A war wages within the mind.
Introverts understand. Sometimes, our thought processes glitch.
For me, I imagine the worst possible of conversation.
“Will she say no?”
“What if he insults me?”
“I don’t want to embarrass myself.”
This is anxiety and introverts cannot ignore its influence.
This article seeks to address and overcome it.
Anxiety Can Hit Introverts Hard
The unknown makes many introverts anxious.
“Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. It’s a feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come.”
Uncertainty fuels anxiety because we struggle to understand the relationship between ourselves, the event/problem, and the aftermath.
We cannot foresee the future, and thus, cannot be certain of the outcome.
Most cannot envision how they would handle themselves in the situation. This stunts the ability to act under uncertainty, to take risks, and to grow.
What’s worse: anxiety persists after the conclusion; You wonder if you said the right things or if you made the situation worse.
These ideas of conversation bring anxiety. Have you ever made the conscious choice to talk to someone and thought:
“What should I talk about?”
“What happens if they laugh at me?”
“What if I have something in my teeth?”
These are variations of: “what happens if something goes wrong?”
This is common.
All introverts deal with it.
Introverts have a tougher task because we dwell on our thoughts and emotions more seriously than others.
For me, I was afraid of stuttering or failing to make a good impression. It still gives me pause when I wish to speak with someone.
Why Anxiety Occurs
Let’s get to the root problem of anxiety.
In western civilization, man has overcome most forms of early death. Over several millennia, we fought creatures of the earth, fought nature itself, fought other men, and now we come to the vestiges of our problems. We must now combat ourselves – our minds.
Unfortunately, we are not equipped to deal with the notion of death. Hence, the creation of religions and social structures to keep our minds occupied. Ever so often, we pierce the veil and gaze at the uncertain yet all-so certain end we eventually meet.
i. If you are a normal person, you will immediately retract from the veil, forget, and move on with life
ii. You become troubled, seek to understand death, and your relationship to it. I find introverts have a subconscious awareness of their mortality, though, most cannot articulate their feelings (including me).
I stated earlier how uncertainty brings anxiety into men. It is the acute awareness of mortality that imbues anxiety with its hold over us.
Are you afraid of talking to that woman?
You are afraid of failing and humiliation.
Death of the ego.
You see, man conquered most physical forms of death. Sure, we may pass in an accident, but chances are, we live to die of old age. So, with our physical bodies mostly intact, anxiety tries to preserve the next important thing: the symbolic self.
Intuitively, we know talking to a cute girl won’t cause us to drop dead(literally), however, we still pause a moment before gathering the courage to do so.
I hypothesize EVERYONE has created an idea of their ‘self’, one built with unique ideas and characteristics.
When that ‘self’ meets an external force, it risks oblivion.
“Could it be I am not who I thought I am?”
Imagine examining the last 10 years of your life to find out the notions of your own ‘self’ is false?
What is an existential crisis again?
(As an aside, you’ll notice this in society where discourse has slowed. Everybody is entrenched in their beliefs- they will wall themselves off and deem everybody with a different perspective as the enemy.)
We must also consider that your mind is grappling with hundreds of possibilities, many of which could cause ‘death’. Variability and risk are always inherent within any choice.
Traversing unexplored frontiers determines growth.
And cruel irony emerges.
Eliminate anxiety; you eliminate life.
Within life, there is uncertainty and risk. If you isolate yourself from risk, you isolate yourself from life. You become a dead man walking. You marginalize life at your peril.
You must confront anxiety head-on.
“That is how I experience life, as apocalypse and cataclysm. Each day brings an increasing inability in myself to make the smallest gesture, even to imagine myself confronting clear, real situations. The presence of others — always such an unexpected event for the soul — grows daily more painful and distressing. Talking to others makes me shudder. If they show any interest in me, I flee. If they look at me, I tremble. I am constantly on the defensive. Life and other people bruise me. I can’t look reality in the eye.”
2 Ways Past Anxiety
To wrestle control from anxiety, I’ve come up with 2 methods that I use interchangeably.
Solution 1: Stop Thinking With Deep Breathing
A huge task, I know. I’m an introvert, so this technique is particularly difficult.
To do this, take a deep breath. Breathe through your stomach, not lungs. Inhale 2x the amount of air you are used to through the nose. Hold it in for a few seconds. Lastly, exhale through the nose.
Do this and you realize your energy and thoughts focus towards breathing. Your anxiety starts to disappear.
This works because the mind is terrible at multi-tasking.
Have you tried juggling 2 different thoughts in your mind at the same time? Your inner voice emits garbled nonsense. You must focus on one idea, stop, then focus on another.
Have you tried completing 2 tasks at the same time? A fruitless endeavor. You must alternate between tasks while your mind stops and starts while jumping to different ideas. It’s similar to changing gears in a car every 2 seconds. You accomplish nothing. You must focus on ONE task.
Focusing on your breath allows for momentary cessation of the mind. Thoughts, fears, and anxiety temporarily disappear, long enough for you to start a conversation.
Use this anywhere, anytime. Whether in the evening or afternoon, in the club or the park, take a moment to hit pause on the world and take a deep breath.
Solution 2: Create An Ideal
The most effective way to overcome your anxiety, in my opinion, is to conceive a higher goal, a higher ideal.
For anyone else, I would avoid writing this section. For introverts, I believe they are capable of accomplishing this necessary task.
I make references to an ‘inner world’ in articles.
