If I’m extroverted, then why am I also scared 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.

Awkward Ted II

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.

Ted Bauer


  1. Hi. Yeah, it’s the same for me. I think I am too critical of myself (which I rationalise that others are even worse). It basically boils down to “Will they like me?” and rejection is one my biggest fears. Sometimes I just jump in ( on a good day) and decide to hell with it. Usually it turns out to be fun. On a bad day, I have learnt not to even try, because usually I am negative and not much fun to be around. So, my advice is that if it’s a good day, make an effort, but on bad days, “eat alone.” Trust yourself on that issue. Afterwards it’s always easy to say I should have, but that isn’t necessarily true.

    • I really appreciate you taking the time to respond to this. Clearly it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot too, so I’m glad to know there are similar people out there.

  2. The definitions that I use for extroversion/introversion might make some sense to you. They may not be completely correct, but I have settled on those definitions because I could never relate 100% to articles about introversion or extroversion. Need and behaviour do not always correlate.

    Extroversion: drawing energy from people/gaining energy by being around people

    Introversion: spending energy on people/energy is depleted by being around people

    My brother is an outgoing introvert, and I am a shy extrovert.

    What I’m trying to get at is that I don’t think extroversion can be a “cover”. If you really are an extrovert, the shyness may just be a coping method to protect you. Or rather, your subconscious believes it is protecting you from potential rejection or hurt, but it also limits you from stimulating conversation, beneficial relationships, and general social interaction, which is essential for a healthy extrovert.

  3. Interesting. I wouldn’t classify you as an extrovert. I see you as an introvert, as having a very active inner world. I’m often right on the E/I edge, in my MBTI testing. Yet, I’m a true introvert. My inner world is extremely vibrant.

    I can be extroverted with people that I know well, but I often have anxiety around strangers. I can relate to you eating alone at WordCamp. The biggest stressors in my life have always been because of my interactions with people. When I’m not doing well emotionally, I’ll ruminate on events of the day, analyze my interactions with people, and think about all of the dumb things I said that day…. wondering if I said something that could be misunderstood or wondering if I hurt someone’s feelings. My social anxiety has been debilitating at times, keeping me indoors for days at a time. BUT, I’m in a good space now (hip hip hooray!), so the ruminating, while it will most likely never completely go away — and, is something that “mindfulness” tells me I mustn’t fight and must learn to peacefully accept as being present — is manageable. Anyway, you’re not alone. 🙂 And, I’d totally recommend studying up on mindfulness: the bare awareness that our thoughts are allowed to be there, without our having to wrestle with them. Eventually, without the struggle, they go away on their own and our minds are then thinking about something else. Would love to talk more about this. 🙂

  4. Reading this a few years after you originally posted it Ted, I wonder how you relate to this post now?

    Many of your admissions resonated with me and I thank you for putting it out there and taking a chance to be vulnerable. I am someone who for most of their life was a classic introvert, but generally when people meet me now label me as an extrovert personality. I feel this all depends on who I am with, my energy levels (and self-confidence for that matter) that manifest in the moment.

    It’s been a tough road to get to where I am today, and I still prefer to be alone to reflect and recharge, but I also know the other side where I can live and get lost in my own head too much. It’s been a journey and one I am continuing to walk through.

    I found your blog a few months ago and it has been a shining light in honest writing around a few subject matters that I am involved in, but you provide a unique voice. Keep up the great work.

    • Thanks so much — and the last two years have been a lot. Intense in some ways, good in others. I think how I relate to this post changes every day.

  5. Hi. When I read this line I immediately cried. “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.” This is every day of my life for as long as I can remember.

    I come from large people, both of my parents are over six feet tall. I’ve always been bigger than everyone else physically. And growing up the youngest of a very large boisterous family, my voice is naturally several decibels louder than everyone else. Whether I want to or not, I get noticed. But rarely on my terms, or for things I feel especially confident or comfortable with. Many people who know me would call me “outgoing” and I do okay at public speaking on my area of expertise, but I often feel like a fish out of water in a crowd of people. I rarely have opinions that are popular or considered “normal”, and I meet a lot of people that seemed genuinely confused by the life paths I’ve chosen or the change I’d like to see in the world. But there’s this longing to belong. To have other people find me interesting and relatable. To entertain and be thought of us smart and informed. I get opportunities to engage all of the time, but consistently find myself shrinking away to return to the safety of my home and my two cats. Then I beat myself up for not having more friends.

    Perspective is everything in life… I’ve been reading your stuff for months always envious of what a great writer you are and how easily you’re able to communicate your thoughts and ideas. Don’t stop doing that, there’s more people listening than you think.

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