hundred texts a day, easy right? Wrong. "Why aren't they answering me....why do they hate me....did I say something wrong?" LOGICALLY, I am aware that these thoughts are silly, but that doesn't stop them from consuming my mind. It makes it hard because as an extrovert I love texting people and staying in contact, but the anxiety created from such a simple every day task is overwhelming. Another task deemed simple is ordering food. I am 19 years old and I still ask my mom to order my food for me because it makes me so anxious. Why? Because I am a picky eater and my whole life people made fun of me when I would order, but as an anxious person I was not able to just laugh it off. Ordering food causes me severe anxiety, I know that it is a silly thing, but that doesn't invalidate my feelings. For anxious people one situation can impact them for the rest of their lives, fearing that the same thing will happen again. When I go out to dinner with friends I feel a knot build in my stomach knowing that I am going to have to order in front of them, "will they laugh at me, will the waiter judge me?" but as an extrovert of course I want to have dinner with my friends, it is just another example of the never ending battle.
Although I am bold and confident and outgoing, sometimes the smallest things can stress me out and make it difficult to function. Whether it's getting dinner with a friend, doing my laundry, starting a paper, cleaning my room, studying for a test, just the simple THOUGHT of doing these things is enough to paralyze me which results in getting nothing done. And these thoughts, they do not stop. As someone who is a go getter and constantly jam packing my day with activities, I am usually exhausted at the end of the day. But sleep also does not come easily. All of those thoughts that have been put off all day always have a way of sneaking back into my head the second it rests on the pillow. For anxious extroverts, bedtime consists of replaying every scenario from that day and wondering why you said or did that, or stressing about what's yet to come, and it is completely and utterly depleting.
One of the biggest downfalls is how hard we are on ourselves. I am always stressing that I can do more, be more, say more. If I am lying in bed watching Netflix I cannot truly enjoy it because I am thinking of all of the more productive things I could be doing. "Relaxing" is not a word in my vocabulary. Even if I make it my goal to relax, such as going to yoga, I cannot even put into words for you how fucking impossible it is to silent the never ending wave of thoughts. If a friend is in need and I say everything I possibly can to help them, I will lie awake at night telling myself I could have said more, if someone is looking at me weird I will spend the rest of my day wondering if I should have worn a different outfit or done my makeup a different way, I overanalyze every single god damn aspect of my life. If I am feeling down or too anxious to socialize I will force myself to go out or attend an event or hangout with friends because I am afraid about what people would say about me and I feel as though my feelings are stupid and I should suck it up. But I can't suck it up, anxiety doesn't just go away because you want it to, and as much as I wish I was just the fun extrovert who is the life of the party, my anxiety also takes up a large part of my mind.
My point of this post isn't to make people feel bad for me or to complain, it's really just to explain my mind and the mind of other anxious extroverts. People often stereotype and put us in tiny little boxes, thinking we can only be one thing, but that's not the case. Just because I may be acting one way outwardly does not mean I feel the same way inwardly, and that is SO important to distinguish. Anxious extroverts are enigmas simply just trying function as best as we can. I guess my message is just that be more understanding and compassionate to people, because they may not be wired the same way you are. You don't know peoples full story unless you ask, so be careful with those you interact with. Something that may not be a big deal to you may send me into a full blown anxiety attack. So there you have it, a sneak peak into the not so glamorous mind of an anxious extrovert. I don't want anyone to think of me as this anxious basket case, I am still the same person you go to the party with, the same person who loves to hang out, but that's not all there is to me. There is always more to people than meets the eye, so keep that in mind when you go out into the universe.