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How to Survive Being an Introvert in an Extrovert’s World

“Why are we like this?” I found myself saying to my friend over the phone the other day, the guilt and embarrassment hot in my throat.

I was in my room, alone, with the doors shut, while conversation buzzed outside. I had been around people all day, and I was drained. Beautiful humans, interesting humans, good, great, heart-of-gold humans.

And yet, by about 9pm, I was done.

I had that deep voice in my head, the one that is me and also isn’t me, saying ‘ok. It’s time to come home now. It’s time to pull inward. It’s time to retreat and recollect yourself.’

When this happens, I really need to just be alone. Every single word out of my mouth to someone after this point,  feels like a Herculean effort. There’s nothing to do, at this point, than bail.

I know am not alone in this. Yet I feel like there’s still such a widespread misconception about people who need to recharge their batteries in solitude- call them introverts, if you want.

There’s this idea that we’re antisocial.

That we hate people.

That we’re weird little loners that stay up until 4am on Game Of Thrones fan fiction chat rooms with one hand down our pants and one in a family-sized bag of hot Cheetos.

Not that there’s anything wrong it that. If that’s your thing, you do you.

But this misconception that introverts are somehow socially impaired is really dangerous. It forces people like that into thinking they are somehow ‘broken’ or ‘wrong.’ That as humans, we should want to be around our community at all times. That we should be open to meeting new people, at all times. That we should trust people, immediately, rather than take a few goes to open up.

This misconception suggests that to crave retraction, and solitude, and silence, is to be fundamentally flawed. Is to be doing the whole ‘human’ thing wrong.

There is a reason I write for a living. Because if I had to sit in a box making small talk all day, I’d probably die. Like, for real.

People are always so supportive of my writing and the way I think and my brain works, until they see it in practice. Until they have to live alongside it. Because the two work together.

Then they’re like… oh.

Sometimes even like… yikes.

They think it’s living my life as normal and demurely opening up a laptop or pulling out a pen here and there.

No.

This thing swallows my life whole. Because I have chosen to let it.

It is 24/7.

It’s constantly moving the blocks around in my mind, picturing words in my head and how to put them together. It’s seeing how when a man and woman walk down a path from opposite directions, 95% of the time the woman will move out of the way first. It’s seeing that, wondering what’s behind that. What that says about dynamics between men and women as a whole.

It’s fighting against every basic survival instinct every time I go surfing, to breathe, to be in control, to stay out of danger, and wanting to deconstruct the layers of that on paper. What is in fear? Can fear every truly be transcended? Are our limits there to keep us safe, or keep us trapped? Should we honour them or bust through them?

I need to listen carefully to these things. If I spend too long in group settings or don’t pick up a pen to write for a few days, I start to feel a homesickness, like I miss myself.

“We have a different relationship to our thoughts than most” my friend replied on the phone the other night.

And it’s true. Usually people who recharge in solitude have a LOT of activity going on in their minds. Throughout the day, we are pulling apart ideas and concepts, layer after layer, fleshing out the possibilities so far it can momentarily feel like we have travelled to a new place entirely. Or we’re creating, writing an article or painting a canvas in our minds, thinking where the colours would go, lining the words in the sentence up like beads on a bracelet. It gets wild in there. Let’s just say that.

So when the outside world gets too loud, and too much is happening around us, it can feel like… overload. And like a cat trying to dodge the clutches of an over-energetic toddler, we need to get dafuq out of there, stat.

Does it make me feel like a loser sometimes?

Yes.

Do I think to myself a million times a day ‘why can’t you just get it together and be a normal human, Cait?’ I think to myself when I decline an offer to go to a friends barbecue, or drinks, or whatever.

Also yes.

How do you explain to an extrovert you can’t handle having friends over right now, because emotionally/ energetically you are running on empty? You have no stores left, no room for others right now.

Here’s the thing.

This is what I want to say to those who recharge their energy stores in solitude. The creatives. The thinkers. The ones who always feel a bit like socially, they’re zigging while the whole world zags.

I know sometimes you wish to just be normal.

But there is no normal.

Out of 8 billion people on the planet, it is unrealistic – nay, impossible- to determine some base line expectation of ‘normal.’

And if you don’t listen to your boundaries, to your needs, that’s a form of self violence right there.

You are not difficult to love. Okay? Do not be with or around anyone who makes you feel like who you are is difficult to love.

In terms of relationships, with friends, with coworkers, with family, with partners.

The key isn’t to bow down to the needs of others and negate yours. To push yourself into doing things you don’t want to do, like meeting friends in a crowded club, while the music drills into your skull. To push yourself to go some bullshit ‘networking’ event your friend wants to drag you along to – knowing small talk makes you feel like you are slowly bleeding out -is a form of self-violence.

You need to honour and protect your needs. That’s the only way. It is actually a form of love to your communtiy, to those around you. Because they can not guess what you need, and what your limits are. It is up to you to vocalise them, and to honour them.

I try explain the best I can my boundaries to people and why I need them, I don’t expect them to just guess who I am and what I need.

Here is the final misconception about introverts; we hate people. Actually, it’s the opposite. We love people. We love people so much that we want to be at our 100% best when we are around around those we love. We want to be 100% present, and there, willing to give our all. When we’re alone for too long, we get that craving. I need shared laughter. I need skin. I need touch. I need connection. I need love.

We just want better quality time with those we love. A one-on-one chat, or a small intimate dinner over wine or rum or whatever, the conversation flowing. Not shouting into the side of a friends head at some crowded bar or backyard party.

When I do all this, I see my ‘introversion’ for what it is- a super power. A sixth spidey-sense that allows me to see, hear and feel the world in deeper, richer textures. I hear what isn’t said between people’s words. I get clues in sounds and tastes as I move through the day. I am open to downloads that seem to drop into my head out of nowhere, ideas and stories and concepts.

I wouldn’t trade that in for anything.

I encourage you to do the same.

 

Image via : @blissfulmilou

About the Author:

Caitlin is a journalist and writer from Australia. She’s into collecting and sharing the stories of other human people. Mostly women’s stories. You can find her at @caitlincreeper

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