I’m very picky with whom I give my energy to. I prefer to reserve my time, intensity and spirit exclusively to those who reflect sincerity. – Dau Voire
“You’re so quiet.”
“She hasn’t said anything in 20 minutes.”
My throat tightens and my stomach flips when I hear these words. What the fuck is wrong with me? SAY SOMETHING! ANYTHING WILL DO! I can’t even string together a few words to save myself from this torturous situation.
I’m surrounded by people I hardly know and I feel trapped.
This is the reality of being an introvert.
Fight or Flight
Its taken me up until this point in my life to finally accept the fact that yes, I’m an introvert. I still don’t think I’ve fully grasped it, because I put myself in uncomfortable situations, hoping I will break out of my cocoon and evolve into a social butterfly.
Since moving to Vancouver, I’ve had lots of time for introspection. While I’ve known I’m an introverted person for a couple of years now, I didn’t really think about what that meant until recently. A couple of months ago, a new friend invited me out to celebrate her birthday. I knew she would be the only person I’d know in the group, but I felt completely confident and even excited because she was one of few friends I’ve been able to connect with on a mental level. Although we didn’t know each other well, we both had very similar personality traits, and one-on-one I could be myself completely.
The night of the celebration came around, and it started off very well. I met with my friend (let’s call her Kelly) and her cousin at a Sky Train station and we headed downtown together. The entire ride was full of laughter and silliness, and it was wonderful. The plan was to head to a pub downtown near Rogers Arena to meet Kelly’s other girlfriends who had just come from a Canucks-Leafs game (Leafs won that night!). Upon hearing the plan I was excited and relieved. I’m a hockey lover myself, so hearing the news that her friends had just come from a game, I already knew I’d have a talking-topic to break the ice (pun most definitely intended). When we arrived at the pub I was euphoric. The pub was filled with hockey fans who had just left the game, Kelly’s friends included. I introduced myself to the two girls, and then I said to one of them (we will name her Beatrice), “So I heard you were at the Leafs game?” She coldly said, “No. We were at the Canucks game.” I may be naive, but I didn’t immediately pick up on her sarcasm. I was thinking in my head, maybe she isn’t a huge hockey fan, does she not realize the Leafs played the Canucks? Just as this thought left my mind, she points to me while addressing the other girls and said, “She just asked me if we were at the Leafs game and I said, No. We were at the Canucks game.” This is when things began to spiral downwards for me. My confidence in this situation was completely shattered, I started to enclose myself, I started to panic. And this all happened before we even had a table.
As we were sitting down, Beatrice began her interrogation, “Who is your favourite player on the Leafs.” Yes, I ended that sentence with a period. If you’re a female sports fan, I’m sure you’ve been quizzed like this before. It’s not so much a question as it is your opportunity to prove that you are indeed a sports fan. I began explaining honestly that the Leafs as of late haven’t been very good, so I’d have to pick a retired player as my favourite, Mats Sundin. She shot back at me, “So you don’t have a favourite player.” And those were the last words she spoke to me. After this, every time I tried to interject in the conversation, there was silence and I was hardly acknowledged. This is when I began to get that all too familiar feeling again. The lump in my throat and that suffocating feeling of extreme social anxiety that wouldn’t surpass. I shut down completely, stopped talking and sat in silence. I entered fight or flight mode, and this time, I chose flight. I excused myself to the washroom and I left. The moment I exited the pub I broke down in tears, and what I can only assume was some sort of panic attack. I immediately called my boyfriend and asked if he would pick me up. I had barely been gone an hour.
I wish I had handled this situation differently, as my friend Kelly and I haven’t really spoken since. After the fact she was gracious and understanding of my selfish decision to flee her birthday celebration, but I understand why she wouldn’t want that in her life. I wouldn’t either. I should have told her honestly why I needed to leave, or just told her, “Hey I’m extremely uncomfortable and probably seem like a mute, I better take off.”I didn’t know how to say these things, because at the time I felt so shot down, so mentally drained and so trapped in my own mental battles that I felt I couldn’t speak.
If you aren’t an introvert you may not understand why this traumatized me for a while. I’m used to feeling mental exhaustion after a night out with friends, no matter who those friends are. That’s a reality I’ve accepted. After being busy with social events involving more than one or two people, I need alone time to recharge and recuperate. This particular bad experience had me feeling drained for much longer. Initially I was battling embarrassment from my dramatic exit coupled with disappointment in myself. I shut myself away from the world because I was scared to put myself out there and get shut down again. But as my favourite fictional character Dumbledore once said, Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.
