I’m a introvert.
This statement has recently been met with snorts of derision and ‘err, no you’re not!’. Well….yuh huh! It seems that introversion is often conflated with being shy/quiet, something which, in most circumstances, I’m not. I can seem a little withdrawn when I’m around lots of new people, but for the most part, I’m reasonably chatty and reasonably confident.
So why am I a paid up, card-carrying introvert? Well, chiefly because I often find prolonged socialising draining as fuck. I can be having the time of my life, and at some point a switch will flick in my head that says ‘Nope. Too much. I need pyjamas and Netflix and no people’. If I’ve been to a party you’ve hosted, I can guarantee you that I went to the bathroom at least once when I didn’t need to so that I could have a minute to myself. I may well have come back out and sung karaoke afterwards, but I needed that micro moment of me time first.
It can also mean that I will appear to be doing fine on the outside but will have a running interior monologue that goes something along the lines of ‘everyone thinks I’m weird…am I talking too much? Am I talking too little?! Quick, there’s the hint of a silence. FILL IT. TALK ABOUT POTATOES. TALK ABOUT FUCKING ANYTHING.’
I am by no means under the illusion that this is an experience unique to me, and in fact it was a really important thing for me to learn that it isn’t at all unique. A few years ago I read a book called Quiet (fellow introverts, it may genuinely change your life), and felt incredibly relieved to discover that things I had thought were ‘wrong’ about me were actually just my reactions to the world, and are not things to be judged as positive or negative, but simply things to notice and listen to about myself. Knowing that many people feel the same way allowed me to give myself a break, and develop coping mechanisms instead of fighting against my natural tendencies.
For instance, I could be going to drinks for a friend’s birthday where I won’t know many people. I now know myself well enough to realise that this may initially feel slightly uncomfortable, but that if I stay relaxed and out of my head, I’ll have a good time and, ideally, no-one will come out of it thinking that I’m a giant freak. If I turn up to the drinks assuming I’ll know everyone and instead am greeted a sea of unrecognisable faces, that’s when the little introvert bell will start ringing! Situations like this feel much trickier when they come without warning.
Sure, I’ve probably gone too far sometimes and used introversion as an excuse to not get out of my comfort zone, but I’m trying to learn when I genuinely need some quiet time and when I’m denying myself the opportunity to have fun because of a small amount of apprehension. It’s also been a bit of a revelation to learn, after living in a house of 5 for the last two years, that ‘time to myself’ need only be about half an hour- I don’t need hours and hours alone before I can face the world again.
I find myself talking about my introversion quite a lot (yep, an introvert who’s a Leo and an actress and talks about herself too much..). This is partly because I’ve always been fascinated by anything ‘personality’ related – I love a good Buzzfeed quiz – ‘Which Disney character are you?’, ‘Which root vegetable are you most like?’, ‘Which letter of the alphabet sums you up to a T’ (see what I did there?!). But I think it’s also partly because introversion is still widely misunderstood, and I could be talking to someone who feels the same as me but has never identified as ‘shy’ and therefore just assumes they’re crap at being social. And I want them to be able to fly their own introvert flag loud and proud.
Or quietly. Whatever floats their boat.
(Written in bed in pajamas with the door closed)