The 4 Differences Between Introversion and Social Anxiety

Two introverts walk into a bar.

No, really.

Liam and Alex are at the local wood-paneled pub having lunch—an incongruous combination of veggie burgers with bacon. “They cancel each other out,” says Liam. They are both handsome, soft-spoken 22-year-old college seniors, graduating this spring with honors.  They are housemates who have been known to finish each other’s sentences. Most importantly, they are self-proclaimed introverts.

Ask Liam about this coming Saturday night, and he says, “Well, I’ll probably chill with my roommates. We jam—I’m on the keyboards. I’ll probably have dinner with some friends. We’ll end up eating out though we’re trying to cook more. I’m still lousy, but I’m learning—I make a mean pad thai. I’ve never been a raging party guy—it’s not my scene.”

Ask Alex the same question, and you’ll get pretty much the same answer, except for “guitar” and “pulled pork sliders” replacing their counterparts. But there’s one other tweak: “I’ve never been a raging party guy—I always think I’m going to say something stupid.”

It’s subtle, but it’s there: social anxiety, defined as the fear of being judged. It’s self-consciousness on steroids.  

Now, you may be a non-anxious introvert like Liam. You may love solitude and intimate gatherings but remain comfortable being seen by others. Not loving huge parties or group work is preference, not fear.

But you can also be a socially anxious introvert, like Alex. Lately, as introversion is validated and empowered, I hear folks like Liam and Alex proudly describing themselves as introverts, which is liberating and game-changing. But those similar to Alex still feel that something’s off.

To be sure, with Alex’s social anxiety comes other, valuable, stuff. The socially anxious among us often have deep emotional empathy. We are finely attuned to the feelings of others. We are the diplomats, the ambassadors. We navigate a multicultural, twenty-first century world with sensitivity and care.  

But sometimes our social antennae are too sensitive—the social smoke alarm goes off too readily. Social anxiety is the third most common psychological disorder, right after the big boys of depression and alcoholism. Up to 13% of American adults will have social anxiety that reaches clinical proportions in their lifetime. A whopping 90% of people will describe themselves as “shy” at some point during their lives. And, of course, who doesn’t have socially awkward moments? (Answer: no one. Well, okay, maybe psychopaths, but who wants to be one of them?)

Although introversion and social anxiety may look like a psychological potato-potahto, they’re really more like apples and oranges. How can you tell the difference between social anxiety and introversion? What’s the bright line between an introverted temperament to be honored and social fear to be challenged? Let’s check out four of the biggest differences:

1: Introversion is born. Social anxiety is made.

Introversion is a part of your inherent personality—a from-the-womb, dyed-in-the-wool trait. And while those who are socially anxious also carry a genetic predisposition toward it, there’s more than just temperament at play. In an indelicate analogy, genetics loads the gun, but experience pulls the trigger.

Two things happen to make us socially anxious: the first is learning. One way or another, we learn—mistakenly!—that we don’t measure up to scrutiny. We might absorb the worries of a parent who frets about what the neighbors think, internalize the social pressure to be “outgoing” when we’re anything but, or be seared by a social trauma like bullying. However social anxiety works its way into our brain, we somehow grow to believe at a young age that people will judge us and find us lacking.  

The second ingredient for social anxiety is avoidance. We bolt at the end of the meeting so we miss the ensuing small talk, feign illness so we don’t have to go to the holiday party, or stare at our phones whenever we feel nervous, all of which keeps us mired. And, of course, we hide in the bathroom. We don’t get the chance to discover this social stuff isn’t as bad as we think and maybe, just maybe, we got this.

2: In social anxiety, there’s a fear of being revealed.

In social anxiety, we think there’s something wrong with us. (Imagine “think” with a big asterisk because even though we don’t believe it, our perceived flaws are either not true or only true to a degree no one cares about.)

That perceived flaw could be physical: maybe you think you turn lobster-red when you talk or that your hands shake like James Bond’s martini. Or it could be a character flaw: you think if you speak up in class, everyone will decide you’re stupid or a loser. You might fear a poor social performance: you picture yourself frozen and silent, blinking in mute horror or babbling like a pageant contestant failing the on-stage question. No matter the perceived flaw, you fear the reveal.  

