Differences: introvert, shy, social anxiety, empath, HSP

Most of us have had times in our lives where we’ve felt shy or uncomfortable meeting other people, especially if it is in a large crowd. But, sometimes, the problem is more than being shy and sometimes it is not shyness, and sometimes it is not a problem – per se. Either way, you should understand that there are lots of other people who understand how you feel.

An introverted person and a shy person can both be uncomfortable meeting new people or making small talk with strangers; however, they’re this way for different reasons. If an introvert has had enough alone time to recharge, they are not necessarily uncomfortable meeting new people or making small talk all the time.  It depends. (…but full disclosure: from what I’ve seen & heard, lots of people seem to dislike small talk.)

A shy person would more than likely be uncomfortable in social settings out of fear but that varies depending on the situation.  Also, from my experience, I know that some shy people feel more comfortable when meeting new people compared to being around those they already know or kind of know because they feel less pressure and in some cases they may never see those people again. And once again, that depends. And then on the flip side, some shy people are less comfortable around strangers as apposed to those they already know because they might feel that the people they already know will not judge or scrutinize them as heavily. Overall they prefer their own company to the company of unfamiliar people but if they’re shy extroverts, they may long to be around others but feel uncomfortable still. Shyness can come with blushing, sweating, etc. but it varies based on situations and is not crippling and pervasive like social anxiety.

A person with social anxiety may have trouble even going to the store – that is how overwhelming the anxiety and self-consciousness gets. Those with a social anxiety will often have symptoms, such as a fast heartbeat, trouble catching your breath, and muscle tension (according to Mayo Clinic). These symptoms are not “made up” and the people who suffer from this truly are more than shy. There is help for those with social anxiety. Those with social anxiety should talk to their doctor or health professional about it.  Talking to your doctor should be your first step, just to make sure there isn’t a physical cause for your symptoms. Your doctor can also offer suggestions to help you overcome social anxiety.

Empaths and Highly Sensitive Persons (HSP) are both highly sensitive, which may cause them to retreat from crowds, etc. and appear “quiet” to others but the two have their differences.

An HSP, according to hsperson.com is easily overwhelmed by bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, loud noices, having lots to do in a short time, violence in the media, busyness, upsetting situations, etc.  They have a rich/complex inner life, enjoy and take notice of things that please their senses, and were seen as sensitive or shy as children.

All empaths are HSPs but in addition they also have the ability to feel (or perceive) other people’s feelings strongly. They are so sensitive to the emotions of others that it can be very difficult for them. They feel what they perceive others are thinking and feeling.  As a result they may not be able to handle too many people at once or they become overwhelmed and need to find a quiet place to recover. They may appear shy because they hold themselves away from crowds for their own peace of mind. It is a constant worry about whether someone is angry or if other people like them. Being too sensitive can be exhausting, but there is help available to work through those feelings and to structure life to get the necessary balance and most importantly to protect your energy.

Changing how we feel about ourselves isn’t easy, but it can be done. In many cases, like with introversion, it is about embracing it and leveraging it.  In other cases, like social anxiety, it is about seeking help. For some people, these feelings cause embarrassment, but you should never be embarrassed or ashamed by how you feel! And in other cases, it could be a combination of accepting, embracing, and balancing that with seeking support.

We are each unique and different beings and the ways in which we handle social situations are different, too.  In the end, it is all about how happy we are living in our own skin, if we feel these things are keeping us from daily routines and thriving in different facets of our lives, and if we are not hurting ourselves and those around us.

– Written by Jen Jones – the proud mom of three amazing kids and a wonderful son in law. Jones has been writing for several years and overcame shyness as a child to be able to give lectures about autism to large groups of people.

– Co-written/edited by Wallflower Coach


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