I realized that it’s not imposter syndrome that I’m struggling with. Imposter syndrome tricks you into thinking you suck, and worrying that you’ll eventually be outed for it. I have the opposite problem: I worry that people already think I suck, even though I think I’m pretty solid.
That’s not imposter syndrome. It’s just regular old social anxiety. To prove it to myself, I took a bajillion super official internet social anxiety quizzes.
To be fair, I already knew this was a thing for me. But I never realized how much this has controlled my life ever since I was a little kid. And I didn’t recognize it this time around because it felt new and unique. A couple months into the new job, I started feeling something looming and heavy that I hadn’t felt before.
I obsessed about every interaction for days afterwards. I zeroed in on the one dumb thing I said, the one place I stuttered, the one not-totally-positive feedback someone gave me, whatever it was. And I used that as proof: “people think you suck, dude.” Cue another day of that buzzy weight in my chest.
So I started reading a book on social anxiety, and it’s got me pegged. It talks about “post-event processing”, calling it the “postmortem review of the bloopers reel of your social performance.” That’s me.
It also talks about how social anxiety thrives on perfectionism. “You’re either perfect—you come off as witty, articulate, and cool as a cucumber—or you’re a stammering idiot whom everyone sneers at and turns their backs on.” That’s me.
The examples it gives are downright creepy in how accurate they are, even outside of the context of my job. Stuff like dancing at weddings, making personal phone calls when strangers can hear you, and telling your neighbor they’re being too loud. Every example it gives is nightmarish for me.
It brings up “socially anxious extroverts” which resonated hard for me. A few months ago, I hypothesized that I was a shy extrovert. After reading this, I know that I was right:
You may also be a socially anxious extrovert. This is exquisitely torturous—imagine getting your energy from people while simultaneously being afraid of them. For example, you may really want to go to the bar with your co-workers but worry they don’t want you there. Or you may love parties but obsess about saying something stupid. You may feel pulled to the microphone but petrified by the crowd.
That’s so me.
I’m excited to feel like I’m getting to the bottom of this. I’ll report back on how it goes as I work through the advice in the book!