I write the title Beginners Guide like I hold the instruction manual on what is it to be an introvert. The reality is, I don’t have all the answers. I only have my answers. I only know what it is like for me to be an introvert. So instead, perhaps I should rename this post to My Subjective Guide to Introvertism.
I always knew I was different from many people. Not just in the everyone-is-different-everyone-is-unique way, I mean, there was something within myself that made me feel un-alike to the people around me. My brothers were always extremely outgoing. They always had countless friends, joined all the clubs at school, and were liked by everybody they ever met. They were popular in grade-school and high-school, they were always well-known at their universities, they were textbook extroverts. It was always so easy for them to make friends and fit in. Honestly, it made me mad. I was the polar opposite. I still am. I didn’t have hundreds of friends growing up, I didn’t belong to any clubs, and by no means did I get along with everybody I knew. And I was perfectly OK with that. I preferred having less friends. I didn’t find pleasure joining social clubs. I certainly didn’t mind that there was people in this world who didn’t like me (lets face it, you have people you don’t like, why expect anything else in return). My family thought this was odd. More specifically, they thought it was odd that at a young age of 19 years old, I preferred to stay in, enjoy my music than go out with my friends and party till the sun came up. They found it odd that I was attending a university with over 5000 students, that I could not and was not interested in making any friends. As it turns out, this is much more common than they thought.
Introvert: Opposite of extrovert. A person who is energized by spending time alone. Often found in their homes, libraries, quiet parks that not many people know about, or other secluded places, introverts like to think and be alone.
Introvertism is not about the butterflies you get in your stomach when you’re introduced to new people, or expected to speak in front of a large audience, or even order a meal at your local McDonald’s. That is social anxiety (I have plenty of that too). Typically, social anxiety and introvertism goes hand in hand. People become introverted because they find themselves experiencing large amounts of anxiety when in social settings. As a result, they spend less time placing themselves in social situations and spend more time alone. It is important to note however, that this doesn’t necessarily mean that only novel social settings can create feelings of discomfort. More often than not, I find myself preferring to be alone after a long day of school, after a day out with my friends, or even after a day out grocery shopping with my dad. To me, social interaction has its limits. I can only participate in so many social situations before I feel the need to isolate myself in my room and become antisocial. Social interaction is exhausting and usually makes me quite irritable, it’s safer for both parties if I just have my alone time.
Keep in mind, there is a common misconception about introverts. We are apparently “incapable” of maintaining friends, making plans to go out, or interacting socially with another individual without getting antsy. I can’t speak for all introverts, but for many this is not the case. We are more than capable of making friends and maintaining long-term friendships, we just simply prefer to have a small group of friends rather than hundreds. We are perfectly content knowing we can rely on a single person and that single person will be our moon and stars. We have more energy to exert on their friendship because we don’t waste our energy with meeting new people. Us introverts take our few friendships to heart. Secondly, we introverts are more than capable of calling up our few friends and asking them to go to the movies to see the newest Blade Runner. However as I mentioned before, social interaction is exhausting and has its limits. When we go out, we enjoy every minute of it and have a blast but we know when enough is enough and prefer to stay at home (don’t take it personally!). Lastly, we are capable of social interaction, we do it on a day-to-day basis just like the rest of you. We interact with our families, our coworkers, public service workers, the cashier at Wal-Mart, and the drive through representative at Wendy’s. Sure some of us may be nervous when we approach novel people, but that is a whole new problem within itself. So before you tell me to have some fun outside in the social world, consider this: I am my social world and I am perfectly OK with that.