I, to the complete unsurprise of everyone who has ever met me outside of work, am an introvert. One of the things that comes with that package (for me, and probably a lot of you, though it is not a given) is social anxiety. Y’know, that flighty, panicky feeling you get in your lungs when you have to deal with the other members of our species in any situation from answering the phone to knocking on someone’s door and every other kind of encounter between the two. Now, I do not view social anxiety as a totally bad thing (have you SEEN Criminal Minds?) but it’s not fun to deal with and I kinda wanted to talk about that today, because there are a lot of misconceptions about anxiety from people who do not have it. I have also witnessed some douchebaggary on the ‘net in relation to it, too, so I’m kind of pissed off and feel the need to lay down some basics.
1. We Do Not Hate People.
Well, not all of them. And not all the time. It’s harder for us to interact with crowds and even small gatherings. One on one communication is best, because we aren’t spreading our limited energy out by trying to keep track of everything at once. Also, hello, you have our undivided attention all to yourself. You should be flattered. We don’t waste energy on people we don’t want to be around, but sometimes even that is hard. Just relax and let us go at our own speed.
2. Sometimes We Just Can’t Socialize
There is a really good comic here that explains it more in detail. In short, being around lots of people is like being a dust bunny in a room full of vacuum cleaners that are all switched on. We need alone time to, y’know, build our fluff back up after an encounter like that. Or a trip to the grocery store. Or from eight hours a day in soul sucking retail hell. So respect the hamster ball of personal space, m’kay?
3. We Are Not Defective Human Beings
I repeat: WE ARE NOT DEFECTIVE.
We’re all built differently, okay? If we weren’t it would be like the Stepford Wives all up in this joint, or like the puppeteer zombie world in The Faculty. Neither place was all that great, and if we were all the same then none of us would be creative and, mother of chocolate eggs, that would be one boring world. So don’t rag on people just because they like a lot of alone time, or can’t do big crowds. Everyone has a different reason they can’t or aren’t comfortable with it, and the reason is VALID. What’s important is that you respect it, because the anxiety they have does not make them less of a human being, nor does it make them broken. If it’s a problem for them and they want some help overcoming it, then be fucking supportive and be there for them. But do not berate or belittle them for it. That ain’t fucking nice and it makes you a douchebag.
Okay, I feel a bit better now. So, to recap: having social anxiety does not equate weakness or low self worth, but being a bastard about it definitely makes you both.