Is it just me, or are there a lot more introverts coming out of the woodwork lately?
I wonder if it’s because of the spate of humorous posts that have popped up on social media? Being an introvert these days almost feels like the popular thing to be. Kind of boggles my mind, to be honest, seeing “introvert” and “popular” in the same sentence, belonging together. Why only now? I could have used this when I was going through puberty.
I’ve always been an introvert. When I was a teenager, I took the Myers-Briggs personality type test. And while I don’t think it’s an exact science, and that it’s not supposed to define who you are, finding out I was what others would describe an INFP (introverted, intuitive, feeling, perceiving) was kind of freeing. And as much as I have accepted the way I am wired—introverted and all—and appreciate it most of the time, it’s not the easiest way to be.
When I was much younger, survival meant socializing. So socializing it was. It was mostly a painful process.
I was visible because I was very much into church and my youth group, but I hated with a passion having to introduce myself as a newcomer, having to greet everyone at the start of the gathering, or even having to go up front to speak. And those icebreaker games at youth gatherings? Don’t get me started!
But it was the norm, and to be different was even scarier.
Back then, homebodies were losers without friends. And being labeled a “bookworm” wasn’t exactly a compliment, and there were no prizes to win for choosing to spend time during the summer break completing a book list.
School was painful. Music class meant singing in public, and we had to all learn how to do public speaking. There were no allowances made for different temperaments. We were all expected to be extroverted. Thus, those who were natural extroverts shone in the spotlight, while those of us who spent more energy agonizing over a speech than the extroverts did preparing for it wilted through every presentation we were forced to do.
Looking back, I realize that because I was forced to measure up to a standard totally against my natural inclinations, I kept losing. And feeling inferior, as a result.
Now that I have my own family and home, it’s so much easier to just stay in my loft and do my own thing. Yet I haven’t gone the way of total seclusion. Yet.
I haven’t given up on community. I’ve just gotten wiser about it.
I now have smaller circles.
I enjoy coffee dates.
I prefer small groups.
I still don’t like bigger events like parties. Normally, from the moment I agree to go up to the second before I show up at wherever, I struggle with the desire to cancel because I really don’t feel like doing small talk.
Let me make it clear, however, that I don’t think being an introvert is better than being an extrovert. I think maybe being who you are, whatever that is, is better than anything.
For me, that means admitting I am completely happy with my own company. I’ve given myself permission to say no when I want to. And not feel guilty or see myself as a loser because I’m home on a Friday night. Or because I think being with my family is the best kind of party there is.
I no longer try to be an extrovert. I suck at small talk, so maybe the extroverted person I just met could try to like the silence for a change?
And when it comes to my writing, I force myself to publish my thoughts. See I love to write, but sharing feels a lot like sending my own child into the world. I balk and I cringe, not because I worry about people disagreeing with me, but because it’s a part of me I’m choosing to make public.
Growing up means learning to accept yourself, finally giving yourself permission to be who you are. It takes years of juggling forced awkward encounters with truly treasured moments to finally find the courage to say, “The heck with pretending!”
And that’s when life truly begins.