Personalities are a defining feature of humans. We more generally connect with people of similar values, morals and interests. Although we don't focus on a person's state of mind when making friendships, our initial impression can also change about a person as these relationships evolve. Most notable is regarding a person's way of socially interacting with others, is the individual introverted or extroverted?
Being an introvert is not bad, and lately, introversion is a sign of empowerment as much as being extroverted is. Imagine two typical individuals, race, gender, culture or any other social labels matter; one likes to talk a lot, share their experiences and learn about others, while someone else wants to draw, journal, read, and be within themselves. Although these are stereotypical definitions of their personalities, it is undoubtedly easy to label the first as extroverted and the second as introverted. It becomes significantly harder but quick to categorize two quiet, shy people as introverted without considering social anxiety or any other mental health condition that may influence their social interactions. They are often misinterpreted due to a lack of knowledge, ignorance, or the source used to get information. There are scientifically and psychologically many differences between these two types of people.
Firstly, introversion is a choice one makes in their personality; it is something one is born with and has a genetic predisposition. Being an introvert is a personality trait, as mentioned by Quitrev. You choose to stay away from confrontation, and it is not a priority to speak out loud. Those feelings of sadness and frustration that an extroverted person may speak out are most commonly expressed through art or journal writings. The individual may shy away from leadership roles but have good listening skills and are not afraid to speak their mind with their close peers. Parties and social gatherings are not their types of fun, and they will only be exhausted from attending them. These are all choices made with careful considerations, and the individual is more likely aware of them. They do not get in their way of living, but instead, it is their preferred lifestyle.
In contrast, social anxiety is not inherited but developed over one's lifetime through a temperament. According to Quitrev, two aspects make up social anxiety; learning and avoidance. First, we learn through personal experiences or relationships about the scrutiny one faces in society. The individual starts to avoid social settings even if they don't want to because of the fear that stems from the idea that others will reject you or judge you negatively, as indicated by Healthline. Social anxiety brings negative thoughts about one's personal choices; my walk is terrible, or my voice is annoying. There is hyperfocus on such slight flaws that others might not even notice. These flaws can be physical or character-driven, nevertheless stem from fear of others and not so much yourself. Social settings and parties are fun to this individual, but due to a fear of judgment, they usually miss out on opportunities they seek. The hyperfocus on flaws consumes one's thoughts and essentially acts as a block between the person and the rest of the world. Thus social anxiety gets in the way of normal functioning rather than one's personality.
Social anxiety is a mental condition that will affect anyone regardless of personality type, and that is where a significant difference lies that we sometimes forget. It has nothing to do with personality and one's choices but more with neurological adaptations and thoughts that have been nurtured after birth. Therefore, it needs to be treated and attended to by professionals. It is a block in one's life rather than a choice. Although the general public is prone to misinterpret introverted personalities and social anxiety, as more awareness is created, it will become easier for anyone to become more aware of the differences between these two entities and other mental conditions hidden in personality.
Those with social anxiety and introverted people may share traits and be represented similarly by the media, however, it is clear that there are fundamental differences that separate the two.
Article Author: Gurdial Gill
Article Editors: Stephanie Sahadeo, Sherilyn Wen