• Joanna Rawbone

Free to flourish

I’m finding this difficult to write as I’m veering into territory that is outside my expertise. But veer I must.

I am a member of a couple of social media groups for introverts and am increasingly alarmed by how many posts seem to confuse introversion with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). In my view, Introversion on its own, is entirely different from the intense and debilitating emotional distress experienced by those with SAD. Now, it’s probably fair to say however that more introverts than extraverts experience SAD but it is not a given.

The preference for introversion means that our capacity for social interaction is somewhat limited by the nature of the interaction, size of group etc and the charge in our internal batteries. When we’re getting low on charge, we need to retreat somewhere quiet to recharge again. And once we’re recharged, we’re ready for more. Maybe.

In contrast, those experiencing SAD are fearful of social situations because they feel that they will be judged, which makes them self-conscious and hyper-alert. As a result, social situations may be avoided all together making employment, intimate relationships and even friendships quite difficult to manage.

I know from my own experience that introverts may not overly enjoy all the interactions they’re involved in and probably don’t look forward to them all either. But introverts don’t fear them.

The good news is that Social Anxiety Disorder can be effectively treated to lessen or remove the anxiety. We know that Introversion doesn’t need treating; it’s who we are. Ellen Hendriksen has a great way of putting it

“Introversion is your way. Social anxiety gets in your way.”

The challenge for many is that social anxiety is fed by perfectionism and of course social media frequently perpetuates the very perfectionism that feeds the anxiety. It becomes a vicious circle.

So, as I see it, to flourish as an introvert is to own our strengths, focus on reality and be free from social anxiety.

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