introvert noun 1. a shy, reticent person.
To laying awake in the middle of the night at sleepovers just wishing to go home to the point of nearly crying, to hating the idea of after-school clubs, it’s always haunted me that I’ve been ‘different’ in the social sense. Growing up, my friend’s didn’t seem to have the same issues with socialising as I did. Even as a young girl I couldn’t necessarily understand why my friends absolutely loved Brownies and weekends together whilst I just wanted to stay at home, avoiding that yellow and brown uniform as long as I could. Mum would drag me kicking and screaming to the after school clubs I signed up too. Sometimes I’d run ahead, so excited to have some fun with my school friends outside of the classroom, other times, it would be a screaming match at the top of the stairs.
It’s only when I first had access to the internet as a teenager I discovered, alongside how to create a Piczo website and a Star Doll avatar, what an introvert actually was and that I… was most definitely one.
Talking of those dreaded teenage years? Nightmare. I avoided parties, I would seriously have to build myself up for friends days out to theme parks, making sure to spend the next day on my own. I would enviously watch as my friends would spend days after days together, not seeming to take a break, whilst I would occasionally turn up every once in a while, not understanding the bonds, inside jokes and secrets that had developed in my absence.
"There were times where my ‘introvertness’ would go into a really bad stage."
I would come home from school, longing for time on my own, longing for my own little retreat. I would hate it if I had agreed to go round a friends house. Or if I had a party that night. There were times where my ‘introvertness’ would go into a really bad stage. And during those times, you can guarantee that whilst my friends were sipping WKD in a freezing cold field for another weekend, I was the one scrolling through social media, reading books, watching movies, playing with Photoshop, learning code and simply watching from afar, feeling guilt, shame and confusion like you never knew.
Naturally, as I got older and realised I most certainly wasn’t alone in my weird little way of life and... hey, sure, my friends might not understand and my family really don’t get it, but I learnt that it was ok staying in the shadows. Yeah sure, I missed many a WKD drunken night… I may have missed the odd university night out and I may still hate sleepovers to this day but I still have and have had fun. People seem to think that introverts miss out, they are miserable, distant, rude… and sure, I can one hundred percent understand that but… I’m still fun. I can still have a laugh. I can still be the loudest person in the room if I want to be. I can still spend all day with people when I want to. I didn’t miss every drunken night in the field, I still experienced university and everything that comes with it and I still have friends. Bloody great ones at that!
"People seem to think that introverts miss out, they are miserable, distant, rude… and sure, I can one hundred percent understand that but… I’m still fun."
"It is a literal need to get away. Yet, let me be on my own for a few hours or a day or so and I’ll start to regain normality again. It's a never-ending cycle."
Being at home, being on my own, being silent. It’s my way of recovering. It’s my way of letting my invisible energy bar fill back up. It’s my time. And if I don’t have it? I start to feel the walls closing in. I start to feel overwhelmed, anxious, angry, cramped. There’s no space to breathe. I start to get frustrated. It is a literal need to get away. Yet, let me be on my own for a few hours or a day or so and I’ll start to regain normality again. It's a never-ending cycle.
Now? As a 23-year-old… I definitely think (and hope!) that I have lived out the worst of my introvert years.
Sure, I’m not sure that fact I’m an introvert will ever change, but you know what? I’m ok with that. Growing up was already a big, uneven and confusing road with lots of bumps and uneven terrain so adding on that pressure of not understanding why sometimes social occasions were incredibly difficult didn’t help at all but slowly you start to learn more about yourself.
I learnt that it’s ok saying “I’m really not up for this, I’m sorry”, I’ve learned it’s ok to just tell people that you’re introverted and hope they understand that you’re not being purposely rude by declining their invitations. I’m slowly learning more about other people and how they respond to introverts too. I’m learning to accept that maybe my friends aren’t being rude when they don’t invite me to places anymore, maybe it saves the rejection. The “yeah sure that sounds great!” Which turns into “I’m not going to make this one tonight girls” just a day or so later. I’m learning that it doesn’t matter how much you enjoy sometimes company... sometimes you’re simply not around enough for them.
But you know what? It becomes even more special when you find the friends who do understand, or at the very least, try to. The friends that still extend the invitation to you, even if they know the likelihood of you attending may be unlikely. The friends that keep you updated and fill you in on everything that happened so it kind of feels like you’re there too.
Because the thing is… an introverted person likely isn’t going to change. It’s how they were born, it’s how they grew up and it’s how they are. It’s understandable that if you aren’t an introvert, you may not like it, you may not understand it but it doesn’t change the personality of the person. They are still the person you met, the person you got to know. So, if you know an introvert, continue to extend the invitation, continue to make them feel included because the reality is, as comforting as being by yourself can be… being an introvert can be incredibly isolating and lonely. Especially when friends start to drop you because you’re not always around. And that’s horrible because it’s who you are and how you feel. And you can’t change it. Keep your introverted friends involved and just know that when we do venture out, when we come for nights out, lunches, shopping, when we are really active in the group chat… just know it’s because we really want to be there.
"So, if you know an introvert, continue to extend the invitation, continue to make them feel included because the reality is, as comforting as being by yourself can be… being an introvert can be incredibly isolating and lonely."
Accepting that I was an introvert was one of the first steps I took to accepting who I am and embracing it. I might not always like social situations and being put in a huge group of people may send shivers down my shine but I still like to laugh, I still like to go out, I still like to chat, I still like to spend time with people. I’m still me and it would be great if people could remember that. Even when I'm silent.