If I’m extroverted, then why am I also terrified of people?

If you read this post about my experiences at DFW WordCamp this weekend, and you get down to the middle of it, you might see an admission about how, despite the urging of the event organizers not to do this, I ended up eating lunch alone. I felt bad about it, honestly. I was trying to figure out why I decided to eat lunch alone when I had the option of diving into a dozen or so groups and simply asking, “Hey, can I sit here?” or “Hey, can I eat with you?”

I guess I should probably start with a little bit about myself, for those that ever come across this blog but don’t really know me at all. I’m a tall, big kid and I do speak slower than most. Sometimes I don’t have great manners and can be construed as less than Type A. I think I’m extroverted, in the sense that I’d classify myself as extroverted, but I also feel horribly afraid of people a lot of the time. Making friends after 30 — which I’ve been moderately successful at, if at all — is something I think about a lot.

I found this article on Thought Catalog about being extroverted but shy — sometimes I think that’s how I’d classify myself — and while I don’t agree with all of it, I think No. 11 is interesting. I’ve always considered myself a social life jacket for other people — I’m always thinking about blending groups and whether X would be a good fit with Y — but at the same time, I feel incredibly awkward myself. That was probably the one that resonated with me the most.

Sometimes I think the issue is that I’m a little more extroverted if I’m drinking, which probably isn’t ideal.

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Sometimes, though, I think the issue is this: I can be extroverted, but I think it’s kind of a cover. If you read this blog, you know there’s a lot of different stuff I think about and write about — by no means does thing have any kind of specific niche — and I feel like, as a result of that, I can relate to a lot of different situations. I can have a conversation at a bar or a dinner gathering about sports, politics, HR, business, religion, current events, music, whatever. I’m good like that.

But I also have this really low self-confidence — whenever I’m on an e-mail thread and make a contribution, it always seems to me like my contribution gets jumped over and people respond to the thing said before. When I make points at dinner parties, sometimes I feel like people don’t get it.

I’m always worried about being this big, awkward, lumbering kid that people are judging — and I think that’s the crux of this issue. I’m extroverted in that people are always going to notice me and I’ll always have some kind of presence, but I’m shy because I just don’t feel that good about myself or what I’m offering.

And I think that’s why I get scared of going up and sitting with new people at lunch — for example, at that WordCamp event, most people were coders/developers. I can’t do that stuff (although it’s a goal to learn it a bit better). I mostly do content, and even that I worry I don’t do that well — for example, because this post isn’t very SEO-based, probably no one will ever find it or read it. So I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to relate.

I feel like that’s a rather large, consistent fear of mine — being this large presence that people still somehow manage to ignore, or that I’m not relatable. I worry about this stuff a lot.

I do think it’s possible, then, to be both extroverted and shy / scared at the same time — in part because the extroversion isn’t as real as the shyness is. The extroversion is a cover, in many ways.

I’m also trying to figure out different ways to boost my self-esteem or feelings of self-worth — my job is one possibility (although that hasn’t done it over time).

Like I said, this isn’t “written for the web” and I don’t necessarily expect anyone to find it, relate to it, or desire to comment on it — but if you do come across it and feel the same way about yourself (extroverted but shy/scared of people often), let me know. I’d love to know some strategies for how you’ve dealt with it.

My name’s Ted Bauer; I blog here regularly and you can learn about hiring me for freelance and contract gigs as well. You can also subscribe to my newsletter.

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Blogging, largely about work and how to improve it. How I make (some) money: http://thecontextofthings.com/hire-freelance-writer-ted-bauer/

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