I am an introvert and probably always have been and will be. That’s me. There have been times where I was less introverted than I am now or even more. I had a hard time admitting it and sometimes still have, it is something completely normal and a lot of people are introverts but it is still seen as something bad. Something considered weird. Why do you have to be an extrovert to be ‘normal’? When people think of introverts, they still have this vision of lonely people spending their days in their bedroom and knitting or playing video games having no life. It isn’t like this at all! Being an introvert is a character and you have days where it is easier to go out and have fun with a lot of people and then you have days where you just don’t feel like seeing anyone.
The brains of introverts and extroverts work differently, an introverted brain functions better when it is alone and the brain of an extrovert won’t function properly when it spends too much time on its own, getting the energy from others. For example, being with people drains my energy as opposed to extroverts who get their boost of energy by being with a big group of mates.
I have only recently really accepted that I am an introvert and that it is okay. Nobody should feel like it is a bad thing and that you aren’t normal. Since admitting it, my life has become a lot easier. I know that I can’t spend all day every day with people, that I need my ‘me’ time. I now plan it in like you would do for a hairdresser appointment and make sure that I get my time to recharge the batteries. To be honest, even though I have made peace with the idea that this is just me, I still have days where I feel like I should be different, doing more with others.
I often feel mentally exhausted after being with others for too long. I need my time and understanding this has made a huge difference for me. I also often try to avoid going out with too many people at once or being with someone for too long in a row unless the other person accepts how I am and knows that I need my space. Otherwise, I get anxious and feel like I am losing control over everything.
Sure, sometimes I feel like I am missing out or not living the life I should be living. I don’t go out a lot in the evening, I spend the majority of my time alone, I hate clubbing, I don’t mind eating out alone… Some might think I am a granny and boring but it is how I am and I enjoy my life how it is. Society shows how teens should live their lives – going out three times a week, having fun, getting drunk, spending the whole day and night with a huge group of mates, going on road trips with a group of ten,… – but this is not how I would enjoy spending my time. I would feel really anxious and not enjoy a second of it so why should I force myself just to fit in and be a ‘normal’ teen. I love having fun nights with a group of friends at home where everything feels intimate and comfortable (and I will always be the one having the best time and telling everybody to stay longer) I love going out for brunch or coffee and catch up with a friend, I love talking on Facetime for hours but then I know that I also need some time ‘off’ again.
This summer I went on a couple of trips with my family and whilst it was great and I had a good time, I had a whole lot of moments where the anxiety kicked in. I was with the whole family a few days in a row and there was no escape which is probably my biggest fear as an introvert. I need to know that I have some time by myself after being with others. And these moments where definitely missing during those trips. I felt like I didn’t fit it and therefore useless. I get so overwhelmed when I don’t get my downtime and it probably sounds very dramatic for extroverts but this is my life and now I know that planning is key. People might think that humans are made to socialise and spend time with others, meeting new people and don’t get me wrong I absolutely love meeting new people but I have t be in the mood for it. Like I said before, I have days where socialising seems so easy and I plan so much, looking forward to catching up and then there are days where I just feel like staying alone and seeing nobody. When I am with people that I know I am like a blooming flower and it is as if everything wakes up and gets bright. I love these moments and enjoy every single second of it but the flower has to close up again afterwards.
Imagine two glasses, one being the extroverted one and the other the introverted one. At a social event, the introverted one will fill up a lot faster than the other one. As soon as it is full, the ‘social, happy’ time is over. Whilst the extroverted one might need days to get full, the introverted one can fill up in just a few hours. It just is how it is and people might not understand it but as long as you know when it will spill over and the anxiety starts to come, everything is fine.
Now how is it to be an introverted person in a world that is so extroverted? Well, in my opinion, there are times where it is easier to live with it now than it was in the past. You can still socialize a lot without actually being with other people and you can meet people more easily thanks to social media. But there are also times where being an introvert can seem harder now, you see all these people on social media having the best time with all their mates day in day out, attending events, going to clubs, getting drunk at a friend’s place,… It can feel overwhelming and as if you are missing out and not living the life you should live. But then ask yourself if you would enjoy going to the club with a big group of friends? I wouldn’t so why do I still feel like I am missing out? Embrace the joy of missing out and forget about the fear of missing out!
Think about it, maybe what you see in those Instagram stories isn’t even their normal life. If they are posting it, maybe it is something special they don’t do very often. Maybe they are more introverted than you think they are. Don’t assume you know everyone based on what you see on their Instagram, it will only make you feel bad (I have written a whole post about what I think of social media here)
I often feel misunderstood or not understood at all, it can seem weird to enjoy being alone so much. But imagine it like recharging your batteries when you are alone. This time is essential and if you talk to people about it maybe they will understand you and respect it. I have a small group of friends where I can even become kind of an extrovert, feeling really at ease. They know how I am and everything is fine. For new people it is harder, they probably think that I don’t care and that I am very shy and have nothing to say, I just think A LOT before saying something. Maybe even overthink everything. After a while, it gets easier though and the extroverted part becomes stronger.
I really think that introverts and extroverts work very well together, balancing each other and getting the introverts out of their comfort zones and bringing the extroverts back to the roots. It is a good combination and probably a good mix for every relationship in life as long as you know the needs of the other person and respect them.
I have spent the last few years finding excuses to everything and always trying to avoid social events because I am not often in the mood for it. The biggest issue for me was probably having that ‘extroverted moment’ and saying yes to something and then regretting it as it approaches, again, trying to find an excuse. Now that I know that planning is key, these things get a lot easier.
The line between the ‘I love being alone’ feeling and feeling lonely is very small and it can quickly shift from one side to the other, hence why I am really grateful for social media and Whatsapp always being a call away from someone.
I am sorry for this long post and I promise that the next ones won’t be as long anymore but I hope that this can help introverts as much as extroverts to understand a bit more each other. Embracing it and loving my introversion has helped me a lot and I now know that I just have to plan a bit more and be prepared, knowing what I need to feel good.