Yesterday, I had to go to a conference that was filled with people in the social service field. I am in this field as well and love helping people. The problem is I am very much an introvert when it comes to strangers or people in general (unless i’m at work helping clients).
I am already running late because the place was hard to find and was located in a separate room among other connected buildings. As I walk through the door I am assigned a color coordinated folder that matches the color of the table I had to sit at. Full blown anxiety kicks in as I see no one I’m familiar with sitting at this table.
So, I walk over to the table to sit and as I do the table becomes quiet due to my sudden presence. This makes my anxiety even worse than it already was. I greeted everyone as I sit down and a couple say hello back. Immediately, I get up and go get coffee because being around others this close makes me uneasy. Telling myself that this is part of my job and to suck it up, I go sit back down at my table.
The conference begins as the speaker presents himself and the agenda for the day. As I look at the agenda, I see three activities that we have to do as a group. Again, I start to get frustrated because I can only think of those awful times in high school where we had group up for projects, an introverts worst nightmare. Luckily I just had to work with the assigned table this time.
As the first activity rolls on, we are all asked what things we liked about the changes in our local county DSS. I freak out because I don’t work at DSS and have no clue what changes are made. Everyone at the table gave an example of things they liked (go figure they all worked at DSS except for me and two others). While everyone finished giving their opinions, the table becomes quit again because I’m the only one who hasn’t talked yet. I can feel everyone staring at me and waiting for an answer and then the facilitator in our table looks at me ,calls my name and asks me what I think. I start rubbing my neck furiously, barely giving eye contact, and I tell her I have no clue what I think because I don’t work there. So I look at the board she was writing on that had everyones opinions and I add on to someone else idea, I can tell everyone thought it was bull but I didn’t care.
The conference rolls on and activity 2 and 3 come. I start to lighten up and feel more comfortable with my table but still have that uneasy feeling being around others. Even in between activities, the speaker who was leading, would tell corny jokes and everyone in the room laughed, except me. I just felt annoyed that everyone laughs at such cliche jokes and felt inorganic. We even took a group photo, and another photo, and even more photos. In my mind all I can think was:
“Do I smell bad?”
“Am I smiling too hard?”
“Why is this person so close to me”
“Hurry up and take the photo”
Once the conference ended, I left so fast there was a smoking trail behind me. I got into my car, annoyance started to creep on me hard. Not because I had attended, but, the fact that the conference was forced participation. I didn’t even know it was participation until I sat down at my table.
Why do we have this social stigma that people have to extroverts and we must socialize with others in order to succeed?
Why are introverts considered closeted losers?
Why do people have to feel bad about introverts because they think they will never get anywhere in their life?
This needs to end because:
- Not all introverts enjoy small talk or even being around people all the time.
- Not all introverts are losers and will be unsuccessful.
- Not all introverts hate people, it just makes us uncomfortable to be in their presence because we like to keep to ourselves.
I try and balance between socializing keeping to myself but its extremely hard to do. Ask any introvert and they will tell you the same thing.
People need to realize that its okay to be an introvert.