Friday, December 20, 2013

A Story of an Introvert in Denial

A few weeks ago a person I follow on Tumblr was having a really hard time and I found myself relating to a lot of the things she was posting. I decided to message her my own experience with what she was struggling with. She said it really helped, so I decided to post it here for anyone else who might need to hear it.

For quite awhile I had been convinced I was doing college wrong. I wasn't making enough friends; I wasn't involved in enough organizations on campus; I spent most of my weekends at home instead of going out with all the people I was supposed to be meeting.

And the thing was I wanted to be doing all those things. I really did. I wanted to meet a ton of people and be super involved and everything else. So why wasn't I? Why wasn't I making a ton of new friends and hanging out with them all the time? Why wasn't I going out and getting involved in all the things on campus that interested me? This became a vicious cycle. I would become determined to get involved; I'd join a few clubs; I'd eventually stop going; I'd blame myself for not doing enough; Depression; Repeat.

I got extremely involved this past semester. This was the semester I was going to change everything. I was going to stick it out finally do things right. And for awhile I did.

The beginning of November, everything fell apart. I went to a Writing Center Conference in Tampa, FL, with about 10 of my colleagues. I was already a bit warn out because I had spent the previous weekend in Illinois at a Quidditch Tournament, and now I was in the car on my way to Florida. It was roughly a 22 hour car ride to the conference, followed by an amazing but stressful day of presentations on Saturday, followed by another morning of presentations- mine included- before packing back into the car for the 22 hour car ride home. Now for the person I thought I was, the person I thought I was supposed to be, this would not have been a huge issue. For the real me however, it turned into quite an ordeal. About half way home I couldn't handle being around people anymore. This had absolutely nothing to do with the people I was with; I love my fellow writing consultants, especially the people who I went to that conference with. I just could no longer handle being around people in general. It was too loud, too overwhelming, too much. I put my headphones in, turned my music up as loud as I could stand in an attempt to drown out the voices around me, and cried until I fell asleep.

The following weeks were unlike anything I had ever experienced. My anxiety spiked. The most innocent of comments had me thinking I had done something wrong. The tiniest confrontation- even when I was perfectly aware that we were joking around- made me feel like I was being verbally attacked. I almost cried in one of my classes simply because it meant people were talking around me. For the first time ever my anxiety started manifesting itself physically. I felt confined. My chest felt tight as if no matter how big a breath I took it would never been enough air.

I stopped going to everything outside of what was mandatory. I went to class; I went to work; I went home. This was the first big thing that forced me to realize that I couldn't go out and be around people all the time, even if I wanted to.

A few weeks later, while procrastinating on writing my papers, I decided to take the Briggs Personality Test again just for fun. The test had been circling the writing center, like it does every couple of months, so  I figured why not? This time, however, I focused on answering the questions the way I actually felt and actually did things, rather than what I wish I did or "would if I could". This time, for the first time ever, it rated me as an introvert. And not just slightly introverted, but 67% introverted. Now I know this test isn't wholly accurate or anything, but seeing the results and reading the INFJ description and seeing how well it fit me really helped me to accept myself as an introvert. It helped me to realize that there is nothing wrong me; it's just a part of who I am.

With this realization came the realization that there was also nothing wrong with not spending every Saturday night out with friends. If I want to stay in my sweatpants and have some quality time with my Netflix account, I will. My favorite books and television shows and fictional characters are important to me in ways a lot of people don't understand, but that doesn't make it bad. For so long I was convinced I was wasting my time by staying home on the weekends. I wasn't doing enough, or being productive enough, or seeing people enough. I was wrong, though. I'm not wasting my time if I choose to spend my Saturday night watching Sherlock; I'm doing what makes me happy.

The other important realization that came of all this is that there is a reason I don't have huge groups of friends: I am rather selective about the people I will spend my time with. I only have so much social energy to go around and I want to spend it on people I can really connect to. And that's okay. Because while I might not have a huge group of friends that  I hang out with all the time, the friends I do have, the people I choose to surround myself with, are absolutely amazing. And every moment I spend with them is time very well spent.

For so long I felt lost. I didn't know who I was and I didn't know how to figure it out. I felt broken, like there must be something wrong with me that made me not quite fit. I cannot even begin to explain how much better I feel after these realizations, about myself and my life. I can appreciate my down time so much more now that I'm not constantly feeling guilty about it. And I appreciate the time I do spend getting involved or hanging out with my friends so much more too because I'm not forcing it on myself anymore.

We live in a very extrovert-oriented society. One that tells us something is wrong with us if we don't act a certain way. But the thing is, not everyone is meant to live that way. Not everyone is meant to go out all the time, or have huge groups of friends that they spend all their time with. And that is okay. If you would rather spend Friday night curled up in bed with a book, then do it. Don't let anyone make you think there is anything wrong with that, or with you. I tried doing things the way the world told me I was supposed to and it doesn't work. You are so much better off accepting the way that you are and doing things that make the most sense to you. There is nothing wrong with me and there is nothing wrong with you either.


  1. Welcome to being in introvert! People mistake it for not wanting to be around people, but it's actually just not wanting to be around people ALL THE TIME. It's exhausting and can make you physically sick after a while. Same thing happens to me.

  2. I am also the type of person who has few close friends. I become close to a handful of people and that's all I need. It used to make me depressed because I thought "normal" people had many friends.

    I don't know if I'm introverted though. I'm really outgoing with those I'm close to. Maybe I should take that test myself ^_^

    1. You should definitely try it even just for the fun of it!:)

      The major difference between and introvert and an extrovert is energy. An extrovert gains energy by being around other people so by the end of a night out they are kind of on a social high. An introvert loses energy through social interaction so they're exhausted after a night out and need some time to themselves to recharge.