I’ve never heard a truer statement. In your spare time, reflect on your world.
A world created from life experience. The ground fertilized with ideas. The skies populated with thought. Rivers flow with emotion.
All conducive to creating the civilization of self. Would it be difficult to write down your wishes? Your hopes? Your dreams?
Take a walk in your world. Find what stirs you. What concepts resonate with your soul?
Is it family?
Is it adventure?
Is it glory?
Is it love?
Is it knowledge?
Pull from within your ideals and purpose. Ones that help you overcome anxiety. Ones that allow you to reach your true potential.
Distill the essence down to a message or slogan. A message encompassing your entire being in 2 seconds.
Why condense your soul to a slogan?
Because some opportunities appear as quickly as they pass and you won’t have time to remember the full extent of your ideals.
Because when push comes to shove and the self-doubt hits, you must remind yourself of the message you manifested out of your soul and then plunge yourself into uncertainty.
Remind yourself why you journey into the unknown and why you take the risks of life.
You may wonder:
Isn’t this overkill for social anxiety?
In the short run, you battle anxiety speaking to strangers.
In the long run, you battle fear. The unknown. The perilous journey with the risk and rewards that entail. To reach our potential, we start by battling everyday anxiety and slowly increase the magnitude of our decisions.
Today, a conversation.
Tomorrow, the world.
The Road Ahead
Anxiety goes hand-in-hand with the unknown. To start a conversation is venturing into the unknown.
I understand the hesitation.
I understand everyone’s path is different and fraught with obstacles, which is why I will address concerns I see and have also experienced.
Your Anxiety Returns
It’s meant to. It likely means you’ve come across a challenge/event where the outcome is uncertain. Push yourself to confront it. I’ll give you an example:
I saw a cute girl. I started to walk towards her and stopped.
“What if she’s busy?”
“What if she has a boyfriend?”
“I didn’t dress well today.”
“I’ll do it next time.” That was my mantra.
Next time came.
I backed out again.
This went on for a while. I noticed every time I declined, I became increasingly annoyed at myself. A victory for anxiety left me frustrated at my cowardice.
How did I break out of it?
Solution #1. I took deep breaths to quiet my mind.
Sometime later, there was a girl at a subway station. I walked right up to her and said hello. She was nice and we had a small conversation before departing. I’m pretty sure I cracked a joke about the gross misuse of our tax dollars contributing to slow service. I didn’t get her number, but I felt better about myself that day. I took a chance. It didn’t work out, but I learned I’m more resilient than I thought I was.
I also learned that, although anxiety never truly goes away, it becomes smaller and smaller the more you confront it. I still hear that voice from time to time; It tells me:
“You’re going to get hurt.”
“You’re not good enough.”
“You are wasting their time.”
These are excuses to stop you from confronting the unknown. Don’t cower from possibility. You are stronger than you think.
There’s always next time, right?
From the previous story above, there is a mindset I see constantly among introverted men. That is, believing they will conquer their anxiety ‘next time’ when the most ‘favorable’ opportunity arises.
“My anxiety got the better of me this time, but next time, I’ll beat it!”
That’s what I thought too. But the excuses never ended for me. There was always something that prevented me from starting a conversation whether it be a cold or a bad mood.
Some reasons are justified. None will improve your conversational skills.
Start a conversation with your grocer, with the convenience store clerk, or with anyone you meet along the way. It could be a simple conversation, nothing too deep.
Mention the weather, sports team, the economy, or anything else that tickles your fancy.
The point isn’t to engage in the deeper meanings of life; it is to become comfortable, on the spot, create something out of nothing.
Other People Seem Anxiety-Free
I used to look at other people and wonder how they dealt with anxiety. I couldn’t have been the only one with it but everyone seemed to get on with their life.
Turns out, that’s untrue. Everyone LOOKS to be well-adjusted, but we are fighting our own battles inside. You are not around someone 24/7 to observe their habits or choices. How could you know what influences their decision?
In my experience, most people don’t consciously acknowledge their anxiety. They let it drape over their shoulder and subconsciously influence their decisions. Then, they wonder why the decisions they make leave them unsatisfied.
The first step to solving a problem is admitting there is one.
If you are reading this, know that you have acknowledged your social anxiety and are on your way to self-development.
Would you be here if you didn’t?
I find alcohol loosens the tongue and stifles my anxiety.
I relax and spark conversation with anyone, anywhere, anytime.
I indulge in 3 drinks and become a social butterfly.
It felt good.
I wasn’t myself.
I was a better version of myself.
You can see the trap coming.
Why would I want to be a normal version of me when I can consume brandy and schmooze?
Now, drinking doesn’t mean you become Casanova.
However, it limits my anxiety, allowing me to speak more freely without worry.
It is easy to abuse.
How many would I have to drink?
Do I keep drinking throughout the night?
Do I drink at every social event?
Would it be long before I need to feel like this more often? Would I start drinking during the day to regain that feeling?
It’s a slippery slope. Suppress your anxiety with an aid, and you start relying on it.
I can’t tell you what to do. I only advise caution.
Social anxiety will stunt your conversational growth if you let it.
The keyword is “If” because you dictate its influence.
Stop it in its tracks.
I’d love to hear more from our readers. How does social anxiety affect your day-to-day conversations?
Leave a comment describing how you deal with anxiety.
Check out our youtube channel for more information on language and conversation.
“To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to lose one’s self…. And to venture in the highest is precisely to be conscious of one’s self.”