I feel like, when people talk about being introverted, people assume they’re saying they’re shy. Generally it’s the girl with a hoodie and glasses on, reading a book in the corner, hiding from people. She doesn’t like to interact with others and is the quiet one in class who never says anything.
That, my friends, is one version of introversion, but I’m here to tell you that there are a whole lot of us that are the opposite.
Being an introvert simply means that you are energized by being alone. Conversely, being an extrovert means you are energized by being around people. My husband is an extrovert. He enjoys spending time with me, his friends, his family, and most people in general. Even if he’s at home alone, you can generally find him playing video games with friends online. He gets energy from being with people, whether physically or not.
I, however, am very much an introvert. I prefer to be in my craft room making something, on the computer surfing the web (or planning how I want to decorate my apartment again), or in bed watching TV, reading, and/or watching YouTube. Usually all at the same time. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like to spend time with people. I love spending time with Shane (obviously) and I have a handful of people I consider to be my best friends. I’m even game to hang out with Shane and his friends sometimes. I work in a very public setting and am interacting with people (and happily so) on a daily basis. I also don’t mind going to public places where there are a lot of people by myself.
While I’m walking around, shopping, I’ve been known to make new friends. I’ve done that since I was a kid. I love complimenting people when I think their outfit is cute, which usually leads into a discussion of how we share the same love for a certain store. Even at work, I have whole conversations and make friends with some of the people that just come through. I even made a friend helping a customer on the phone the other day. We live in the same apartment complex apparently, just two buildings from each other.
So, being introverted and needing my space and alone time to reenergize doesn’t mean I don’t genuinely enjoy being around others or putting myself out there. I can be social and outgoing. Depending on who I’m with, I can be silly and sometimes maybe a little obnoxious. I talk to strangers and will absolutely freak out if I see a dog and suddenly I’m best friends with its owner. That part of me will probably never change. I am an outgoing, social introvert who sometimes needs alone time to cope with the stress of life.
Sometimes I feel like having anxiety and being an introvert might exacerbate my need to be alone and to have some sort of a routine (however loosely I use that word), because I’ve noticed that when plans change suddenly or I’m forced into social situations, I get exhausted (even if the event hasn’t yet taken place) and/or moody. I used to blame it on being tired, but even with significantly higher energy levels from working less and working out more, I still get the same sense of dread and irritation.
Generally when I have made social plans too many days in a row, I start to panic and end up cancelling with someone either the day before or the day of, which is a pretty common thing for both introverts and those who deal with anxiety. It’s not because I don’t want to see or spend time with that person, or the thing doesn’t sound fun, it’s that I’ve committed to too many things and I need a break in between them. Usually I make up an excuse that, though it is a valid concern, would not normally keep me from attending the event had I not had so many other things planned. I do this because I don’t feel that telling someone that I can’t do something because I’m overwhelmed with all the socializing I have to do the rest of the week, and they’re the one whose time gets cut will make any sense to them and they’ll think I’m being flaky. I also feel bad because I don’t want them to think they’re less important than anyone else. But mostly I just assume they won’t understand and will try to guilt me into coming anyway.
That’s where introvert and extrovert relationships get complicated. And I don’t mean romantic relationships. As an introvert, being friends with an extrovert can get hard, because it’s hard for them to understand that you just need some time by yourself. It’s hard to explain that it’s absolutely not a slight against them or anything personal, and that you absolutely do love them dearly, but sometimes, just sitting at home watching TV or movie, reading a book, looking through Pinterest, or watching your friends Snapchat stories about their crazy nights sounds like the best thing in the entire world. It’s also hard to explain that nights like that are not just nice, they’re outright vital for your health. It can get awkward when they try to invite themselves over or want to join in on your night in, so just remember that they’re coming from a place of love and just want to spend time with you. But also remember that maybe in those cases, it’s okay to lie and say you’re going to bed early. Just make sure you don’t post anything on social media after that. 😉
Extroverts, please understand that, when we say we need some time alone or a night in alone or can’t socialize tonight or however we word our need for time away from people, it’s nothing against you, and it’s a very real, even if we “don’t seem introverted”.