By contrast, the non-socially anxious introvert thinks what you see is what you get. There’s nothing to be revealed because there’s nothing to hide.

3: Perfectionism lays fertile ground for social anxiety.

Far from fifty shades of grey, in social anxiety, your social acumen is black or white. You think you’ll either achieve a flawless social performance or are destined to end up on a YouTube reel entitled “Epic Social Fails.” This all-or-nothing approach (no pressure or anything!) makes us think that the only way to stave off inevitable harsh criticism is to be effortlessly witty and charming. And that, in turn, makes us feel paralyzed. There’s an old quote from French writer Francois de la Rouchfoucauld:

“Nothing so much prevents our being natural as the desire to seem so.”

Hear, hear.

For non-anxious introverts, by contrast, being seen by others isn’t a performance. There’s no anticipated judgment. You can pepper your presentation with “ums” and have awkward silence in conversation, and it doesn’t necessarily mean anything bad about you, nor is there anything at stake. In other words, some conversations are absorbing and flow easily. Others may be graceless or banal, but you know that doesn’t mean you are too.

4: Introversion is your way. Social anxiety gets in your way.

Social anxiety is driven by fear. It makes you slip out of the birthday party early because you’re convinced you’re boring or don’t fit in or that you’re breaking out in hives and everyone will see. But then you miss the cake and the singing, and despite what you think, you will be missed by others. Social anxiety gets in the way of living life. You miss out on what people have to offer because you’re either physically absent or stuck in self-monitoring mode—worrying, like Alex, that you’ll say something stupid—when you are with them.

Now, Liam may leave the party early too, but there’s none of the self-criticism and self-consciousness involved. Many of us, like Liam, would really, honestly, like to go home, eat a bowl of cereal, and watch the game with our housemates. No judgment, no self-flagellation, no convincing ourselves we don’t care. We choose to walk out the door; fear doesn’t choose for us.

So, while at first blush, social anxiety may seem like a souped-up version of introversion, they’re as different as pad thai and pulled pork sliders. The good news? For Alex, practice, perspective, and facing his fears can make all the difference. Social anxiety is solvable. And working on it won’t change his introverted personality; indeed, it doesn’t need to. But it can dial down the fear and recalibrate that social smoke detector.

And that’s never stupid, no matter how you say it.

Share your thoughts.

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  • Sakura

    Oh, thank god for this article! I feel so liberated now that I’ve finally admitted to myself that I’m socially anxious. I’ve known it for a while but kept denying it, as if trying to convince myself nothing was wrong with me so I didn’t have to deal with it, but it’s much easier to admit I have a problem and need to confront it head on. Thank you Ellen!!

  • Salinda M.

    After reading multiple articles I still can’t tell if I’m just shy or socially anxious (yes I am introverted but introversion has no correlation to shyness). I don’t think this problem impairs me yet I identify with worrying about being too annoying, or boring, or that I talk to much, or that I’m oversharing, I hate talking to strangers and I have gone without claiming a prize because I didn’t want to talk to the person at the desk, I also went without pay for a year (Don’t worry I’m 14) because I was too afraid to ask how to find the form that you fill out to get paid. And then even if everything goes right I’ll try to sleep and my brain will bring up the fact that I said hello in a weird tone and I’ll be super embarrassed even if I tell myself that no one will even remember that. I don’t really avoid parties because I’m rarely invited and most parties contain close friends, may parents aren’t super social and i’m homeschooled so I’m not in as many social situations as most.

  • Carolyn Barry

    If someone sad boo, I would run for the door. My social anxiety was a 10 and above. I could not walk out the door without criticizing my attire, hair, features because of the criticism from others. I did not like myself at all. As I child I was always an introvert but always played with my siblings and neighborhood kids. I started socializing more when I went to college. Enjoying the parties and fun. As I got older I realized the time I spent alone gave me time to think and relate enjoying the peace of quietness and self. (Three I’s in one sentence meaning I see me for who I am). Then things started changing. I pickup back my old habit”s of becoming a “people pleaser”. My anxiety grew trying to be perfect so I can fit in everyone’s box made for me. An ex friend of my once told me I was being a “Miss Goody To Shoes” because I did not mingle. So I started not being myself to please her. No longer being my authentic self. So now I love being my introverted self. Loving me and not critical of my flaws. No longer running from the critics.

