I have always known that I am somehow ‘different’, I just never understood how. My whole life I have struggled with interactions with other people and fostering relationships. Some labels I had for how I felt addressed the symptoms, but not the cause. I enjoy being different, it has been a guiding force in my life, but it’s not an easy path. Sometimes it’s downright lonely.
Why did it take me so long to realise I am an introvert? It’s kind of puzzling looking back as a 31 year old. I think it’s down to feeling that I had to change myself in order to do things like other people, in order to fit in. My independence and stubbornness are two of my traits that I value very highly, but sometimes you just want to get along with other people. The trouble is I always felt like socialising was a game I was trying to play without understanding the rules. I thought it would come with time and practise… but it never did.
Someone asked me last year if I was an introvert or an extrovert. I remember replying that I thought I was somewhere in the middle, probably slightly more towards being an introvert. I knew the vague definition of introvert and extrovert at the time, what I didn’t realise was that this question held the key to something that has brought me much anxiety over the years.
I can hold my own socially for short periods of time, but it has never been easy. I don’t like crowds or excessive small talk, I get overwhelmed very easily and much prefer being by myself. I value genuine interaction with a small number of people and need to ‘recharge’ often.
Recently I had a lightbulb moment…
It’s so obvious. I am an introvert.
I wanted to learn more about what being an introvert is and since then things have started falling in to place for me.
Reading up on what being an introvert, specifically Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain brought on the biggest revelation I have had in my life. It made me realise not only that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way, but it gave me an appreciation of why and with it feeling of acceptance within myself.
She explains that being an extrovert is held up as the ideal within (Western) society, but actually introverts have lots of strengths of their own. Introvert vs extrovert is not all or nothing, but seems to be a complex matrix of traits which everyone has different amounts of. Discovering this has started me down a new path, I hope to towards a place of greater self acceptance and inner peace.
Recently I have been exploring what I want and need in order to get the right balance for me, instead of trying to meet some unknown target of what I think other people expect. I have called this ‘embracing my introvert’ and this autumn/winter it has looked a lot like hermitting. I have been valuing alone time and when I do socialise I have been trying to emphasis quality over quantity. I don’t have this completely figured out yet, but it has been a liberating experience so far and I can rest easy that I am not the only one out there.