From Introvert with Social Anxiety, to Social Extrovert

As a high school student (particularly before gr. 11), I HATED the telephone. I would often start sweating and feel extreme anxiety when I had to make a phone call. I had to run the conversation through my mind multiple times before I could conjure up the courage to dial the phone number.

Usually, I’d just find some excuse to not make the call at all.

It didn’t just end there. What do I say if he/she actually picks up (I was secretly hoping to reach the voice mail)? How do I end the call? Do I say “bye” after him/her?

Phone calls in Japanese were the worst. I was highly insecure about my Japanese and didn’t have confidence in my formal Japanese (for speaking to elders) at all.

After a phone call, I’d run the conversation through my mind again to examine if I “successfully” completed it.

Walking with people, I was constantly asking myself these questions:

  • Do I walk beside, in front or behind them?
  • How fast should I walk?
  • What is the “ideal” position in this group?

Forget girls. 

I never attended parties. I was never invited nor did I invite others to anything outside of school. Occasionally, I would hang around after school to try to join people, but that mostly resulted in me walking around the school grounds for half an hour before the adrenaline rush that resulted from almost joining people exhausted me.

There was, however, a type of situation where I excelled.

Situations that had clear rules and roles.

When I was in class, I was a student. I could answer questions that the teacher asked. I could talk to the person next to me. I could compete against my class rival. These were all clearly laid out within the job description. So, I excelled.

However, outside of class, my “role” was vague. The complex social connections, structures and rules were not laid out clearly, were ever changing and confusing. I never felt comfortable in groups bigger than two, maybe three people.

At home, I kept busy by playing single player RPGs; mostly Final Fantasy. I also read a lot of Japanese manga and enjoyed randomly reading about new topics in encyclopedias (I had many).

I never really felt lonely and didn’t really need close friends because I lived in my fantasy world.

I was an introvert with social anxiety.

Back then, being around people was mentally exhausting. There were so many variables, so many contingencies and so many mistakes that I was perpetually conscious of.

Today, I’m a completely different person.

I initiate conversations. I often take a leadership role within groups. I can maintain a conversation with multiple people at once (in fact, I enjoy this). I can make phone calls without my palms sweating. I regularly organize events  with more than 50 people.

I now get an energy rush when I’m around big groups of friends. I no longer get depressed, kicking myself in the ass about all the mistakes I made and said at the last social gathering.

I regularly receive feedback on how social and outgoing I am.

Believe it or not, until recently, I was constantly telling people I was an introvert. I truly believed that I was (and I still retain some symptoms of this).

Today, I am a social extrovert.


P.s. On the Myers-Brigg personality test, I used to score as an INTJ, but now I register as an ENTJ.

Edit 1: Changed title to reflect that this post mixes up introversion with social anxiety.

Edit 2: I’m probably an Ambivert.

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Leo is passionate about connecting people through shared values and interests, and empowering future leaders. He is the Founder of CoFit Movement and Director of Community at SOGO Fitness. An aspiring hyper-polyglot, he heads Tokyo Trilinguals and speaks five languages. Although eclectic in his interests, he is most inspired when writing, teaching and creating. He is most at peace when cleaning, gazing up at the night sky and around the colour blue. Born and raised a second-generation Japanese-Canadian, he calls Vancouver home and is currently based in Tokyo.

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