“I’m just an anxious person”. “I’m too anxious to do that”. “That’s not me”. “I’m not good enough to do that”. How often do we hear people say this when they avoid doing something in life?
Usually it’s things they would like to do but which have too much worry and fear around them.
When we’re anxious a long time we start to think of it as who we are. I know this one all too well having spent decades thinking I was not good enough, stupid, a worrier, and so on. It felt like it was just my personality. It wasn’t!
While I’m sure there are introverts out there the word gets used to hide what we’re experiencing. If we’re anxious, a worrier, stressed all the time, we will usually start to seek ways to make sense of it. We rarely understand why we feel the way we do so we try to rationalise it. Then the dangerous labelling comes in:
Prefer my own company
Happier to have a quiet night in
Just the quiet type
I like to be left alone
And so on.
While all of these can be normal and true without anxiety the danger is that when we are anxious, we can hide behind these ‘rationalisations’ and it makes it easy for us to ignore it, or more honestly, to pretend that it’s a choice.
When we dismiss the things we can’t do as ‘just who I am’ then we have no choice.
When I was avoiding presentations and so on there was no choice because it felt like that was ‘just me’.
Until we step back and look at what is the feeling or behaviour and separate that from who we are then we can’t see what choices we have.
We have lots of choices once we notice what needs to change.
There is a difference between liking my own company and feeling uncomfortable in the company of people.
That’s the key. No one is saying there’s a problem with liking things quiet or enjoying time alone. But, if it’s a problem, uncomfortable, creating worry or panic to be in a group of people socially or professionally then that’s not being ‘introverted’, it’s having a problem with some aspects of social anxiety.
My advice is to strip away the layers of labels and self-protecting rationalising because they don’t really protect us. They help keep us stuck.
Any situation that we might think is not for us should be held up to a simple test.
Do I have fear/worry/stress about doing it?
If our reaction is fear based, we need to ask another question or two.
Would my life be better if that fear wasn’t there? What would I do differently then?
It’s not who we are. It’s not personality. It’s not just the way it is.
Those are excuses if anxiety is present.
Excuses make it harder to make change. Every fear we have holds us back from opportunity. I could never have run successful businesses when anxious. I could never see the opportunities, just the problems, the ways it might not work, the risks. And, I told myself ‘I couldn’t’, ‘I’m not good enough’, and so on.
Only when I had to face the fact that my anxiety was real did things improve. All the ‘you’re just shy’, ‘not everyone is a people person’, ‘you’re just introverted’ stuff sounded nice. It was expressed with love I’m sure, but it was not true.
Those well-meaning sentences pushed me into accepting staying stuck. How could we change if that’s ‘just who we are’?
It’s fine to be introverted. It’s not fine or more accurately, it’s not fair, and it’s not set, if that’s a reaction to fear and anxiety.
Life can get better, but first we must be honest with ourselves about what’s going on. Then we must seek the right way for us to change those problems for the better.
We don’t need to become someone other than who we are. We are not our problems. We can change the emotions and the behaviours that are a problem and still be ourselves – but happier, more successful, and more at peace.
Change is easier than you think.
I’m always happy to chat about how life can improve so feel free to get in touch if you like.
Have a great week,