36 In Anxiety/ Mental Health

Being an introvert in a world full of extroverts

 

Being an introvert in a world full of extroverts

Most people are surprised to hear I’m an introvert, especially since I’ve shared my life all over social media and this very blog for 6+ years.

The irony is I’ve also developed a bit of a reputation over the last few years for being loud, outspoken, opinionated, and for being a gal who likes to laughs way too loud (scarring babies kinda loud).

The truth is I still struggle with being an introvert more than I like to admit. Between the shame of being labelled as ‘too shy’ or people trying to intentionally embarrass you, to being called or thought of as just plain ‘weird’, sometimes being an introvert is a heavy burden.

It took me years to acknowledge there wasn’t anything wrong with being ‘shy‘.

A boyfriend of a former best friend once commented to my face on how ‘uninteresting’ I was because I never had anything to say. And then there was the former 2-up manager who once asked me snidely if I had anything else to say other than ‘I was good thank you’. Others would laugh and ridicule me on seeing me blush over nothing, thus only making me blush harder. And then there’s the times I was told I was weird, sensitive, emotional, dull, and shy.

For years I felt so ASHAMED of my shyness.

Of my constant blushing and stuttering, of being quiet, of being my mousey self. I would blush at the drop of a hat, stutter and stumble over my words AND feet, and walk into walls. Quiet as a mouse, I tended to stick to the corner, the back of the room, the shade, or even my favourite place – nearest the closest or least crowded exit for a quick escape. I was like Houdini. I could vanish in so much as a puff of smoke without anyone realising I was gone – or that I had even been there.

“Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was.” – Cheryl Strayed

The day I realised this thing called ‘introversion’, well, my life changed to say the least!

To think there were other people out there around the world who also loved losing themselves in books and movies or the fantasies in their heads, writing quietly, lengthy deep and meaningful’s in a dark corner of a cafe late at night, and spending days at a time by themselves. They also seemed permanently exhausted from the smallest of social interactions (us introverts call that a social hangover), and functioned better in groups of 3 or less.

As Michaela Chung explains on her fabulous blog, Introvert Spring;

For introverts, introspection comes as naturally as breathing. We love to explore the colorful landscapes of our imagination. Many of us have been criticized for our mind wandering. We’ve been told to get our head out of the clouds and stop daydreaming. What people don’t understand is that there is a good reason for our inward ways.

The outside world often feels like an assaulting force for introverts. At every turn there are energy vampires threatening to suck us dry. Turning inward is as much a means of survival as it is a source of comfort. Our love of introspection also brings meaning and direction to our life. – Michaela Chung

To learn I was an introvert meant I no longer felt so alone in the comfort of my lounge room, sitting on the couch under a pile of blankets with my dog.

social hangover

Being an introvert doesn’t mean you are rude. And it doesn’t mean you’re a weirdo.

I know people have considered me rude, ignorant, disinterested, or just plain stuck up in the past. I’ve overheard people say as much. And I can understand why BUT generally us introverts don’t intend to be rude. Most of the times we’re just struggling internally with what to say, what to do, what to think or feel, or how to escape…

Social interaction is hard work for an introvert, especially if idle chit-chat is needed. I mean, what to say? How to act? How to stand? Does the person you’re talking to even like you? Do they want to be there? And what if they don’t? Are they really interested in talking to you? In what you’re saying? What if they just talk about themselves? And what if they ask you about yourself?

I’ve spent plenty of parties with my head stuck in my phone pretending to be engrossed in an email or busy with something, where is I was really just trying to avoid any kind of social interaction, uncomfortable chit-chat, or worse, uncomfortable silences.

I’ve spent a lot of time in toilet cubicles to avoid crowds of people and to plan my escape.

I’ve faked sickness to leave places early [It’s either that or I’ve made myself physically ill from anxiety and had to leave because I was really sick!]. I’ve also faked illness to avoid going places [and again made myself sick at the mere thought of going or having to make an excuse to not go].

I’ve also drank way too much too many times, providing me with dutch courage to become the life of the party, the only problem being I’d only disappoint next time showing up as my true sober introvert self. The solution? To drink again.

Keeping up with a world full of extroverts

“It can be hard for extroverts to understand how badly introverts need to recharge at the end of a busy day. We all empathise with a sleep-deprived mate who comes home from work too tired to talk, but it’s harder to grasp that social overstimulation can be just as exhausting.” Quiet – Susan Cain 2012

The difference between extroverts and introverts

For us introverts, it can be draining trying to get a word in edgewise when surrounded by extroverts.