  • Mike

    It’s been only in recent months that I realized I have social anxiety, as opposed to simply being introverted and extremely shy. What REALLY hit home with this article is the paragraph that starts with “Two things happen to make us socially anxious: the first is learning.” The things that are mentioned in the remainder of that paragraph all happened to me growing up, and to a much less frequent but still painful extent as an adult. Whenever I am dwelling (unfortunately) on what has made me what I am, I’ve always thought of these things as having triggered it. On one level it’s comforting to know these are acknowledged causes of social anxiety. On another level, it resurrects my anger at the people who made fun of and belittled me over the years, from how I walked (this from childhood through high school) & talked (mostly in childhood, but also as recently as a few years ago) to how quiet I often am. I always suspected these things were root causes because I have vague memories of NOT being like this before I started school.

  • Extreme introverts like I am don’t give a hoot what people think about us, especially when we are on a mission. You won’t find us in a pub…too many people. And unless you’re five don’t expect any birthday singing……

  • Niki Wilson Lee

    Thank you for this article. For the longest time, I felt that my anxiety and introversion went hand in hand. I am slowly learning to overcome that anxiety and accept my introversion even when others don’t understand it.

  • Chris

    I’m an introvert who has also, my whole life, been socially anxious. I can’t ever remember not being so, and I am now nearly 60. Overall, it hasn’t really negatively affected my life in any big way. I have friends, just not a lot of them. I am happily married. I function in society, go to restaurants by myself, etc.

    The one thing I cannot do competently is public speaking or presenting. I had to do this occasionally at work (now retired) and it never went well. I simply cannot think on my feet when people are looking at me and waiting for me to speak or reply. I can know something inside out and still be unable to articulate it in those circumstances. At my age I can say that for me this is not a battle worth fighting. I can’t do public speaking. So what.

    Sometimes I think calling out those with social anxiety just provides another thing to be anxious about, another thing we “should” be working on.

    • Statmom

      You’re an inspiration!

    • Wilmer

      We could be sisters.

  • Ranowa

    Definitely a good article. I’ve really been pretty unsure for a while now if I was just an introvert or was moving along towards social anxiety, and this helped demarcate it out pretty clearly for me 🙂 Just an extremely insecure introvert, I am…

