Social interactions: it’s not just on stage that I’m acting

grascale photo of people standing on ground

After a 4 year hiatus I’m back performing musicals. As part of them, I sing, dance (badly) and act. But it’s not just when I’m on stage that I’m acting in front of groups of people. As much as I seem to appear outgoing and extroverted, I’m actually not. It’s an act. And social interactions are actually really hard for me.

Last year’s company meetup in Denver really took it out of me. I had to organise a dinner for a group of people, regularly mingle and even go on stage to do a talk. I was chatty and outgoing. And, yes, a total fabrication. I’d much rather have sat down in a corner by myself, or gone back to my room. But there are expectations of me in my lead role, which I can temporarily achieve. The results, though, are exhausting and during that trip to the US I ended up fighting tiredness for more reasons than just jet lag.

And going back to show rehearsals has made me realise just why I’ve always had issues with them. At first I’m keen but quickly I’m making excuses for why I can’t go one week. For years I hadn’t understood why and just assumed I didn’t like the show as much as I thought. But it’s not that – it’s the social interaction that I’m shying away from. And it’s taken me until today to realise I suffer from social anxiety. And, again, because I’m in a room full of show-performing extroverts there is an expectation that I’m the same. Again, it’s an act (and I’m probably therefore a better actor than people give me credit for!), but one that I’m trying to put on less and less.

I was in Athens a few weeks ago for WordCamp Europe, and I was invited to a WordPress VIP social event one evening. I wanted to go but the place was packed and loud. My sensory overload was having a ball. But, again, there is an expectation of me (yes, I know it’s never been communicated to me but you know what they are regardless) so, unlike some of my team who stood around a table drinking all evening, I spent my time mingling and forcing conversations with total strangers. Outgoing and, yes, extrovert is how it looked.

The next day I was on stage speaking to a crowd of possibly hundreds of people and an online audience of.. who knows?

Then I spend the remaining days mingling, chatting and networking. And all of it was hard in a way few would imagine.

Another example, which is related but not quite same, is video calls. My ADHS means that I really don’t want to sit and stare patiently at a camera. But if I’m having a 1:1 with somebody or I’m running a meeting, I know I need to do that. I have to force myself to do it and, as the result, is that they really tire me. I enjoy the group calls that I’m not running, where I can turn off the camera feed and just be myself.

Talk to me!

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