introversion, imposter syndrome, and social anxiety

I asked Dylan & Kyle to talk about introversion at conferences on a recent Squirrel & Moose podcast. But really they ended up talking mostly about imposter syndrome, or at least the milder versions of it — seeing people they admired and feeling awkward about talking to them. And more hilariously, feeling intimidated by *each other*.

Which is kind of not what I was thinking of. It’s not that it’s not related. They’re things that look like each other: to the outside eye, the person avoiding everyone, you can’t tell why. Maybe they’re intimidated. Maybe they’re anxious. Maybe they’re just overwhelmed. And sometimes they play off of each other in really unfortunate ways.

I asked about it because I was at a conference, and really feeling the effects of being an introvert in an intensely social experience. Which was all about feeling tired and mentally taxed by just being around people continuously, and needing to have some solo time. It’s something I’ve learned from lots of conference experience, that it’s good for me to really engage and meet lots of people and have intense conversation and to be IN the moment. But that I also have to be deliberate about getting enough of that solitary time. Skip a party or an outing, or even a session, in order to get a breather, to soak up a bit of solitude. (There’s a cafe in Austin whose name I can’t remember, but which I associate with getting some of that solitary time during SxSWi. Same thing with J Cafe in Portland. At Confab it was the Ride Nice bikeshare bikes.)

I don’t know about Kyle, but I’m pretty sure that Dylan identifies as at least somewhat introverted, so I was somewhat curious what his coping techniques. (I have very happy memories of the two of us having a long conversation while skipping out on a session at WebVisions quite a few years ago. Oddly enough, having a quiet one-on-one conversation is almost as good as solitude for recharging from ALL THE HUMANS.) But the fact that instead they talked about being intimidated by web-famous people is interesting food for thought.

Because it’s not like those things don’t play off of each other. If people are kind of tiring or overwhelming, and then also I’m not feeling sure of myself, confident in what I know or can do…then it becomes an excuse for not trying. And for me it easily ramps all the way up to massive social anxiety: I don’t belong here, I’m going to make a fool of myself, no one here will like me, even being here is a terrible idea.


So yeah. Sometimes it takes an absurd amount of effort to get out there and meet people, and often I go “home” (hotel room, quiet cafe, etc) early. But at the same time, when I get all the terrible voices in my head to STFU, and when I properly manage my energy, conferences are amazing opportunities. People are amazing and interesting, and I love it when there’s a real connection.

3 Replies to “introversion, imposter syndrome, and social anxiety”

  1. I love this, Elaine. I’ve been measured as both introvert and extrovert I’m so close to the line. But I think regardless of I or E, many, many of us identify with Impostor Syndrome and social anxiety. It’s what kept me from blogging more back in the day — everyone already knows this. (Good onya for forcing yourself out.)

    Just remember that all the “awesome people” are just people. There’s really no there there. Everyone’s just figuring it out as they go. Keep pushing yourself. Cheers!

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