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.
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.
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
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 friend. Me-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!