Confessions of a Socially Anxious Extrovert

When I was in high school, I did everything I could to be weird and different. I once had someone who read my aura and told me that I cared a lot about what people thought of me. I laughed at the time because I thought nothing could be farther from the truth. I didn’t give  f--- what anyone thought of me.

Oh boy was I wrong. See, I let my weird flag fly partly because of who I was and partly as a defense mechanism. If people didn’t like me, it was just because they didn’t “get” me. But if someone thought I was mean, rude or thoughtless I really did feel terrible.

Most people who know me well know I would never be mean on purpose, but with my ADHD traits, being thought rude or thoughtless was not out of the question. I could get so excited about a topic I would talk on and on and miss the social cues that they weren’t interested or I was talking too much.

This crept into my adulthood and I’ve found in almost any new situation I am filled with dread that I will put my foot in my mouth, say too much or say the wrong thing. This was not helped by 10 years with someone who, as it turns out, was often afraid I would embarrass him at parties.

I am a highly social person, and am energized by social connection, but crowds and unfamiliar groups of people can be highly unnerving and social awkwardness kicks in. I almost never feel quite like I “fit” in any group that I didn’t take part in creating.

When I moved to the PNW, the first year was extremely tough. I didn’t know anyone and couldn’t afford to go out as we saved up for a house. That summer, my anxiety was made worse when I went on a trip with someone who was obviously annoyed by me - likely due to traits I shared with her spouse. I had always valued my ability to be liked, if not always understood, and at this point I even started questioning that.

Finding the theatre community saved me for many years, but then after I had my son, especially as a single parent, I didn’t have the time to commit to it anymore.

I then connected with the Unitarian Universalist community, which is a community that I grew up with and it felt very familiar. Even so, it took me about a year before I felt comfortable asking people to spend time outside of group events. The first time I asked my best friend Lana to go out, it felt like I was asking her out on a date.

After that, things started to get easier. I started inviting people to events like plays and friend’s music gigs and as long as I had one person to go with me, I would not worry about the people who were too “busy.” As long as they bothered to message me back, I would keep on inviting them. I had several people who eventually became good friends express appreciation of this.

What I have come to realize is meeting new friends as an adult is hard. Putting yourself out there is even harder. The thing is though, there are people out there who feel the same way you do and if you don’t put yourself out there you will never get to know them. If the timing is off or they have other priorities, it’s not really about you but about them.

This week’s Embracing Intensity interviewee, Simone de Hoog was no stranger to that feeling of isolation. Raising her intense children, she often felt alone. So she created a group called Powerwood for parent of over-excitable children with camps and workshops in the UK. Now it has blossomed to become a nonprofit that helps many families to feel understood.

If you are craving a community of women who “get” you, this week, I am opening the doors to an online group for my Ignite Your Power program where you can connect with other powerful women to harness the power of your excitability by connecting with your unique super powers, balancing your energy and feeling a sense of accomplishment in your life. We start March 6th and space is limited, so take a look and join us today!