All of my life I feel like I’ve been fed a pseudo-narrative that I must be an extrovert.
You love performing!
You get along with people so well!
You love it when there’s an audience around!
You must be an extrovert.
Somewhere deep down, I feel like I’ve always known that I was an introvert and that people were mistaken and thus feeding me a false narrative about my life and who I was/am. Now, here I am at twenty-something finally admitting to myself… I’m definitely not an extrovert. I’m truly an introvert.
I think for the longest time it was difficult for me to grapple with how someone could be sociable and still identify as an introvert. It’s as if any social skills automatically made someone an extrovert, but nothing could be further from the truth.
While this isn’t to say that I feel alluring or exceedingly charming, I have often thought to myself “I like people,” for the most part, but the deeper reality is that I find socializing extremely exhausting and challenging. It becomes more and more evident as I get older; and I have to admit that I would much rather a day alone with my cats than to go a party or even a small social gathering.
I have friends who have been complaining about how they hate their online courses and would prefer to study in person because they miss the social interactions they have while being at school and I think to myself often… I can’t relate.
I guess there’s the reality that I had an internalized fear that admitting my distaste for prolonged social events would classify me as having some sort of anti-social personality disorder, especially as I continually felt the need to pry away from the “friends” I had. I always had the feeling of being isolated and wanting to leave social situations, though I often chalked it up to being “awkward” or “weird” and thought to myself that I was going to grow out of it. Later self-identifying it as social anxiety and paranoia, though I’m not sure how I feel about that now.
Thinking back on my college days brings up some terrible memories of how inebriated I had to be just to be able to deal with a group of extroverted theatre people and I can’t help but remember how many times I had to tell myself that “everyone is doing it” not stopping to think about how much more I was drinking in comparison to others or even trying to realize just how much I hated the amount of partying “our year” had and just parties in general. But “that’s the industry” and I often still wonder why I found myself in the industry I was in.
I remember getting out into the professional world and how many mixers I had to participate in if I “wanted the job.” The amount of preparation I had to take just to get myself out of the house and later feeling completely incapacitated with the strength to go to mixers and soon opening nights and finally to leave the house at all.
I remember how many “after parties” and “opening nights” I wanted to leave early, but simply didn’t because I understood the social stigma it had, knowing full well that many people who leave early are spoken about badly and are often not rehired by a company.
Many of those nights left me blackout drunk and had me wondering how I even got home.
The feeling of distaste got so strong for me that after a while, I swear, I almost stopped seeing people altogether, though admittedly the fear (and I note this was an ignorant thought) that I would develop some sort of behavioural or anti-personality disorder was much stronger.
It’s weird because in junior-high I took one of those silly-not-so-silly personality tests that identified me as INFJ and somehow I didn’t take the hint that the “I” for introvert was really true for me. I even retook the test a couple of days ago just to see what I would score and got ISFJ which just solidified it even further.
I remember around that time always wanting friends and wanting to reach out to people, but what I didn’t identify was just how under-socialized I was, from being neglected and overly sheltered, so it would make sense to attempt to make friends with whoever I could especially if it was seemingly impossible to receive validation or attention at home.
I was unable to identify or differentiate between the need of small social interactions, which I obviously admit that I need, from the larger amount of social interactions others needed. I think growing up in the internet era really made that difficult to see because I was seemingly always logged in on MSN and would be happy to chat with my friends on there, but I didn’t take into account the amount of video games I would play or amount of time I would spend playing piano and composing.
For gods sake, I would spend hours recording music and publishing YouTube videos and not for the sake of “getting famous” or having people listen to my music, it was just my way of recharging and getting what I needed. Though let’s be honest here, there were times I was a thirsty ass bitch just because I sought out validation… *cough* love me some growing up.
I remember how often friends of mine would ask to hang out because they seemingly didn’t want to be alone and how often I had to fight myself not to say no because I thought there was something wrong with me for wanting to spend time alone.
In many cases, I had built up resentments for these friends, especially as many of our hang outs would comprise of us getting high or drunk, which I would use to mask my discomfort for many of the social interactions. Obviously, I’m also not going to blame all of my previous consumption habits on my introversion, especially as I’ve been navigating and learning about all of the trauma I held from my childhood, which I also believe lead to many of the decisions I made.
Even in recent years, I’ve taken notice of how often that feeling comes up, especially when friends repeatedly ask me to see them multiple times a week after literally just seeing them days before.
In the past year I’ve been really growing into myself and coming to terms with the person I really am.
I’ve been recognizing the ways in which I am different than others, especially those who I thought I was similar to just because we were both “artist types” or “emotional types” or whatever dumb classifications I would chalk it down to and I’ve been working on allowing myself the space to well… be alone.
I’ve been allowing myself the space to say no to social interactions I don’t want to have, such as mixers and large parties and have realized an immense difference in the way I feel and the way I feel about the social interactions I do have.
I admittedly really enjoy the small social gatherings and one-on-one hang outs I’ve been having and realize that I’m someone who only wants to see people once a month in most cases.
I love the fact that I work by myself from home and that both my husband and I are introverts and thus give each other as much space as the other needs.
I haven’t felt the need to drink or “smoke up” in order to cope with social interactions and have made the decision to allow myself to take the space and time I need even if I “feel bad” to.
It can feel somewhat selfish, but I’m ultimately coming to the realization that it’s a form of self-care that I need to participate in in order to actually function as a person.
I think it became even more evident when I was riddled with the same feelings I had growing up when moving in with what I would call an “extreme extrovert” who was unable to give me any space due to their strong needs for social interaction, which I don’t blame them for, but it’s funny because since moving in with my sister and her husband (for the time being) I haven’t felt those resentments and feelings at all, which I think is because of the energy my siblings carry from being introverts themselves.
It’s odd because I would say that I spend a lot of time with the both of them, but time doesn’t feel as exhaustive and it’s probably due to the fact that we spend a lot of our time together quietly or doing our own things and realistically… we let each other be alone when we need to be.
But I’m curious, do you identify as an introvert or an extrovert? Have you felt in anyways the same way as me? Do you feel the opposite? Let me know in the comments below.