  • Alain MOCCHETTI

    LA PERSONALITE INTROVERTIE DE ALAIN MOCCHETTI

    Parmi l’ensemble de mes sœurs qui sont 4 et de mes frères qui sont 2, c’est moi qui suis le plus introverti de la famille MOCCHETTI-MOLINARI. Je peux dire que je suis introverti de naissance et dans ma toute jeune enfance, je vivais heureux dans ma coquille, étais je autiste à ce moment la, je crois que oui. Contrairement à mes sœurs et mes frères, je ne parlais pas, je n’avais pas d’opinion, pas de répondant, je devais être ennuyeux pour les personnes qui cherchaient à communiquer avec moi, beaucoup me disaient que je n’avais pas de caractère et cela a perduré pendant des années, jusqu’à l’âge de 28 ans. Scolairement parlant, j’étais très moyen en expression orale forcément et en expression écrite. Au Collège comme au Lycée, je détestais la Littérature et la Philosophie, ainsi que les langues étrangères, mon introversion a été un vrai handicap pour moi. Par contre quand j’ai fait mes études supérieures, je me suis découvert des facultés importantes pour les matières scientifiques et les mathématiques avec une particularité pour les mathématiques où j’ai brillé de la 6ème jusqu’à la 5ème année de faculté (UFR Sciences de Metz). Pour résumer je suis sorti de la Fac avec un Master que j’ai obtenu de la meilleure des façons (mention TB en Licence de Construction Mécanique et mention B au Master). A ce moment la j’avais un faible niveau en expression orale et en expression écrite. Je m’en rendis compte quand je fus embauché à SGN (ex Saint Gobain Nucléaire) filiale Ingénierie de la COGEMA devenue AREVA NC. Comme tout le monde, je me suis formé sur le tas, j’étais Ingénieur d’Essais, puis Ingénieur Responsable d’Unités pour finir Ingénieurs Achats & Marchés en intégrant le projet 2490. Très vite j’ai appris à faire de la rédaction de qualité, et à m’exprimer oralement avec éloquence. En tant que responsable, j’ai encadré des Techniciens pour commencer et ensuite des Ingénieurs d’essais quand je fus promu Ingénieur RU à G27. J’ai calqué mot pour mot la façon d’écrire et de s’exprimer oralement de l’Adjoint Opérationnel de G27 et de l’atelier T1 (UP3 800), à savoir Monsieur Jean-Jacques Izquierdo qui excellait dans ces 2 disciplines. Je dois donc mon niveau actuel à JJ Izquierdo que je remercie au passage pour m’avoir fait énormément progresser. Pour aider ma femme Sophie LARONCHE à s’occuper de notre fils David qui était insomniaque à l’extrême les 10 premières années de sa vie, en plus d’être Autiste et Hyperactif, j’ai négocié un départ de SGN fin mai 1990, pour aider Sophie à s’occuper de David, nous étions pas trop de 2 tellement que David était dur. J’ai donc sacrifié ma carrière d’Ingénieur, c’est David qui a primé par rapport à celle-ci, qui n’aura duré que 11 ans, si je n’avais aidé Sophie à s’occuper de David, elle et ma fille Ophélie auraient craqué en faisant une dépression nerveuse. Quand je parlais de manière très éloquente avec mes amis des Terrasses à Equeurdreville, ils me disaient que j’étais très cultivé. Depuis 2009, j’ai quitté Equeurdreville pour venir habiter à Pont l’Abbé pour me rapprocher de David qui séjourne depuis le 29 décembre 2004 dans la Fondation Bon Sauveur, dans l’Unité Pierre Jamet pour être plus précis. J’ai très peu d’amis et je vis de façon très sédentaire, donc je communique très peu oralement au présent et je n’ai plus l’éloquence verbale que j’avais de 1986 à 2009. Je n’en suis pas sur, mais je me sens de nouveau introverti faute de communication verbale, j’ai l’impression d’avoir fait marche arrière, fort heureusement je ne me sens plus présentement c’est-à-dire au 27 juillet 2016 dans ma coquille d’autrefois.

    Alain Mocchetti

    Ingénieur en Construction Mécanique & en Automatismes

    Diplômé Bac + 5 Universitaire (1985)

    UFR Sciences de Metz

    [email protected]

  • Matt Jacobs

    Thank you for this. As an introvert who has not really struggled with undue social anxiety, I really need a way to explain that I’m not struggling with crippling fears and paranoia. I don’t need sympathy; I sometimes just don’t feel like being as social as some people expect. If anything, the feeling is more like boredom than anything else.

  • Serene

    I try to do the same. my boss actually said he wants me to work with a new guy coming, cause I seem to be friendly enough. But recently no magic seems to work, not “mindfulness”, not acting. what do you do when there had been one traumatic event which registered in your brain much more than any of the long term success you had before?

    • kddomingue

      I wish I had a good answer for you. Sometimes the magic of putting on the mask and adopting a persona that can cope with people and events just……fails, the mojo has disappeared. In my case I find it usually happens when there’s too much stress, coming from too many sources, all at once and for an extended period of time. Usually during those times, there aren’t sufficient blocks of time and privacy that allow me to step away from the persona I’ve adopted and drop the mask and shake off the stress.

      That’s singularly unhelpful, I’m sure. I’m sorry. Perhaps someone else here has a good idea that you can put into practice.

      • Serene

        my therapist had the idea of thinking of a relaxing situation or a successful moment in my life that made me proud. Likewise, thinking of a nurturing figure next to you, telling you that you’re alright, or whatever else you want him/her to tell you at that moment which could be helpful. I hadn’t managed to apply that yet, but maybe you can.

        • kddomingue

          Sorry to be so long in replying…..life happened, lol!

          As to the suggestions your therapist made, I like the idea of a nurturing figure the most. Perhaps one that’s not even saying anything…..just a strong, warm, supportive someone standing close to you with a hand on your shoulder, maybe giving an encouraging little pat every so often.

          How has it gone with the new guy at work?

          • Serene

            Don’t worry about timing and life, I know how it is 🙂
            Apparently the guy at work only starts from Jan 2017 – this was a huge heads up.