Most of the time I love nothing more than a good old ‘deep and meaningful’. Show me your authentic self, cut out the idle chit-chat, dig deep and PLEASE don’t bullshit. I’d rather get to know you – the real you – warts and all. 

At other times, I’m perfectly content to listen to the more extroverted folks waffle on about stuff (if it’s interesting and they make me laugh a lot!).

Do you know where you sit on the extrovert-introvert spectrum? Try the Quiet Revolution Personality Test.

Introverts need to prioritise self-care

After learning the hard way through multiple burn-outs and wake up calls, I acknowledge I need to make self-care my #1 priority.

The fact is, parties, networking events, conferences, face-to-face training courses, shopping, socialising, people-ing, they all leave me exhausted.

And some days. Some days I just don’t want to people. I’d rather stick to the couch like glue for the entire day, barely moving to feed and water myself, then face the world. I find I live best in short spurts with regular down time. And if I don’t fit in regular down time into my life I turn into Miss Cranky Pants or Ms. Accident-waiting-to-happen due to fatigue (thus three car accidents in one and a half years). This means scheduling in regular me-time – an introverts best friendMe-time is my special time to recharge the batteries which often run dry by over stimulation and … people (especially the extroverted ones), and if that me-time means I need a couch day without guilt, then so be it.

In need of some self-care ideas? Here’s 64 of them!

Blogging gives this little introvert a voice

There’s a reason why I blog and spend a lot of time ‘socialising‘ on social media. They give this little ‘shy as a mouse’ introvert a voice – one I struggled to find before.

Blogging and social media has helped to free me from the grips of social anxiety. Behind my laptop screen, no one can see me blush, and no one hears me stutter. I also have the time to think about what I want to say instead of pausing for uncomfortable silences of gaffing over a poor choice of words because my mind and mouth aren’t on the same page.

“The same person who would never raise [their] hand in a lecture hall of two hundred people might blog to two thousand, or two million, without thinking twice. The same person who finds it difficult to introduce himself to strangers might establish a presence online and then extend these relationship into the real world.” Quiet – Susan Cain 2012

Funnily enough, blogging has also opened me up more in real-life. I talk more. I handle conversations so much better. I’m more open and honest. I don’t freak out as much in groups of 2 people or more, and I own my story. Oh, and obviously I write better…and freer.

No, blogging hasn’t changed the borderline phobia over going somewhere or the crash and burn feeling following these experiences, but at least I can now prepare myself, practice self-care, and build in time for some well-needed rest regularly!

Introvert-Quiet-Manifesto-Susan-Cain-Facebook

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  • Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A. @Cerebrations.biz
    November 22, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    I have found that most shy folks are more reticent than the stereotypically shy… They are wonderful in the smaller crowds when they don’t have to be “that” center of attention…

  • Bonnie
    November 23, 2011 at 1:54 am

    As a fellow shy person I can agree with you that there isn’t anything wrong with you! You are right the world needs all sorts of people. As long as your shyness isn’t preventing you from doing things that you need to do or want to do I say embrace who you are!

  • Jennifer Radtke
    November 23, 2011 at 2:34 am

    I am going to print this off and give it to my 7-year-old and maybe her teachers. I agree with them that she needs to respond in class but maybe if they know this that they might not panic so much. She’s smart and she gets her work done and does it well. She is getting better with the challenge to talk to one person a day in her classroom. She got bullied in kindergarten and I think it caused her to tuck in and be afraid of letting anyone get too close. But I was shy as a kid too…most of my life…may still be…so I understand what she’s going through and you. Thank you for sharing.

    • neanster77
      November 29, 2011 at 8:08 pm

      Hi Jennifer – this is the most amazing comment anyone has ever left for me! I am so glad that you have found it helpful and I wish your little one strength to remain true to herself and strength to not let the past bullying affect her too much.

