Am I Introverted…or Just Afraid?

Via Erica Leibrandt
on Dec 28, 2013
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I hate answering the door.

When the doorbell rings, I either pretend I didn’t hear it or scurry up to my office where I peer out the window hoping it’s just the UPS guy so I can pick up my box after he drives away.

Occasionally, I am forced to actually appear in the doorway; either because I was expecting someone or I was clearly seen inside the house, and can think of no excuse airtight enough to explain my rude refusal to heed the call of the doorbell.

I dread these moments, lingering on the threshold of indoors and outdoors, on the precipice between alone and not-alone. Should I invite my visitor in? How long will they stay? I break into a sweat as I try to decide whether to offer them food or frantically clean up the mess which seems to have magically appeared the moment they stepped foot in my house.

My head spins: have I remembered to brush my teeth today? Does the house smell like garlic? After I pretend to be friendly, will my dogs race downstairs and try to maul my guest? (This is not an imaginary fear, it happens quite frequently, spurred, no doubt, by my own paranoia and discomfort.)

Answering the door is not my only social phobia.

Equally stressful; answering the phone, talking on the phone, going to parties, bumping into people in the grocery store, driving in a car with someone I don’t know extremely well or haven’t seen in a long time, hosting anything, hugging people except my immediate family and speaking to the person next to me on the plane.

Weirdly, chatting with cashiers, teaching a yoga class, or being out at a restaurant with anyone and everyone doesn’t phase me at all.

I would hate to think that I’m so neurotic that unless my surroundings are prearranged in such a way that I perceive I have a cloak of invulnerability, I am unable to be candid or relaxed.

On the other hand, maybe it’s not neurosis—maybe it’s just the way I was made.

I love being alone.

This is ironic considering the enormous family I married into complete with five children, to which I added one, two sister’s in law and their huge families who live within spitting distance of my home, as well as a mother-in-law who resides directly behind my house.

I also have lots of dear, dear friends far and wide.

But if I can’t write for a few hours in solitude a day, if I can’t ride my bike, walk my dogs in the woods or practice yoga alone every day, if I can’t read, take a nap and fool around on my computer alone every single day, I feel as if my brain expands like a bicycle tire pumped beyond it’s capacity which explodes at the slightest pressure against the pavement.

At such times you’ll see me either fake smiling my way through the pain, laughing way too loud and insisting that I am fine. Fine!! Or slumping around giving everyone the silent treatment and acting like there is some kind of conspiracy against me.

I’m fairly certain it isn’t normal to need to be alone so much, so I force myself to make (most of) the phone calls, go to the parties and do all the other things expected of a fully functional adult human being. And generally, I end up enjoying myself doing these things.

But when the next time rolls around for me to volunteer at my kid’s school or carpool into the city with a bunch of girlfriends, I spend days panicking, trying to figure out how to get out of it, and wondering why I’m such a freak.

I may never know where this ism of mine is rooted, and at this point I’d say it’s a fair assumption that it’s here to stay—so if you happen to swing by my place, knock on the door and see a shadow mysteriously slip across the window while the dogs bark madly from somewhere in a distant room, please don’t take it personally.

I’ll just be hiding under my desk in a cold sweat with the lights turned out hoping I didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings.



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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum/Bryonie Wise

Photo: Imgur


About Erica Leibrandt

Erica Leibrandt is a licensed mental health clinician, certified yoga instructor, and mother to six heathens who masquerade as innocent children. If she occasionally finds herself with a fried egg on her plate or dancing until dawn, she asks that you not judge her. Life is short, she knows the chicken that laid the egg, and we can never dance too much. Connect with Erica on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr.


14 Responses to “Am I Introverted…or Just Afraid?”

  1. Oh Erica, reading this gave me a familiar feeling in my chest, twisted between fear and empathy… because it's spot on. I dread these moments too. And I cope with laughter almost always (that is, until I crash and enter the slumping around phase). And this: " I spend days panicking, trying to figure out how to get out of it, and wondering why I’m such a freak." I don't even know what else to say but 'I'm right there with you.'

  2. Erica says:

    It's so draining 🙁 When I wrote that "we should meet", I meant it, AND felt that pang of fear. I hate that about myself. Im too old for this!! At least you have an excuse with your 21 precious years.