            Yeah, maybe if it doesn’t say anything it’s better. In the heat of a panicy moment, this is not a part of my thought process yet. Still, I’m getting back to my tricks of “disconnecting” and/or “minding my own business” and it helps to lower the panic levels these days, though it’s still a bit random and not fully under control. sometimes I beat myself up too much when something is out of the ordinary or not under control, but I really should just accept it and move on.. when I manage to think like that, the whole situation is so much better.

            It’s just that… my past hopes that it had disappeared and I was cured were proved wrong again. and … well, I never wanted a life-long battle with this. it’s too exhausting.

          • kddomingue

            I understand. I don’t know your age but I’m 56, almost 57. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression and insomnia as far back as I can remember into my childhood. Throw in being an introvert and it really gets fun. My husband asked me once, why I was upset about something that hadn’t even happened yet. I told him that it was my free floating guilt/anxiety monster just latching onto whatever happened to be in it’s vicinity……and if there was nothing in it’s vicinity, it would make something up.

            I never wanted a lifelong battle with any of this either. I held out hope that I’d be “cured” at some point in my life. I let go of that dream about a decade ago. I’m actually much happier without the hope, strange as that may sound. I may not have the highs that the hope gave me but I don’t suffer the lows that accompanied every “failure” either. And once I gave up chasing the illusion of being “cured”, a goodly portion of my perpetual anxiety went away. I’ve come to accept, most days, that this is who I am and that’s okay. I quit looking at myself as something broken that needed to be fixed. I started looking at myself as a work in progress instead. Some days there’s progress, some days…..well, some days, not so much. And that’s okay too.

            You know that nurturing figure we were talking about? I realized that I have one, sort of. I actually talk to myself in the second person. Example: I hear a weird noise at night. The worry/fear/anxiety starts to ratchet up and I start getting wound tight. Then I tell myself…..”wow, you’re worried. Okay, well, let’s see….the doors are locked, right? Okay, you’re still anxious? Think, did you hear the dog bark? Doesn’t the dog always bark if someone’s even passing by on the road? What? Your still nervous? Well, you can get up………”. I talk to myself as though I were my best friend talking to me. It’s really kind of strange but it works for me. My best friend would never talk to or about me in the negative way I sometimes talk to and about myself. And she always walks me, verbally, through things step by step until I can be calm and rational. It’s funny that I didn’t realize exactly what I was doing or whose voice I was hearing, so to speak, until you mentioned that!

            Anywho, I’m rambling. Glad to hear that you’ve got a few months to prepare before the new guy starts!

          • Serene

            I wonder, is there a way we could communicate privately? I mean, would you be interested? There’s no messaging system here as in other social networks, or maybe I haven’t found it yet?
            It’s probably fair to say no one ever wants a life-long battle with anything, what I meant was that I never expected it either. when this problem started for me, 13 years ago (I’m turning 36 soon), it’s been on and off, and actually mostly off for long periods of time. On the other hand, anxiety (not necessarily social Anx.), had been in my life much longer. Hearing what you’re saying, I rationally understand I should accept that it’s here to stay, but emotionally, I simply can’t. Giving up that hope is like switching off the lights in some metaphorical sense.

            Glad I helped you put a name on inner nurturing figure. It sounds like it comes so naturally to you. wish it was the same for me. I feel like an idiot talking to myself, even internally.

  • Tracey Rochelle

    I am so glad I found this site. I am an introvert. In high school I was extremely shy and socially awkward in certain situations like dating. I had many phobias, fears, and anxieties. I used avoidance often to get by. I had difficulty speaking up for myself and answering questions aloud in class. I had trouble dating because I would throw up before going on dates and would try to avoid dinner dates because I could not eat because my nerves kept me in the ladies room. I have always felt like an oddball or weird. I learned that I was introverted in high school which is when I started to withdraw from groups and certain situations. Actually that’s when I started to isolate and find comfort in it. I got married at 41 and have learned to love and accept myself for who I am. I deal with my introversion without beating myself up about it. I speak up more often and I don’t avoid nearly as much as I used too. Being married saved me because I have to do things that I dont want to do or would not chose to do, but its all good for me. Plus, I love my husband so I allow myself to go through the discomfort. I am about to retire after 37 years of service to my organization and I don’t want a farewell luncheon, but my manager says its for my co-workers after reading this article I may consider a group gathering.

