Warning: None of this is meant to sound either lordly or deprecating. I think I’m just finally at that point where I have to say my two cents. I’m speaking from my own personal experiences and opinions with an intermediate level of research on the topic.
A few nights ago I did something I haven’t done in a long time. While attending a co-workers get together with my boyfriend that was full of people I didn’t know, I stormed out. Not in anger, but in an impatient rush to get out of the situation.
What situation you ask? A situation full of people conversing around a table regaling in small talk, alcohol, and an array of topics I didn’t find much interest in.
To an extrovert (most of the worlds population), this might seem like a wonderful occurrence, and like most extroverts, it will be easy to sink their teeth into this type of fare. You see, extroverts thrive on attention, on socializing in groups, while introverts thrive on small groups, one-on-one type situations, and long talks about one or two subjects. They may even get so bored as to completely block the conversation out and start thinking about something else entirely.
For some reason people find this strange, unsettling, and even frustrating.
Back to last night…
After taking my leave of the ‘party’ (another pet peeve of an introvert is having to stay somewhere longer than intended—say, if you tell the person you’re with you’d like to leave soon and more than fifteen minutes roll by while you’re growing more anxious by the second) my boyfriend was angry at me. Very angry. He screamed. He yelled. He told me that he couldn’t understand why I did what I did. Why I couldn’t just include myself in the conversation.
I can’t blame him for being angry.
He is, of course, an extrovert.
What most extroverts cannot fathom is someone who isn’t completely up for being in social situations spontaneously and frequently. For them, going out to to drink or party every night of the week is a dream. They revel in it. They can sit for hours in one place bouncing jokes off one another.
For introverts, it’s a soul sucking, energy draining, activity that we have to recharge from in order to be able to wake up in the morning and be productive (I’m speaking strictly for myself, mind you). For me, it takes a large amount of strength.
Even being at work, constantly talking to people, laughing at jokes, trying to keep up with the quips and comebacks that everyone seems to be vying for attention at the same time, exhausts me. To be thrown into the same type of situation directly after burns me out, and that is exactly what happened last night.
Needless to say, I was in tears the entire ride home. He was upset with me for being disrespectful and not including myself throughout the night. Upset that though it isn’t true, I tend to distance myself whenever we go out. I could have said this was a lie. That when we go out with people I know, people I’ve had multiple occasions to warm up to, I talk as much as anyone else. Instead I snorted and snotted into my Starbucks recycled napkin while contemplating jumping out the car window. I didn’t, of course. I sat quietly and took in the lecture because like most introverts, I’m a fantastic listener.
I’ve considered myself an introvert since about the age of eleven or twelve, but it wasn’t until recently I realized that more of the world is populated by extroverts who do no understand the science of their opposites.
We get labeled as boring, difficult, weird, because we do not fall into the same category, communicate the same way, or handle situations the same. I swear we aren’t doing it on purpose. We can’t help it. But I will not apologize for the way I am. Maybe I need therapy, but maybe I don’t. Either way, it’s amazing how long it’s taken, and how long it is still taking, for people to accept that personalities vary outside of someone being ‘loud’ and ‘an attention seeker’.
I won’t pretend to know everything there is to know, but I strongly recommend anyone dating or raising an introvert (my Mother never did her research and scarred me for life growing up because I never ‘acted right’ or there was ‘something wrong with me’) to read up on personality traits, triggers, and history of why we are the way we are. It will save you a lot of confusion and grief later down the line.
Going back to my story, I felt like shit the entire night (and well into the morning). I sat in the bathroom staring at myself in the mirror, willing myself to just be like everyone else. Willing myself to speak up about things I don’t particularly find interesting all for the sake of being accepted and liked by people I hardly know. It was high school all over again, and at twenty-seven, I felt absolutely ridiculous.
I sat on the bathroom for for ten, fifteen, thirty minutes wishing I were like everyone else, hoping that one day I’ll transform out of my body and into a body that can be the life of the party. And that, is something so toxic. Pair that with depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness, and you’ve a cocktail for disaster.
The frustration you have toward your Introvert doesn’t compare to the frustration your Introvert has over not being understood.
To all you intros:
Never apologize for who you are (unless you’re someone who goes around hurting people). And never make someone apologize for who they are (again, unless they go around hurting people). Attempt your best to make them understand. Be lighthearted (I know it’s hard), but be firm about the person you are because no one changes overnight. Besides, no one is asking an Extrovert to tone it down or be a little more reserved.
And for all you extros, I leave you with this:
Be patient. Be calm. Be understanding.
Yes, there are days when we want to be left alone. Yes, it gets tiring being around someone who just wants to write all day or read on a Saturday night. And yes, we get quiet a lot, but it’s probably because we’re thinking about the state of the Union and the probability that Keats will rise from the grave and regale us with some poetry that is much needed.
Maybe we aren’t like your ex girl-friend who was the center of attention; whom everyone loved because of their outlandish in-your-face humor, or your former best friend who had everyone doubled over and cackling all night, but we have our own ways of shinning, of shocking the world… of living.
We’re funny (even if you don’t get our references every time), caring, and if my research is correct, brilliant as fuck. Studies show that Introverts typically have higher IQ’s (and tend to have artistic leanings), which means we have a hell of a lot to think about, so don’t sue us when we gaze off into space while you’re talking about some YouTube video you saw or show no interest when everyone is going on about a Facebook post.
We’re trying (though it might not seem like it). Trying to fit into a world that classifies us as ‘quiet’ or ‘shy’ or ‘bitchy’. Trying to feel comfortable in our own skins while finding a balance between wanting to be like everyone else and saying fuck it to the social expectations and norms forced on us when we’re born.
We are trying, but it’s up to you, the extrovert, to try too.
The worst thing in life is feeling like you’re somehow broken or damaged. The best feeling, is knowing despite not being perfect, there are people that have enough understanding and patience to handle your most difficult days.
So strive for that, kids. It’s the greatest gift you can give someone. And it’s free.