  3. It really is. I know what you mean. But I don't know if fear has anything to do with age, especially this fear. But it's ok, because when we do meet, we'll both have that same fear. So it will be ok. We'll understand each other.

  4. tierney says:

    WOW… that is me in a NUTSHELL. My people get mad at me as I avoid answering the phone like the plague, love to hide in my house and if someone just stops by unannounced I freak out… I need to be mentally prepared for visitors! I always thought there was something wrong with me and I have continued to judge myself for this "flaw" I have always thought maybe part of it is that I am a "low energy"person? To much stimulation from others leaves me wiped out. Another part socially awkward (at 47!!!)

    I also teach yoga and work in a Hair salon. At work, if you came and sat in my chair, I can chat you up with the best of them.. But if you wanted to get together for coffee or have me come over for lunch I would be like a deer in headlights! I could have started crying reading this to know there are others out there like me… I have really felt all alone in this way of being..Thank you so much for posting this!

  5. Oh, sister, you're an introvert. Introversion and shyness are not the same (shyness is associated with more situation issues, like, public speaking or business lunches, for example). Introversion/Extroversion orientation has to do with where you get your energy. Do you get your energy from yourself and spend it on others? Or, do you get your energy from being around other people and spend it when you must be alone? Clearly, you are someone who needs alone time to "recharge" so that when you are in social situations, you have energy to give to those your love and care for.

    A great book on this topic is called The Introvert Advantage. Friends of mine have also read Quiet and recommend it, as well.

    I'm an introvert, too. I can talk to you all day long if I know you and/or the subject well, but do NOT call me on the phone! Or put me at an 8-top table at a professional luncheon with people I don't know well and expect me to be the one who keeps it all moving.

  6. Jessa says:

    I'm an extrovert, and I've always admired introverts for their independence. I'm in awe of your ability to get through the day without relying on someone else! I appreciate this article for its candidness, thank you.

  7. EbethMP says:

    Honestly I don't understand introverts, AT ALL. I read a lot of these blogs and articles trying to understand. I do consider myself an extrovert, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE my alone time. So maybe someday when I reach my enlightenment I will get it. Thank you for sharing.

  8. megmmal says:

    I'm an introvert and I love spending time with people. I just can't do it all the time because it drains my energy. Being alone is like medicine, once I get enough of it then I'm good and ready to go hang out with people again. Extroverts are the opposite. Social anxiety and shyness are not introversion, although more introverts than extroverts probably deal with them.

  9. SDC says:

    WOW! That one elicited a lot of empathy. Could the sensitivity be inherited?

  10. Gringa says:

    Thank you Erica, for a moment I was sure you had hacked into my brain… This is ME – the dreaded "pop-in" gives me near panic attacks and I will do anything to avoid answering my door. Imagine my horror when I moved to a country where people stop by ALL THE TIME and in lieu of doorbells, they often just yell your name from the street to get your attention – learning everyday how to deal with that! Luckily, I still have plenty of hiding places that have proven to be reliable…

  11. Alouette says:

    … Do you know me, that you are writing exactly what is happening in my mind?

  12. Karisha says:

    I feel like this alllllllllllllllllll theeeeeeeeeee timmmmmmmmmeeeeeeeeeeeeee….which is weird as people seem to really enjoy my company and think am uber social….it's a constant battle in my head….alwaysss

  13. umasimon says:

    I think you have a lot on your plate, together with many children and presumably husband and lots of friends and relatives. I would stop calling myself an introvert, extrovert or neurotic. It just seems you are on overload with perhaps great feelings of responsibility towards a lot of people. Why would you not hide as you do? You are just trying to get some "me" time or alone space which is very natural.

  14. kjmagician says:

    Well then! I've never had an article written about me before! 🙂 And yes, I can be and talkative and social and outgoing as an extrovert, but it's not fun! I dread going out my door. I sometimes go for days at a time without leaving my house. Parties? Forget about it. Only if I absolutely have to. Strangely enough, I'm fine in a group of strangers. I love strangers! I live in NYC and actually I talk to strangers a lot. I find it fun. Who can figure THAT out? But honestly? I'd rather be at home with my husband and cats than anywhere else.