I spent this alone time in deep self reflection, finally allowing myself happiness in my own right. I began blogging again, finally finding the confidence to share my writing and thoughts with someone other than myself. I also reconnected with an old friend who has never asked me to talk when I’m quiet, someone who has never drained me of my energy: Mother Nature. Hikes became a weekly venture, and while my body may tire and grow sore, my mind is peaceful and quiet. I’m not suggesting that all introverts need to cut themselves off from socializing, but during my own mental battle it was exactly the remedy I needed. You can look up the standard definition of introvert, but I think it’s a trait that is different for each individual. Here are a few personal traits that I associate with introversion:
- I experience mental exhaustion during and following social situations involving a group or people I am not familiar with.
- I need to “recharge” following social situations. I often don’t enjoy sleepovers because it allows me no recharge time.
- I have a difficult time hosting people in my house. My home is my safe zone, it’s where I can relax my brain after a long day of being surrounded by people (at work, etc).
- I am terrible at small talk. I am very unlikely to initiate it, but I greatly appreciate someone who can get the ball rolling.
- If I am talkative around you, it means I trust you and/or feel comfortable around you.
- I pick up on bad or negative energy right away. I also pick up on positive energy right away. If I don’t like your energy, I will find a way to escape.
I’m not writing this blog post to share my expertise on the topic. All I can share is my personal experiences and hope that someone can relate. Furthermore, if my friends or family read this, I’m hoping it will give you a little insight into why I am the way I am. For many years I didn’t understand why I didn’t want to see my friends everyday. During university I avoided short trips home because I knew that meant being surrounded by people everyday and every night. I avoided sleep overs because I knew night time was the only chance I’d have to recharge before the next day of visiting and catching up began. I know it sounds selfish, but this is my reality and it has taken me until this point to truly understand myself. I am so grateful to my friends and family for putting up with me while I’ve been trying to find myself.
Some Advice for My Fellow Introverts
If you are having a difficult time balancing your introversion with your life the way I did, I’d like to share some words of advice. I’m no psychology expert by any means, and I still struggle sometimes, but I’m still hoping I can provide some sort of guidance and support.
It’s OK to enjoy spending time with yourself rather than in large groups
I promise, it’s okay. If anything, it’s truly a blessing. Don’t worry about those people on social media who have 20 bridesmaids in their wedding or photos with different people every weekend. That’s perfectly fine too! But at the end of the day, you’re the only person you have, so if you find fulfillment in hanging out with yourself, you won’t need to seek it elsewhere.
Don’t set yourself up for failure
I’ve done this far too many times. I’ve made plans to see people a few nights in a row, and then when the time comes I’m absolutely dreading it because I haven’t allowed myself any “me” time. Don’t overwhelm yourself with more socializing than you can handle. You’ll only run yourself to the ground and disappoint your friends when you are too exhausted to follow through on your plans. On the topic of friends,
If you think you’re an introvert, it’s in your best interest to share this with your friends and family
They probably already know, but if you address it, they should have a better understanding of why you need so much alone time. Especially with your extroverted friends. I personally find that I associate better with extroverted personalities. When I’m in a room with another introvert, it’s usually horribly uncomfortable because neither of us know what to say. That being said, my extroverted friends are often let down by me because I can’t keep up with them. If you explain to them why you may not be able to hang out as much as they would like, they should understand. If you avoid expressing your introversion to them, they may take it personally and over time it will harm your relationship.
It’s OK to not have a gaggle of friends
For far too long it upset me that I have like, 4 friends. It would have me in tears, wondering what is so wrong with me that I don’t have an army of girlfriends to see everyday? And the truth is, I’M the reason I don’t have a ton of friends. I’m sure there have been tons of opportunities which I have shot down because I’d rather be alone. Now, I am so grateful for the few amazing friends I do have. They are life long friends who I’ve bonded with on many levels, and you don’t need “filler” friends to waste your time. Cherish your wonderful friends who have been by your side through the good and the bad.
That’s all for today. If you’re a fellow introvert, extrovert, or anything in between, I’d love to hear your stories or your tips on how to find balance. Please share below, I seriously love interacting with the blogging community.
Happy Saturday 🙂