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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Life of a Shy Extrovert

 Note: This is not a post on crafting but I wanted to share.

Tonight I went to a Young Professionals networking type event in town. It was a chance for three local YPs to share their career and mentoring experience. Overall, it was a really cool experience getting to hear what career advice they had for everyone in the room. But it got me thinking, as all networking/social events do, about my extreme shyness. And my extroversion.

A shy extrovert? Isn't that kind of an oxymoron?

I'm classified as an ENFJ (if you've never heard of Myers-Brigg here's a link to learn more Now if you scroll through you'll see the whole Extrovert vs Introvert piece. When it isn't in test format nearly everyone classifies me as an introvert. But, the thing is, I get a lot of energy by interacting with people.

During the work day I am most productive when students are around my office and popping in for quick questions. If it is the summertime I have to go downstairs to the rest of my co-workers at least every hour and a half to get a boost of energy. There's rarely people on my hallway in the summer, the quiet is awful to me and music doesn't fix it. If I go talk with a co-worker for a few minutes I can typically go back to my office and be super productive for the next hour and a half.

I love hanging out with friends on the weekends and weekdays. While it's nice to relax and do nothing on the weekends, I'm usually only OK with that if my boyfriend is home. (He's not often gone on trips without me so it's usually not an issue.) But I try really hard to plan something with friends on weekends he is away. If I can't make plans, there's pretty much a 100% chance that I will at least go window shopping so I can be around others for a bit. I enjoy it. much as I enjoy it I am extremely, extremely shy. I really struggle with initiating a social conversation. If I'm at work and a student, parent, or staff member approaches me I have no problem having a conversation about the school, the program we work with, etc. If the conversation is almost "predetermined" and is focused on something like work or something that I'm viewed as an "expert" on, I'm fine.

When it comes to this whole "small talk" let's chat and become friends thing though? I cannot explain how much I struggle. Again, this is where the whole everyone thinks I'm an introvert comes from. At the event  tonight, I wanted so much to contribute to more of the conversation but the anxiety that came with actually speaking up definitely beat out the ability to speak up. I love hearing people's stories, but I'm awful at asking the questions to get those stories.

I get very uncomfortable in social situations where I don't know anyone. Actually, if those situations happen, as long as there are no overly negative conflicts, I tend to leave them...immediately.

My boyfriend can probably recall when I first moved to our current location he hadn't moved here yet. So I didn't know anyone. I went to a United Way Young Professionals social gathering by myself. I spent nearly an hour on the phone with him trying to convince myself that I would be OK and calm down my anxieties. I stayed for an hour, to me it was awful. Because not only was I getting energy from being around people...I was getting anxious. It's not a fun feeling. I also spent the hour after the event crying because I felt like I made no positive connections and was so badly craving some sort of connection here.

Since being out of school (I went straight from high school to college to grad school) I have really realized how much of a shy extrovert I am. Actually, moving here made me realize that I was actually extroverted with just this almost painful sense of shyness. There are no longer those "situations" (aka class, clubs, etc) that allow friendships to form much more easily. There's not really an evident common interest any more (aka school). While I've found some awesome people in Greensboro, it's taken a lot of energy on my end. And I still struggle so much. I came home tonight and ended up falling asleep for a few hours, mainly because that shyness and extroversion conflict and really do cause exhaustion.

So chances are it will take me a long time to get really comfortable with you. Not because I'm introverted and interactions take energy, but because as much as I talk myself up, I have never been able to get past that shyness. I really do value my friendships and those people I get to be comfortable with because it takes so much for me to get there.