I’ve always been introverted, but I haven’t always understood what that means. It wasn’t until my early twenties, that the word introvert was bought to my attention, and that changed everything.
I’d often leave social situations feeling drained. I felt simultaneously jealous and grateful that I’m so different my older sister who was constantly out of the house and had more friends than I could count. I’d find myself paranoid that there was insult intended when my mum referred to me as her ‘home bird’. I didn’t understand why I always struggled to speak up, why my thoughts were louder than my voice. I soon learned the difference between being alone, and feeling alone. I often wanted to be alone, but never want to feel alone again.
My friends and family seemed to flourish when surrounded by friends, acquaintances and even strangers, yet I’d find my words tangled, and a desire to be at home with a good book. When I compared myself to others, I found myself unnecessarily ashamed, uncertain and embarrassed. At the time, I wrongly perceived my shyness, and lack of confidence as a negative trait and turn, the little confidence I had suffered as I became more aware of my introverted personality. As I didn’t know the name for it, I couldn’t give it the label it should have had. Instead, I labelled it as a problem with myself. I realised I didn’t want to make too many plans, and I’d feel better after an evening at home rather than a night partying. Plans would get cancelled, I would feel flaky, and wonder why I was the only person on earth who found comfort in being alone. I thought there was something wrong with me. Then I stumbled across this video.
I’m not sure why it took me so long to come across the words introvert or extrovert. That doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I did come across it. I watched that video, and I felt as though a weight had been lifted.
Finally it clicked that what I’d be struggling with, even ashamed of, is a legitimate thing, not a figment of my imagination. It’s a personality trait, not a mis-wiring in my brain. There is not something wrong with me. I am not selfish for wanting to spend time alone, or incapable of socialising. It’s something which adds to the many things that make me me, it doesn’t take away from what I do, or who I am. I didn’t recognise this before, instead I looked to myself for faults rather than looking to the world around me to learn that although it often feels like it, I am not alone in this.
Suddenly, my shame was diminished. I no longer felt sorry for myself because of what I once thought was in inability to fit in. I was now empowered. Like a child who has learnt to say ‘Mummy’ for the first time, I repeated the word introvert over and over to myself. I finally felt as though I understood myself. I realised that quiet and powerful can co-exist, for at that moment in time, I was both. One did not take from the other, and I was naive to have once believed so. Although completely alone, I didn’t feel alone. I wasn’t the odd one out.
I realised that I wasn’t ‘just shy’ as was often patronisingly described. I was no longer ashamed of choosing nights in, and stopped pretending I was up I was for the plans that I dreaded, and then cancelled last minute due to the rush of anxiety surrounding what I’d agreed to. Instead, I became upfront with friends, I became less flaky. I stopped pretending to be somebody else with the understanding my friends like me, for me. And, just as they are aware of my other personality traits, they are aware that I’m introverted, and they still like me. And I like myself too.