Humans are social beings. We are raised with the principles that family, friendship and love are some of the most important things in life. Our parents weep when we have no friends and worry when we can’t find a partner. With so much importance placed on these principles, it’s only natural that we adopt them as our own.
And it’s not just our social lives that strongly rely on our ability to make small talk, but our professional one too. As many of my fellow bloggers will know, networking is a large part of being a blogger and a lot of our time is dedicated towards this singular social activity, wether it’s attending blogging events or simply participating in twitter chats while tucked up in bed.
Social interactions are so important to us as humans that it is often the case that we judge others on their social skills. Do they have a lot of friends? No? Then they must be a weirdo. Oh, she’s usually so friendly, why is she being such a bitch today? I’m sure the latter of these statements has been directed towards me more than once.
As a little girl I loved being the centre of attention. I enjoyed having many friends and would basque in the glory of popularity when it was so graciously given to me. I mean, who doesn’t want to be liked?
Despite my exuberant start in life, I ended up transforming into the ever elusive introvert with an oversized pinch of anxiety. To many of my friends reading this, you may be surprised by this statement.
‘But you’re always so smiley and sassy?!
The truth is, I don’t always feel that way and is the result of years of fine tuning a carefully sculpted mask. The fact that the mask works is oddly the problem and solution to my anxiety all at once.
Let me elaborate on this head boggling statement. I like to hide that I’m an introvert. If I can act bubbly and overly smiley in public, then it means I can cover up my slight anxiety when faced with situations which send my heart racing. However, this means that when I just can’t deal with social situations, I come across like a bitch. I suddenly seem cold and distant and am judged on this sudden and out of no where ‘loner’ attitude.
In previous years it was believed that those who were the heart of a social engagement were the extroverts, while the introverts were the shy wilting wallflowers. While that generalisation may be true in some instances, it’s recently been proven that it is not how we engage with others that define us as an introvert or an extrovert, but rather how we gather our energy.
Simply put, extroverts are energised by social interactions and having many people around them, while introverts recharge by being alone.
While being around my friends sometimes gives me that boost of happy endorphins I need to continue about my day, on the whole, it’s a good session of me time with a cup of tea that allows me to clear my mind and fully recharge the ‘Naomi battery’.
But it doesn’t just end at being an introvert, oh no! because I’m also a very anxious person. While I love being friendly and enjoy a good cup of tea and meeting new people, some days just leaving my house is an ordeal, so as you can guess, big groups on these days are a HUGE no no. Even being around my best friends are a big fat no when my anxiety levels are particularly high.
Being the anxious human that I don’t appear to be, means that people sometimes feel a little shunted when I opt for an intimate group of friends as opposed to a huge party. It just means that somedays, regardless of how close we are, I just can’t bare the thought of spending time with anyone outside my immediate friendship circle.
In the same way that a GP told me I should get over depression because, and I quote, ‘you can still smile’, people often don’t associate anxiety with those who seem happy and cheerful.
So, my dear readers, next time a friend seems to be distant or a co-worker decides to eat alone or declines your offer to join their group of two at a coffee break, take a moment to think about the reasons behind this before you let feelings of indignation and hurt creep in. It’s natural to feel hurt when your friend declines an opportunity to spend time with you, or when they rush off ahead clearly wanting to be alone, but try your best to assess the situation. Confronting someone who’s anxious will only make the anxiety they already feel ten times worse. Every time I get in these moods I always worry about being a bad friend, and I force myself to socialise even when it’s doing more harm than good. Thankfully, I have a very supportive network of friends who know when I need some me time and when to help me out. So please, dear readers, be that good friend. If you’re friend is feeling anxious, don’t pressure them; help them.
And for those of you who are anxious, introverted or just don’t want to deal with people, remember: there’s nothing wrong with a little me time, and it most certainly does not make you a bitch.