People are always surprised when I tell them I’m an introvert. “Really?” They ask. “You seem so…” Fill in the blank:
- Socially adept
In general, there’s a stigma surrounding what it means to be an introvert. Introverts are the shy, awkward loners who sit in a corner avoiding people. I can’t count the amount of times someone has criticized another by saying, “They’re just so introverted!”
But the thing is… none of this has to do with being an introvert.
Introversion is seen as a negative trait when, in reality, it’s nothing of the sort. It has nothing to do with being socially awkward. It has to do with where you get your energy/rest. Extroverts gain their energy from being around other people–thus, they are seen as more social. Being alone drains them. Introverts are the opposite. Being around people drains them and they refuel by doing things alone. Another misconception is that you are either one or the other. I tend to see introversion and extroversion not as categories, but as a scale. On a scale of Introvert to Extrovert, where do you land?
I’ve always been an introvert, but it’s been a journey figuring out how to take care of myself. Because, opposed to popular belief, I actually really like being with people. When I was younger, I’d hang out with large groups of people all the time. While on church or band trips, where you’re surrounded by people, I didn’t know that I needed to pull away. Because I didn’t know how to take care of myself in this aspect, I’d find myself experiencing bursts of crabbiness that did nothing to help my friendships.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand my introversion much better. I’ve learned that removing myself from company and spending time alone is necessary to my mental health. I now plan “Me-Time” into my schedule. If I know I’ve got plans with friends or other social activities, I make sure to have time the day afterwards where I hang out by myself. If I’m going on a big trip where I’ll be surrounded by people all the time, I sometimes go off on my own while everyone is hanging out. Working at camp for three summers is a huge challenge for an introvert, but I usually managed to find time to sneak off on my own to re-fuel.
On the spectrum, I fall just to the left of the middle line. I’m an introvert, but I’m less introverted than many of my friends. I have found that too much time in my own head isn’t necessarily healthy. If I’m alone too long, I get angsty and lonely. That’s where the spectrum mindset it so useful. Because I’m aware, I’m very careful to balance people time with me time. This involves making plans with friends a few times a week while keeping enough nights free to be alone.
I love being an introvert! Most of my favorite pastimes require no company and the hours I spend reading, writing, and painting are what I most look forward to in the day. Sometimes, I feel like I live for the few hours in the evening where I retreat into my own little world.
Where, readers, do you fall on the spectrum? Are you an introvert? Extrovert? Or a bit of both? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments!
This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.