  • Sophie Bennett

    I completely agree with Jessica Ruprecht. It’s the same in my case. I only feel anxiety when I’m doing things that I feel I ‘should be’ doing, but don’t really want to be doing, or don’t enjoy doing. I lose interest in a conversation for example when a person I’m not that close to joins in. I don’t have a bond with them, I don’t want to share certain views or information with them, we don’t have a history, so I feel that they don’t have the right to know certain things about me that my close friends do. It makes me nervous when they expect me to keep talking, especially if it’s a person I wouldn’t originally have struck up a conversation with, because we don’t have a connection, or anything in common. I feel really sorry for us, introverts, who are forcing themselves into situations we’re not comfortable with, just because that’s what most people enjoy and is considered ‘normal’…I also find that I’m quite ok spending time in a crowd if it’s my favourite pastime (e.g. ice skating, or going to the movies), but I don’t have to interact with anyone. I don’t mind being among people, or even being addressed by strangers for directions, as long as they don’t start asking personal questions. I’m a very private person, unless I have a bond with someone, then I open up like a book. So I don’t believe I have social anxiety, I’m just very introverted and private.

  • Brad Schierer

    Where has this website been all my life? Thanks for this.

    • Statmom

      Amen….I feel the same…and I recently listened to the audio version of Quiet – it was amazing.

  • Milica

    Sadly, I’m socialy anxious, which I already knew :[ I’ve tried 10000 times to put myself in situations I don’t feel comfortable in, but in most cases, I look and act like an idiot, which I see in other people reactions, so it’s harder each time to go beyond my comfort zone and act differently. I’m an introvert and I’ve accepted it, but dealing with social anxiety is exhausting and I know I need help or at least, someone who understands me. Greetings from Serbia, Europe.

    • danica kim

      Like u know it’s hard coz being an introvert will get u to nowhere so u try to overcome and change ur personality but at the end of the day this will drain so much of your energy and u would just want to go back in ur comfort zone. I really knd of hate myself coz this is really inconvinient in my part tho ppl see me as a smart one, I wish I could be just as carefree as others.

  • Susan Spencer

    Thank you for that.

  • Mesud Hamza Hasgür

    Wow, a great piece, thank you so much for writing such an eye-opening article showing us that actually social anxiety and being introvert has nothing to do. It was like a therapy for me.

  • An excellent read that shed a lot of light on, and for, me. Thank you.

  • Da Hu

    Very insightful and caused me to reflect. My son and one of my grandsons is like me so I’m looking forward to sharing his with them to help manage their social issues while theirs still time. Want to help them manage better than I did : )

  • Mervin Yeo

    This reminds me of the Xmen story I was telling the audience at the recent book launch two nights ago. I see myself as a cross between Professor X (Charles) and Magneto (Eric). What do I mean? I often hear of introverts who feel they are treated like “mutants” in society and the workplace. Sometimes, introverts hide from the world because we are misunderstood, but most, if not all, head for the quiet space because we treasure our alone times to recharge. Like Charles, I empathise with the introverts. I have been one all my life. I have seen many who went throuh similar issues when it comes to relating with others. Unlike him, I do not want introverts to remain anonymous. Like Eric, I want introverts to embrace their introversion and not hide from it. Unlike Eric, I do not think we are at war with humanity. We are NOT challenging the extroverted world. The reason I started a networking community of introverts was NOT to challenge the world or compete for prominence. We hang out and connect in a “safe zone” where we feel comfortable. However, I strongly feel that we should, after recharging, step out to connect with the rest of the world, but just as we are. We should remain our AUTHENTIC self!

  • I’m an introvert who suffers from social anxiety. I battle it and lately I’ve been trying hard not to let it hold me back, but boy is it tough.

  • So true! Great article, Ellen.

    • Elizabeth Westra

      I think as we get older and more mature we care less about what others think about us. If someone is judging us we often just shrug our shoulders and get on with life. When we were younger that might have bothered us more.

  • Maria Fernanda

    This article is so good it made me cry.

  • Eliza

    I do the same, and your explanation makes sense. Behavior changes the brain just like the reverse. The more you do something, think something, the stronger those neural connections become and the more effortless the action.

