Introvert Monday: The Birthday Party

birthday party

On Saturday, my husband and I attended my nanny children’s birthday party (my nanny kids and their cousins all have birthdays in the same month, so their family throws a big birthday party for them every year).  This would be the first large group, non-church event we have attended since starting vicarage and truth be told, I was dreading this party all week.  I knew that I wouldn’t know most people at the party.  There would be a lot of people at the party.  Basically, I feared that I would go into introvert/anxiety mode in front of my boss.  By Saturday morning, I was berating myself for not finding an excuse to get out of going to the party.

However, it turned out to be a pleasant party.  The usual sensation of unease and stress never arose.  I didn’t feel my shoulders tense or my heart race.  It was the most comfortable I have felt at a large group event in a long time.

As we drove home from the party, I wondered why I felt so relaxed at the birthday party while Sunday mornings still remain a stressful ordeal.  My ponderings lead me to three reasons:

1.  There was ample space.  Crowds and noise are big triggers for me–that’s part of the reason I struggle so much at church (I know that I should be thrilled that the church is crowded with happy people; it still makes me uneasy).  However, the birthday party was outdoors with plenty of space for the numerous children to run around.  Likewise, there were several picnic tables spread out, meaning that when we sat down we weren’t bombarded by other tables’ conversations.

2.  I had a surrogate.  I’ve mentioned before that having a surrogate–a non-shy person to help a shy person in social situations–can be extremely helpful.  My husband is my surrogate.  While he is an ambivert (someone who falls in the middle of the extrovert/introvert continuum), he isn’t shy.  Likewise, he is a very gifted in small talk, meaning he can navigate social encounters with much more ease than I can.  Unfortunately, on Sunday mornings (and really any church event) my husband cannot be my surrogate because he is working.  However, for this party he was able to stay with me.  He didn’t need to rush off to talk to this person or that person.  And he was able to handle the small talk.

3.  There weren’t any expectations about my behavior.  I’ve heard it all before:  Just because I’m the vicar’s wife doesn’t mean I have to do certain things.  Despite this, I still feel pressure to be gregarious at church.  And whether I like it or not, what I say and do reflects on my husband.  This adds to the stress of Sunday mornings.  However, at the birthday party I was only the nanny.  If I didn’t talk much, if I seemed “shy,” that was okay–I have never heard of anyone expecting their nanny to be outgoing.  Likewise, it’s easier to monitor my behavior in relation to how it reflects on me than how it reflects on someone else.

The party provided both comfort in concern.  On one hand, here was proof that I could still function at a social event without going catatonic.  On the other hand, the three factors that made this party easier to tolerate cannot be easily emulated on Sunday mornings.

What do strategies to you use to make awkward social situations easier?    

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2 Comments on “Introvert Monday: The Birthday Party”

  1. Melissa says:

    I usually do a few things when I am feeling awkward:

    1. I ask questions about the other person. People (me included!) like talking about themselves. If the focus is on them, it is off of me.

    2. I make fun of myself. Humor is how I deal with feeling uncomfortable. (So if I start cracking jokes, lay off!) For example, if it is raining outside and my hair is a mess when I walk into a room full of strangers at a party, I will absolutely notice them staring at me. I’ll say something goofy such as, “I’m starting a new trend in hair fashion! The Drowned Rat!” That way, they know that I know I look ridiculous. They will chuckle for a moment and then go back to their own conversations.

    3. I use my children as shields. Sorry! Focused on kids. Cannot talk. Must run after them and tend to every need. It is a delightful excuse.

    The first one is my go-to, generally.

    • Katrina says:

      Your number 1 is probably the bit of advice I hear most often. I’ve also heard children are a great buffer–not only do they provide an excuse to get out of awkward situations, but they provide a source of conversation. 🙂


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