  • Roberta Budvietas
    November 23, 2011 at 4:01 am

    One day we will stop boxing people by how we perceive them. In some situations, i am shy, in others I am anything but. Now as an introvert, I push myself to be out there because I need to for business.
    And shy people often observe so much because they watch rather than be the centro of attention.
    Good post and I hope a lot of shy people comment

    • neanster77
      November 29, 2011 at 8:10 pm

      That is a great point to make Roberta. I have always been a people watcher myself, and in turn have learnt so much about people, behaviours, the world…

  • Tambre Leighn/coaching by tambre
    November 23, 2011 at 4:42 am

    Can you imagine?! if everyone was the same…and everyone was chatty and outgoing? That image made me laugh at first…imagine the noise? But then I thought, imagine the energy, the vitality. As a child, I would burst into a room full of enthusiasm, until others made it clear that my high level of every day happiness was…well, annoying. For a long time, I dimmed my light to fit in. Now people just have to deal with my wild enthusiasm for life or hang out somewhere else. I spent years lost in the dark hole of grief. I love my life now and I’m willing to share a ton of amazing energy and passion with anyone interested in playing that game. I don’t judge others for being different but I no longer care to put me in a box. Honoring each other for our uniqueness and allowing everyone to be who they are without judgment…now there’s something to shoot for.

  • kylie
    November 23, 2011 at 7:26 am

    I have found that the older the worse I get. I don’t do well in big crowds, the thought of having a party is great until the day of it and I find my discomfort level is sky high. As a teenager and in my 20’s this would not have bothered me in the slightest, as a teenager I used to bubbly, out going. How this change happened I do not know but I have become shy and my daughter (6) is exhibiting some of my developed shyness, you are who you are Janine and being shy is what makes you you. If people judge you for being shy well they don’t deserve your friendship. “Nobody has the right to make you feel inferior with out your permission” – Elenore Roosevelt.

    • neanster77
      November 29, 2011 at 8:12 pm

      Kylie, I don’t do well in crowds these days either. That’s why I don’t go to a lot of concerts these days – if I do I hang on the outskirts! I think it is also because I have always felt a need for personal space, and don’t like people intruding that area (which at times is probably bigger than most peoples). I love the quote by the way!

  • Hocam
    November 23, 2011 at 7:47 am

    People think I’m brimming with confidence, and I am…….when I’m in my comfort zone. Take me out of it and I struggle with my demons. I am managing it better in latter times but it took a big effort to get here.
    There is nothing wrong with being shy, preferable to being loud in my opinion. But why do we make people wear labels and put them in boxes. To quote a favourite song of mine
    “All God’s creatures got a place in the choir
    Some sing low, some sing higher
    Some sing out loud on the telephone wire
    And some just clap their hands, or paws
    Or anything they got”

    • neanster77
      November 29, 2011 at 8:14 pm

      Thanks for sharing a bit about you and the quote from your fave song. It does seem like the age old question doesn’t it – why do we make people wear labels and put them in boxes – even when we don’t know we are doing it?

  • sarah
    November 23, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    I hear you! I’m shy as well, but moving to two different country towns in two and a half years has meant that I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone.

    While it’s fine to be shy, I think it’s important to try and meet people half way when they are making the first move in talking to you. While you know that any aloofness is because you’re shy, to them it probably looks like snobbery. I know I’ve felt so stupid when I’ve taken a huge step out of my comfort zone only for my efforts to not be reciprocated. I’ve felt like saying, “I’m shy too, but could you please at least TRY to talk to me.”

    • neanster77
      November 29, 2011 at 8:16 pm

      Hi Sarah – I must admit I think people have thought I was a snob in the past due to my shyness, mostly my partners mates. It’s just I had no idea what to talk to them about and have always sucked at the small chitter chatter / ‘getting to know you’ Q&A. I am getting better, but like you say – we do need to push ourselves a little to meet people half way.

  • MuMuGB
    November 23, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    You are your own specialty. I wouldn’t worry. Shyness is not an illness. I have spent years trying yo change me, only to find that I am what I am, flaws and everything…if I was in Perth having a coffee with you (which will happen, eventually…), I would sing you ‘you are beautiful…in every single way’ ….I am not sure that you would like my singing but you get the point!

  • Barbara
    November 23, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Definitely not! Nothing wrong there! I think some children are “naturally shy” or “prudent” and some children are “exuberant” or “bursting with enthusiasm”, and as we see from the comments this is not considerate a comme il faut behaviour by adults and the children are being reprimanded. Not so far away from the early 20th century standard “children should be seen and not heard”.

    I went from one extreme to the other as a child and in adolescence found my protective walls in being an obnoxious know-it-all. As Mary said I feel confident in my comfort zone, as to big crowds I never really mastered the art of small talk. But I found that it helps when asking open questions, let the others do all the talking and in the end they will walk away thinking you are a very smart and nice person!

