From childhood through my early college years, I was shy. Extremely shy. Painfully shy.
A lot of people use “shy” and “introverted” interchangeably. I think I’m a prime example of why that doesn’t work. I honestly can’t tell you how I did it, but I finally shed my shyness when I moved halfway across the country for college, and was forced to figure out who I wanted to be. All I knew was that I didn’t want to be shy.
It’s been almost 10 years since then, and while I haven’t considered myself to be shy in about as much time, I’m still quite an introvert.
This may seem surprising to some people; even last week, surrounded for several days by more than 20 strangers, I received several compliments on my outgoing, fun-loving personality. That’s not to brag, and I’m thrilled to be perceived that way. But just because I love to have a good time doesn’t mean I’m the Social Energizer Bunny.
To me, having fun is a no-brainer. Growing up, my family was ALL.ABOUT.THE.FUN. We still are. Yet, at the end of each epic merriment, I still find myself needing to escape on my own to wind down.
That’s the side of me people don’t see… because the whole point is that, in those moments, I don’t want them to. That’s not to say that I’m “over” spending time with them… OK, yes that’s exactly what it’s saying…
But while being around people I care about and enjoy is one of my favorite things EVER, I inevitably need to be left alone, so I can recharge and do it all again. That’s what being introverted means. My energy source comes from within. It gets drained by being around others. When I can’t recharge it, I pretty much just kick it wherever I am and take a nap. Literally.
I am completely comfortable with that process. It works for me, and since I haven’t ever had any complaints from my friends, I figure it works for them too.
But it wouldn’t work if I feared that once I left to be alone, my community — my family and friends — wouldn’t be there when I was ready to join back in.
To me, “Community” means building and relishing in mutually estimable and enjoyable relationships. That’s something I never attempted when I was shy. I couldn’t do it. My shyness caused me to erect barriers, positioning myself on the outside even as I yearningly lingered on the edge, dreaming of what could be. Shudder.
None of that. I do not always want to be alone. In fact, it’s pretty rare that I have to enforce solitude for my own wellbeing. Usually, it just means I have to show up to a happy hour late, or I need to take a nap between activities (seriously, I’m not exaggerating the napping). Most introverts who I know can relate.
Introverts do not need barriers. We need networks, communities that understand and appreciate us.
We need people who don’t take it personally if, in the middle of a gathering, we slink off with our music for 20 minutes to just relax before the next round of Guesstures. Because trust me, an introvert trying to act like an extrovert is the toughest kind of charade.