We all have that quiet friend. The one who doesn’t really like being social. The one who avoids large groups, and doesn’t hold court at the dinner table. We know that sometimes they might be quiet, but when it’s just the two of you they really open up.
I am not that person. I’m the one going out to dinner with friends a couple of times a week. Who likes to throw a house party, or go to a picnic. I’m the one who sees friends as often as I can, and loves a long chat over a few bottles of wine. I thrive on the buzz of great conversation. I meet friends for brunch, and for walks, and for a cup of tea. And when I’m not with them, my boyfriend and I are cooking dinner, or going out to the local Thai. I’m hanging with my friends in a pub, or his friends in his garden.
I only have a couple of nights at home alone a week (sometimes not even that), and although I thoroughly enjoy doing things on my own (I love eating at cafes and little restaurants with a book, or going on big solo adventures), it would seem to the world that I’m outgoing, confident, and love being social all the time.
But what they don’t know, what they can’t see, because I am good at my camouflage, is that underneath I am not like that at all. Oh, I’m confident and happy and love being with my best friends. The people who love me, have seen me at my best and worst, and have come through for me time and again. Them I trust wholly. Them I connect with.
It is when I’m around people I don’t really know that the anxiety sets in. Mostly I can control it (sometimes by drinking admittedly), mostly I can get past the initial feelings of insecurity, I can go into “social butterfly” mode, making jokes, talking about whatever comes into my head to fill the awkward silences (which I can’t stand), or to get to know people better.
The problem is, “connection” is very important for me. Sometimes I meet someone new and I feel it straight away – which is great! But if I don’t feel it, if I don’t get that response from the person I am talking to, feel they are with me, that they like me, the anxiety sets in. And in a way, I kind of resent them a tiny bit too. For letting me do all the work. Letting me try to lubricate the awkwardness, to set the conversation alight, while they sit there inhaling my energy like a Dementor, not giving back.
So while sometimes, I love meeting new people, doing new things, throwing myself headfirst into new experiences, sometimes I feel depleted. Like my energy is all gone. Like I just need to be alone, or with the people who know me best. Who I can connect with. Who feed my soul with the light it so sorely craves. The connection it needs to survive.
So yes. I’m a social person. An extrovert. But sometimes I’m an introvert too. Sometimes I want to crawl into my room, and watch shows on my laptop. In my pyjamas. On a Friday night. Sometimes I just want to have dinner with you. Not you and the two other people you want to invite. I’m sure they’re lovely, and I do want to get to know them. Just not tonight.
So just remember, that even if I’m being funny and making conversation, sometimes I feel awkward and anxious and shy too. I am working on this. I am finding ways to work out what triggers my anxiety, or to politely decline invitations when I need to recharge my batteries.
But while I’m working on it, just be patient. And I’ll try and be patient too. With you, and with myself.
After all, I’m sure this is pretty normal. I think we’re all a little bit extroverted, and a little bit introverted. We all hate small talk, and going to parties where we don’t know anyone.
And I guess every one of our best friends was also a stranger once too. And with time, and the right bottle of wine, we just might get there.