    • kddomingue

      Ah! Glad to know I’m not alone in using that particular coping mechanism! I took some drama classes inI high school and found that, while I was a nervous wreck before walking onstage, once I was onstage and became my character, all of the anxiety disappeared. I started adopting a confident, relaxed character in real life and acting as though I were that confident, relaxed person in stressful situations and……ta da! People took me at face value and because I appeared to be relaxed and comfortable, the people that I was interacting with where more relaxed and comfortable in my presence. I also had to learn how to do “chitchat” which doesn’t come naturally to me. But that is a learned art as not everyone is born with the gift of gab. Asking questions of people about their thoughts on any subject allows them to express their opinions and takes a great deal of the effort of conversation off of you. Most people like to express their opinions, lol!

      • Eliza

        Perfectly put. We fake it until we make it:)

        • Serene

          or fake it until you BECOME it. 🙂
          I think there was a TED talk with a similar title or slogan.

  • Kathleen B

    Maybe it’s the crappy mood I’m in right now, but social anxiety is NOT solvable, at least not in my case. For instance, I don’t like going to bars at all. I forced it for years and decided I had enough. The reason? I find all the people and noise overwhelming, and yes, I do care that people ask me why I’m not drinking. So I legitimately have both: introversion and social anxiety. I’m in my mid-30s and I’m still dealing with it. I tried forcing it, I tried initiating, I tried whatever feel-good slogan there is out there (“mindfulness” comes to mind.) And by the way, I am very familiar with this author, I listen to a lot of her podcasts.

  • Great article. And a very needed topic on the distinction. I think that many of us introverts–because of the societal bias toward extroverts–have long been overlooked, under-appreciated and generally more scrutinized. We, therefore, also have a long history with alienation and spotlight aversion. So, every time we are given an opportunity to shine, we, naturally, feel anxious. But the silver lining is that we can learn to control our anxiety–through meditation, self-talk, or behavioral therapies. Nonetheless–we shouldn’t let our social anxiety cast a shadow on our pride of being introverts.

    • Statmom

      Amen to that!

  • Elizabeth Westra

    Isn’t it possible that while as an introverted child you experienced negative reactions from your peers and that caused the social anxiety that plagues you as an adult? I’ve always avoided being in larger group, because I don’t feel comfortable. I enjoy being alone or with a friend or a few good friends instead of being at a party.

    • Statmom

      For me I think some negative childhood and young adult life experiences pushed me into the social anxiety spectrum.

      • Elizabeth Westra

        Some bullying and mocking as a child and adolescent made me want to disappear and not be noticed. The best way to avoid it was to become invisible. It took me a long time to get over it, but I still have those feelings occasionally now as an adult.

        • Elizabeth Westra

          It’s usually the quiet ones who get picked on by the bullies. As a former teacher I’ve seen it happen and tried to prevent it.

          • Statmom

            This happens both in school and at work. I’ve experienced being picked on at work too.

          • ivelisse torres

            Yes, I’ve experienced at work with bosses and coworkers. Unfortunately, if you are not the extroverted aggressive type, they find you attractive to pick on and bully.

  • Deborah

    I leave every meeting early, I do not participate in anything that is not necessary for my job, church or anything. Most people perceive me as being a snob but nothing can be farther. I avoid talking and interacting with people by using self check outs rather than the check out with a live person, if there is no self check out, I do not shop there. I us ATM’s rather than talking to the bank teller even if it’s necessary. I much rather use text to communicate with everyone. I recently took a job where I will have to have one on one conversations with people and be more people oriented and Im scared to death!!! Any advice???

  • Teto85

    Why not both? I have been told I am socially anxious and I know that I am an introvert. I think it was due to my mother’s pushing me to “get out of that shell and do something besides read all day!” So I went to the library, got a card and spent many wonderful weekends there reading, doing any homework and enjoying the peace and quiet. Yes, I went outside and did not go to the library all the time, but enough to know the librarians and enough for them to know me. Then my mother went to the library and one of them recognized her name and said, “Oh, you must be (Redacted’s) mother. He is such a nice boy. Quiet and so studious.” Guess who had his library card destroyed and was rendered unable to sit without pain for a week. Fortunately my wife was not socially anxious and is able to accept me for who I am and not for what she thinks she can mold me into.

