For much of my life, I always heard that I should be more social, I should get out more. “Why do you spend so much time with yourself?” Here’s the thing, though — I was always happy that way. I socialized as much as I felt I needed to. I never felt like I wasn’t socializing enough or like I was missing out on anything. In fact, it was the opposite; I felt like taking the time I needed for myself was a good thing.
During my teenage years, I tried to push myself to spend more time among people. However, I found that it drained me completely. I’d end up feeling irritated and short-tempered. I wasn’t enjoying myself after a while and all I wanted was to be alone, just for a little bit. After enough time passed, I would be up for spending time with friends again. At some point, through the power of the internet, I found out about introversion and what I learned changed how I saw myself.
I’m an introvert, and I simply do not like social settings that are overly stimulating. When I do put myself into these kinds of environments, I generally need a few days to myself to recharge. I usually spend this time focusing on my hobbies and self-care. As I’ve learned, introversion is not uncommon, and it’s not something that I should ever try to change about myself.
Shy vs. introvert
Introversion is often confused with shyness. I’ve had many moments in my life when I would decline a social invitation, only for it to be met with “oh, come on, don’t be so shy, it’ll be so much fun!” I never had any doubt in my mind that it would have been fun, and it was never a case of being shy; it was simply that I had no energy to be among so many people, and I preferred to stay in my own space. Being shy and being an introvert are not the same thing, though they should never be thought of as being mutually exclusive, either.
Let’s see some definitions:
- Being shy involves feeling uncomfortable or inhibited in the presence of others. If someone is shy, they have a fear of social disapproval or being humiliated, such as saying the wrong thing or not knowing what to do.
- Being introverted encompasses those behaviors in which people tend to avoid social gatherings and prefer to be alone.
Shyness can be overcome; people can overcome being shy by slowly pushing themselves out of their comfort zone and working on boosting their confidence.
Introversion, on the other hand, is a personality trait; it’s the way that someone is. In contrast to shyness, introversion is not about a fear of social settings. As it was explained, introversion has to do with a preference for environments that are not overly stimulating. Introverts feel physically and emotionally exhausted after long social interactions and need their own space to be able to recharge their batteries, so to speak.
Our secret power
In my experience, there were often times when I was made to feel like I should feel ashamed for my introversion. However, being an introvert is absolutely not a bad thing. In fact, there are some unique secret powers that we introverts possess that give us a social advantage.
Let’s see some of them:
- Introverts are known to be good listeners: They process information internally and are naturally more patient. When they do offer their advice, they’re able to be more insightful and understanding because of their listening skills. If you’re an introvert, you might find that your friends and family turn to you more often for advice or even just a shoulder to cry on.
- Introverts are notoriously observant. While the most common thing that people notice about introverts is that they’re quiet, they’re actually absorbing and processing the information that they hear around them. Introverts also pick up on body language and facial expressions much more easily, making interpersonal communication much more natural to them, even though introverts generally take some time to really connect with people.
- Introverts make compassionate leaders. In general, introverts prefer to stay out of the spotlight. For this reason, when they are leaders, they focus on boosting and highlighting the strengths of their entire team. As a report from the Harvard Business School explains: “Introverted leaders are more likely to listen to, process, and implement the ideas of an eager team.”
Introverts might be quiet, but they have their own way of seeing and dealing with the world. Fuel your power and never suppress it; as Susan Cain — author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can’t Stop Talking — says, “introverts are quiet revolutionaries.”
It can be hard to be an introvert in what feels like an extrovert’s world, but the key thing to remember is not to push yourself to change if it makes you unhappy. Change, growth, and self-improvement are always important, but they should never come at the expense of our own happiness.
Also, don’t force yourself to socialize with everyone all the time if it drains you. Relationships are great and absolutely necessary for us, but for introverts especially, it’s all about quality over quantity. When it comes to friendships and relationships, don’t hide your introversion. Be honest about yourself and your personality. Make sure that you’re open and clear about your needs and boundaries.
I have found that if I don’t voice my introversion beforehand, it’s often taken negatively. Communication in this instance is key. Make sure that your friends know that you just need your own space at the moment to recharge. Communicate with your partner so they know this aspect of your personality and are willing to give you the time and space that you need to yourself. Take time to understand how you function best and let those around you know when you do.