How many times have you told someone that you are an introvert and been informed that that can’t be, because you’re a performer and you seem so comfortable in front of people?
How many times have you been told “but you don’t seem shy”?
I have, many, many times! And guess what? I am not shy! I have never been shy. Shyness is not a thing with me.
Being introverted is not the same thing as being shy, and being shy is not the same thing as having social anxiety.
Let me explain.
Shyness, introversion and anxiety are three different things. You can have all three (if you’re REALLY lucky!) but they are not to be confused with one another.
I think Introversion is the most different from the other two in that an introvert feels energized by alone time and can get completely drained from social interaction. Introverts crave solitude. I am an introvert (who also suffers from FOMO but I am dealing with that).
Shyness, I believe, is mostly characterized by fear of drawing attention to yourself. I am not shy. Pay me all the attention you want. Look at all the selfies I post, for heaven’s sake! Do I seem like I am not desperate for attention? I think shy people quite often crave the company of others but don’t know how to approach it. I like…nay, I NEED to be alone.
Anxiety comes in many shapes and forms, and it can be debilitating. It manifests itself in many different ways. Mentally, it can be constantly overthinking everything, always assuming the worst, not being able to stop expecting the worst possible scenario. It can be physical – shaking, shortness of breath, hyperventilating, sweating, blurred vision, uncontrollable crying, etc.
I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and social anxiety. Moderate to severe. I sometimes even have to take an actual Chill Pill!
In the middle of writing this, I had to stop. Because now there is an issue with people knowing this. People I will meet at all these different events. Maybe they will treat me differently now that I have said this. Maybe they won’t invite me to things. Which is OK because I like to be alone anyway but I still want to be invited you know and I like being alone but not lonely. Maybe they will talk to me differently now or try to be careful and feel concerned and oh god I don’t want people to be concerned and I should probably not publish this blog because they will think I am WEIRD THEY PROBABLY ALREADY THINK I AM WEIRD AND THAT’S WHY I AM ALL ALONE IN THE WORLD AND NOBODY WILL TALK TO ME AND WHEN THEY DO THEY WILL HAVE A CONCERNED LOOK IN THEIR EYES
Once the heart palpitations (yes, really) had subsided, I decided to keep writing and to go ahead and publish (pause for new inner drama here) because I know I am not the only person dealing with this.
I know for a fact that I am not the only director dealing with this. Most of us have an analytical nature and while not everyone constantly falls into a rabbit hole of overthinking every time they try to make a decision, being analytical serves us well. It helps us evaluate what we hear and see on our risers. It helps us formulate what kind of sound we want (Eventually. I was shocked to find out that not everyone hears shapes), and it can be a very helpful leadership tool.
It’s a strange dichotomy, the ease with which we can speak in front of crowds and perform on stage, and the bumbling awkwardness we navigate in small, social situations. Other people have a hard time reconciling the two, but to us it’s just how it is. I think it’s a lot more common with female directors – most of the guy directors I have met seem quite confident in all situations. Men do have a little bit more space in society to be sure of their confidence – they don’t have to worry about what people will think if they put their skills on display.
(I feel like I have just broached a subject that might need its very own blog.)
My point, and I do have one, is that if I were shy, I wouldn’t be a director, and I probably wouldn’t even have been a performer. My point is that being an introvert isn’t a bad thing, but you might have to learn ways of breaking out of it from time to time if you ever want to network. And my point is that anxiety of any kind can be a huge obstacle, but you find the areas of your life where it isn’t able to take up space – such as when you are in front of your chorus – and make those areas big enough to push out any potential rabbit holes, and you’ll find that you can feel calm and confident a large portion of the time. And should an unexpected social event occur for which you don’t have time to plan and evaluate, learn to be comfortable being an observer. Learn to know when you have had enough interaction and politely say goodnight and go home. People might think you’re a bit weird, but aren’t we all, really?