Introverts can be assumed to be socially awkward, friendless, and weird people. But the reality is, there is a whole spectrum of introversion, just as there is to extraversion. There are many articles out there about what these personality types mean, so I won’t go too far into that. I love being an introvert! (Most days) For me, it has meant that I’m able to understand people on a deep level, through observation, listening, empathy, and a curiosity about them. I’m also very in touch with myself, how I feel, and what I think. I analyze myself constantly, the world I live in, and my relationships with those around me. I strive for my own happiness, and support it in others. The downside is that social situations can cause me a lot of anxiety. I’ve had enough practice in the social world to be pretty good at small talk, and to converse with a variety of people. Sometimes I genuinely enjoy it. I like talking to interesting people. I like small groups. I like being with my friends, and with people I’m comfortable around. Sometimes I even enjoy being the center of attention and throw parties and am extroverted for a night. I alternate between being alone, and being social. Being social takes a lot of my energy, and some days, I am just not up to the task. Especially when I’m tired, feeling self-conscious, if something has happened in my personal life that I am preoccupied with, or if there is too many people, and there are barriers to communication, like loud music. In short.. it is pretty easy not to enjoy meeting new people. Around close friends, I don’t always think before I say something. But in a group of strangers, I am very aware of what I am saying, and trying to think of something to say, mulling it around in my head, thinking of the right timing, and if that moment passes, then starting over. Sometimes nothing comes to mind that I want to say. Sometimes I space out and start thinking of other things, and then I realize that I am still with this group of people and I become very aware that I haven’t’ said anything, and I’m wondering if they notice as well how quiet I am, and I become even more self-conscious. Sometimes I think I am in the mood to be social, but things change halfway through and I’m no longer feeling it. That’s a reason I typically arrange my own transportation to parties, is that I need an easy exit. To have the option to leave when I am ready. There is nothing worse than having shut down, and still needing to make conversation. At that point, I’ll sit there in silence, no longer trying. This type of situation manifests very strongly in my body. It gives me a stomach ache from the nerves, and wanting to escape, if it’s really bad, it gives me a headache. I wish I could be more comfortable with my silence. It’s a balance between conforming to social norms, pressure both inwardly and from not wanting to embarrass the person who may have brought me to the situation to begin with.
It’s helpful for me to have roommates, and to be around people in my daily life. This allows me to balance being alone, while also keeping up with my social skills and practicing being able to manage being around people, even when it is not ideal for me. I’ve been in situations before, while living alone, in between jobs, and on winter break from school. I didn’t want to be around people, and the more time I spent by myself, the higher the threshold to break that pattern. It was a downward spiral. I would go out in public situations, like snowboarding and to the gym, and just put my headphones in so that I would never have to talk to people. I would go weeks at a time without having a conversation with anyone but the cat. It was a very unhealthy situation, and I recognized it, but didn’t know how to break it. I remember very clearly a moment of clarity. I was watching a movie in the afternoon and had made deviled eggs. (I don’t typically watch a lot of tv) So three movies later, it had gotten dark outside, and I was still laying on the couch, in a dark room, with the pan of deviled eggs on my chest, as well as deviled eggs on my clothes. I didn’t have the energy to get up and move around, or to even clean myself off. I just laid there and pondered. What the fuck am I doing with my life!! Motivation can be derived from extreme dissatisfaction. I found inspiration from the version of myself that I didn’t want to be. You need a change.. to make a change. I don’t believe in running from your problems, but a new setting can give you a new start and an opportunity to try again. I ended up moving to Hawaii after that. Putting myself in uncomfortable situations has helped me grow and change, but I also have learned to nurture and accept myself for who I am. I am still not completely comfortable with the silences, and in situations that I shut down. We are all a work in progress.