Introvert Anxiety: Our Own Flavor of FOMO

Even people who are Introvert Proud aren't immune.

Posted Mar 16, 2018

Jad Limcaco/Stocksnap
Source: Jad Limcaco/Stocksnap

You might think that with all my thinking and writing about being Introvert Proud, I never wrestle with FOMO or berate myself for not keeping up a vigorous schedule of doing thing.

Yeah, you might think that.

Social comparison is a bitch.

That’s right: Even I look at all the comings and goings and doings of my Facebook friends and worry about falling short of some abstract idea of doing "enough." I worry that by living my life as an introvert, I am not living fully.

I’ve particularly struggled since becoming involved in political activism. There is always something going on in that regard. We have a million important races underway here in Texas, with a million candidates begging for volunteers, and I’m fired up about a million issues. There is always a block walk, a phone bank, a voter registration event, a meet-and-greet, a fund raiser, a protest, a something I could be doing to support causes I believe in.

And I've connected with a new gang of activist cohorts who seem to always be out there, meeting and greeting and registering and marching and phoning and walking. So while I do push out of my comfort zone often, I also worry about whether I’m fighting the good fight hard enough when I see all the going and doing others go and do.

This is probably a feeling many introverts, no matter how Introvert Proud, can relate to. I’m calling it Introvert Anxiety—that frisson of doubt and shame for the limits of your energy and motivation to engage with the wider world.

I’m pretty much good for one interactive event per day. (I work at home.) If I have one thing on my calendar for any given day, I try not to add anything else. In addition, a week with something planned every day makes me anxious. It happens, but it’s stressful. Which seems silly, when I look at the packed calendars of people I know. (See: social comparison.)

I’m also not particularly spontaneous; it takes time for me get from zero to social. And if I’m having a good time at Event A and somebody says, “Hey, I have an idea! Let’s all go to Event B!” I never want to. And then I don’t feel quite so proud of myself for getting to Event A to begin with. Am I a wet blanket?

These days, with a milestone birthday on the near horizon, I’ve also started wondering whether I’ll wrestle with regret on my death bed over those many nights spent lounging on my living room couch. Am I squandering my precious time on the planet? Should I try living differently?

But then, even just imagining packing my schedule more induces a full-psyche cringe.

I almost never regret missing an event, once you strip away all the other worries about real or imagined obligations. I rarely feel like I’ve missed out on anything that matters in the big picture. However, I also rarely regret going out when I do. I usually have some sort of fun, and if I don’t, so what? I leave. It’s few hours of my life. If I have the energy, I can go either way—stay in or go out--and everything is fine.

So I’ve decided that to stave off Introvert Anxiety, my job is simply staying as tuned-in as possible to what I want and need at any given moment. By staying tuned to the moment-by-moment, I hope to accrue a lifetime I'll look back on with adequate satisfaction.

When Introvert Anxiety hits, I figure it’s telling me something and check in with myself. What need is feeling uncomfortable? Am I feeling introverted or socially anxious? Would it be OK to indulge a bout of social anxiety right now? (Read more about that here. It’s an important part of the discussion.) Am I storing energy for something important? Have I been putting a lot of energy in one direction? Are there other aspects of my life that are suffering because of that? Am I feeling overextended or bored? Do I need to recharge or reconnect to people? Do I need a particular friend, or does a friendship need my attention? Am I craving a culture fix, like a concert or play? Or do I need to do something significant? (That’s where activism and volunteering come in for me.)

Introvert Anxiety seems inevitable, when you consider that Introvert Overthinking is also a thing. But while your brain can steer you into anxiety, it can also steer you out of it. I’m trying to be patient with myself  and remember that I’m also Introvert Proud. Everything will be OK.

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