    • neanster77
      November 29, 2011 at 8:18 pm

      Love those open-ended questions Barbara! It does help getting them to talk about themselves also I guess. You come across as ‘interested’ rather than a snob or disinterested.

  • Lynn Brown
    November 24, 2011 at 8:59 am

    When I stared my first job I was extremely shy. However, the more I learned and experienced life I ‘came out of my shell’. I’ve known shy people but then sometimes it is a matter of talking with them and then they feel comfortable to open up. I have no problems with being shy nor do I have problems with people being shy. We are all different, thank god! Appreciate you sharing your story Janine as it is a good reminder how different we all are.

  • Penelope J.
    November 24, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    I don’t think you were alone in your shyness. You would never believe how many other people fess up to being shy – far more than you can imagine. The most unlikely people may admit to having this problem and having to overcome it or find ways to deal with their shyness. It’s more a matter of how you handle your shyness, if you give into it or let it take over your social life, or if you try to overcome it. It’s very hard when you’re young and you have to deal with complexes and feelings of inferiority or lack of self-confidence, but with age, it gets better. You either get more relaxed or the opposite: retreat or can’t be bothered to even try to socialize.

    Nobody would ever call me shy yet inside, I am. I have a real problem going to parties unless I know a lot of people there and I rarely try to meet new people. Most times, I don’t enjoy myself at all. But in the course of my life, I’ve had to pretend the opposite, give the impression of being socially adept and full of self-confidence even when I’m trembling inside. Maybe that’s why I used to drink as it helped me to be more gregarious and outgoing. Since I stopped, I tend to isolate a lot more.

  • Hajra
    December 6, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    Ok, from one shy person to another…yes, the world needs people like us to reduce the noise pollution. Though I was embarrassingly shy as a teen, I somehow overcame the problem as I grew up. Most people see me as the bubbly, talkative person but yes, I bounce back… at wedding, parties and family gatherings I will be found occupying the corner most table sipping on whatever drink nearby and tactfully avoiding the cameras and overtly enthusiastic-to-meet-everyone people!

    But yes, like Roy mentions, shy people have been seen to do well in smaller crowds.

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  • Muriel
    September 8, 2014 at 12:20 am

    We are what we are, right? Personally, I blog because I don’t want anyone to hear my French accent. Just like you, people don’t believe that I am shy but I remain a very private person, and need time on my own from time to time. And you know what? I think that it is high time to accept ourselves…

  • Joy
    September 8, 2014 at 5:13 am

    I liked how you wrote that social media give ppl like us a voice and we are able to engage in conversations we otherwise would shy away from. Thanks for writing this, Janine.

    • Janine Ripper
      September 13, 2014 at 6:50 pm

      You’re most welcome Joy!

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  • Mackenzie Glanville
    March 8, 2016 at 10:45 am

    I love this post Janine and you know I can relate to it all. Beautiful written xx

  • Cathy Tittle
    March 13, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    As a pretend extrovert, I really identified with this post Janine. It wasn’t until I went to college that I found my voice. And realized that for periods of time I can step up and be at the front of the line. But I am still a whole lot more comfortable in small groups and grind my teeth at having to make small talk in groups.

    Feel a whole lot better about who I am now…thanks 🙂

  • Bethany
    April 25, 2016 at 7:48 am

    Great post! I’m a introvert myself and have had the same experience with blogging, it leaves me feeling recharged and is so much more satisfying than communicating face to face. At least in some situations. It’s definitely easier to make friends online with people who have similar interests and social habits. Awesome words Janine!

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    July 5, 2016 at 2:31 am

    As a fellow introvert, I have learned that many people are afraid but the ones that truly want to know (and those who really care) you make the effort. Those are the people worth knowing.

  • Paula, The Geeky Shopaholic
    July 13, 2016 at 2:55 am

    “Behind my laptop screen, no one can see me blush, and no one hears me stutter. I also have the time to think about what I want to say instead of pausing for uncomfortable silences of gaffing over a poor choice of words because my mind and mouth aren’t on the same page.” – I felt like you were writing this for me! 🙂

    • Janine Ripper
      July 13, 2016 at 2:14 pm

      I’m so glad you read it 🙂

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  • Michaela Chung
    August 3, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    Thanks for the great article, and for mentioning my work on Introvert Spring. 🙂 <3

    • Janine Ripper
      August 3, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      Thanks Michaela. Long-time reader – your blog has definitely helped me! Thanks for swinging by, I’m touched! xx

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