  • Alex Willging

    I, too, am a socially anxious introvert named Alex, so of course this article speaks to me. I get how my empathy can make me really sensitive to others’ reactions. Still, I’m working on defining my boundaries and making equal efforts to stay social and make the best use of my alone time.

  • This made me realize I struggle with social anxiety more than I think. I feel totally fine around family and close friends but around others, I am afraid to speak and can’t wait to leave. I go into flight mode. I generally don’t enjoy small talk. Not every situation is a fearful one. I have learned to cope. But this post helped me to realize I need to be more brave. Thanks for sharing.

  • It can be hard to discern the difference between social anxiety and natural preferences. As I’ve worked with my social anxiety, I’ve found that it often arises when I feel I “should” spend time in ways I genuinely don’t enjoy. For example, I prefer to avoid people in groups larger than 6 or 7. I find that with larger groups the space gets noisy, crowded, and my enjoyment of the experience diminishes. I used to think the problem was my anxiety and that I needed to overcome it so I could enjoy myself. Now I realize that I simply find smaller groups more intimate and rewarding. This doesn’t mean that I will never go to a party again, but when my friends’ birthdays roll around each year I try to celebrate with them one on one, instead of attending their birthday bash.

  • Danielle Riverin

    I feel I need to focus on what I want to achieve : faith i& persevere in my dreams every day wirh meditation or projects and not being scare of not having it Any comments, thanks

  • Craig Roberts

    The socially anxious examples describe me almost perfectly, but I “bolt” after a meeting because when I stand up, look around and see that everyone is in a group of 2 or 3 and I am odd man out. I picture myself as silent and frozen because I have found myself silent and frozen hundreds of times as my reticent deep thinking mind tries to connect with my mouth as I watch a potential conversation walk away. I am glad to hear the my problems are solvable and I will continue to work on them for another 60 years.

  • Marlana Sherman

    great article!

  • Statmom

    That was an amazing article. I am an introvert who is transforming from being socially anxious to being just a proud introvert without the fear and harsh self judgment. I am changing via meditation and affirmations. It is a lot of time consuming work but it is worthwhile and meaningful. I like the calmer me better. This work is ongoing and will probably have to be done as long as I live.

    • Iris Blake

      I am focusing my energies on this transformation as well but my preference for solitude, peace & serenity will never change.

      • Statmom

        Same here. I will always need time daily to be alone and enjoy my solitude.

    • Teto85

      Meditation has done wonders for me.

  • alexandra

    Wow. Thank you. How useful, for me, for my oldest son. I just sent him this. THANK YOU.

  • Madolyn Hayne

    Oh, boy, you hit the nail on the head…..I’m all of the above. I sometimes feel judged by other drivers, to the extent that I will pass up a chance
    To pull into a fast food place, because of what an anon. Driver will think. I know I put this all on myself. As a child, I was labeled SHY
    It has been a burden….for 78 years.

    • Serene

      oh dear. I’d hug you if I could.

      I totally feel the same about other drivers, especially in complicated intersections. It always seems like the drivers in front of me would “take a chance” to enter and cross it faster than I would, and it just feels like I’m blocking traffic. These days I cycle rather than drive, and I’m always tense if there’s a car or another bicycle behind me – thinking they would probably go faster if I wasn’t in their way. with the car it’s obvious they would.

  • Interesting, insightful article, thank you. My husband is a ‘Liam’ and my daughter an ‘Alex’. But I wonder how much of that is due to her age – she is just turning 12, that very awkward early teen age – and how much due to my perfectionist tendencies when she was younger that may have had a negative effect (I have since become much more aware of this, thanks to Brene Brown’s books, and do everything I can to ensure she doesn’t feel at all judged). Thoughts?

    • Statmom

      At home she should feel accepted just the way she is. I will check out what books Brene Brown has. I have a 5 year old daughter. We listen to Louis hay affirmations. One of my favourite is I am whole and perfect just the way I am.

      • Daring Greatly is the Brene Brown book I found inspirational, but in reference to this, the parenting chapter. Really opened my eyes to how perfectionism (even if small) can lead to shame in a child.

  • Great article. Thank you!