How I dealt with social anxiety or, My own personal Balrog

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem

I’m really quite shy.

No, shy is pejorative.

I’m reserved.

But that implies that I’m a tight wad when I’m not.

I’m introverted, okay?

I think.

I love people.

However, the limitless possibility of interaction paralyzes me sometimes. And while talking to people is huge fun, I don’t crave it like plants crave sunlight. I find alone time rejuvenating, not people time.

As you might have noticed, I’m trying desperately to protect myself because being an introvert is often seen as a bad thing. When I did stand-up and improv, people were often stunned at how shy I was in real life. And they said so.

Anyway, I don’t need to add another persecuted signifier to my already long list of persecuted signifiers.

Suffice to say, I find certain activities commonly associated with filmmaking downright vomit-inducing.

Pitching.
Networking.
Taking general meetings. Or specific meetings.

Can an introvert be a leader? Of course, we can. Leaders serve people. I’ve wanted to serve people all my life.

I’m working hard to entangle the tight knot of fears and insecurities that have stopped me from becoming a director all these years. When I feel that knot in the pit of my stomach, that instant aversion, my brain screaming ‘I don’t want to! I just want to stay home!’, I see him.

Who’s him?

The Balrog. Or rather, my Balrog.

I love him really. He looks frightening. And he wants to, of course. He’s got a mean roar. And fire in his belly for sure. But really, he’s cuddly and made of orange fluff. And the stuff that looks like scabs is actually jelly. He’s my fears.

I give him a big hug. It’s like being swallowed by a bear but it doesn’t hurt. Quite the opposite. I feel the fire in him go out.

I ask him what he’s frightened of.

“I’m frightened people will laugh at us. They’ll judge us because we wear a hijab. Because we’re a woman. Because we’re short. Because we don’t have any credits to our name, apart from the time we responded to a crowd-funding campaign.”

I consider my answer as I gently wipe his tears.

“You’re quite right. People might laugh at us. They will very likely judge us for being brown, Muslim and female. And for not having done much.”

“Then why do you want to go?”

“Because I like meeting people with similar interests. With similar passions. It’s been a long while since I’ve been around people like that.”

All of the fire goes out of him.

“But it might kill us.”

“It won’t kill us.”

“It might hurt us.”

“Yes. It might hurt. But we won’t die.”

He slumps down into his favorite chintz armchair. It barely fits him but he loves it.

“Have a cup of tea with me?”

“You don’t drink tea anymore.”

“No, I don’t. You drink tea. We’ll watch The Good Place.”

“Deal.”

“Will you come with me to the thing?”

“Yes. Definitely. Always by your side. Like your personal bodyguard.”

In a way being an introvert is a blessing. Adulthood often feels like high school. We are all so desperate to belong somewhere. But I know now all too well what the cost of sacrificing my integrity will do to me. So I’d rather be alone. And thankfully, I’m okay with being alone. Most of the time.

Anyways, I’m never really alone. God. Balrog. And me. Chillin’ like villains.

I don’t always recognize Balrog when he shows up. But when I do, I’m happy to see him.

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