Read the following statements and see if any of them accurately describe you:
- I do not enjoy large crowds.
- Eye contact with strangers gives me a panic attack.
- I would sooner parachute into the Atlantic than strike up a conversation with someone off the street.
If one, or any, of these statements resonates with you, congratulations! You might have social anxiety, and therefore may be interested in walking through Jessica Pan’s similarly anxious journey in her book, Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come: One Introvert’s Year of Saying Yes.
Pan describes herself as a “shintrovert,” a shy introvert, and goes to great lengths detailing the disdain for social interactions in the way only a shintrovert could (5). There are anecdotes about bursting into tears at a surprise birthday (out of fear, not joy) and pretending not to speak English in order to avoid conversations at a bar. However, within these stories is Pan’s realization that she is very unsatisfied with her circumstances. She finds herself lonely and depressed, not as a result of being introverted, but rather because of how she sees herself as an introvert. While she once “had been a happy introvert, [she] had managed to wedge [her]self into a hole, through fear, insecurity, and stagnation” (Pan 8). This sets up the entire premise of the book: Pan will spend a whole year as an extrovert.
The rest of book goes through Pan’s journey of “extroverting,” and what follows can only be described as a convicting transformation for her introverted readers (10). From talking to strangers on the street to performing stand-up comedy, Pan takes on all of her social nightmares with a level of humor and vulnerability that paints a very authentic picture of breaking through insecurities as an introvert. There are also very personal events sprinkled between these social challenges that Pan calls real life interludes, such as flying to her father’s open-heart surgery. While these interludes interrupt the flow of her journey as an extrovert, they serve as an accurate reflection of the unexpected bumps and bruises that life throws at us as we embark on new and exciting challenges.
As an introvert myself, I found this book wonderfully relatable and incredibly convicting. Of course, Pan’s descriptions of being curled in the fetal position before attending a social gathering made me think to myself, “Wait, did I write this?”. More importantly, though, Pan’s honesty on how her deep-rooted insecurities created a gaping hole in her social life hit me like a train because I know that I have used my introversion as an excuse for my social struggles. My first year of college was plagued by loneliness because I barely knew anyone, and I created a similar hole of fear and insecurity for myself. I felt that my loneliness and inability to branch out of my comfort zone was just my tragic fate as an introvert. However, when Pan delivers lines like “I wasn’t depressed because of being an introvert; I was an introvert who happened to be depressed,” they pierce my soul because I know exactly what leads a person to come to such a conclusion (5). It felt like I had tricked myself into thinking that my introversion was the uncontrollable source of my depression, but lines like these expose the false reality that I, and many other depressed introverts, create as a result of our deep-seeded insecurities. Walking through Pan’s escape from a depressed, introverted hole gave me the confidence to start tackling my own fears as a shintrovert. Not only am I not alone in my struggles, but there is also a way out. It just takes a very scary leap of faith.
I highly recommend this book to everyone. If you are an introvert, Pan’s journey reminds you that your social anxieties are valid and that there is still a path to happiness. If you are an extrovert, this is an incredible glimpse into the mind and heart of an introvert, and it can help you deeply connect and empathize with your introverted friends.
Written by Ryan