I don’t think I had heard the term ‘introvert’ until I was well and truly an adult who had already worked out that social interactions were exhausting for me. I wish I had known that there was a term for how I felt about it, because it probably would have made me feel a little less like a freak. Knowing that I wasn’t the only one who felt like that (oh the woes of being a teenager and thinking you are alone in the world) would have made everything that little bit easier.
It’s funny to look back on what I used to be like as a teenager. Despite being a pretty early bloomer (ack, what a phrase), I didn’t become any more self-conscious than I had been as a young kid – at least not straight away. Instead of retreating into my shell when I started high school (as I am want to do now when faced with new situations), I actually broke out quite a bit. I was loud and opinionated, quick to make a joke and I would inexplicably dance around like an absolute twit at school – at least for the first couple of years.
If I had known about introversion it might have taken me a little less time to recognise how much that kind of behaviour was draining me. I would go home and mope, grumpy as anything and I would happily head to bed early – I was never the kind of kid who really fought an early bedtime. All the effort I was putting into being someone who was energetic, likeable and up for anything was completely destroying my time spent at home (my favourite place, to be honest).
Of course, it was just my way of trying to make as many friends as possible at a crucial time in life, which is fair enough. If we’re honest with ourselves, being that kind of person probably naturally makes you more friends than simply keeping to yourself and having your head stuck in a book all the time. The problem with it is that the friends you make (while all very nice people and STILL my friends to this day) are not always kindred spirits, as Anne would say.
Then there was the added point of my low self-esteem and anxiety. Not all introverts suffer from both or even one of those things – I just happen to fit into the overlap of that particular Venn diagram. My time at home was also spent overthinking and worrying about all the things I’d said that day or worrying about the next day and all the things I would say then and also did anyone even LIKE ME? It wasn’t until I realised the whole introversion thing was a real thing that I learnt how to curb my anxiety a little and start putting a few roadblocks up on the highway to overthinking.
Turns out, it’s all about finding your limits – who knew?
For me, I realised that there were certain things that I was happy to say no to because they would completely suck the life out of me.
For instance, I’ll almost never come out dancing with you. Most people have a bit of a sore head on a Sunday morning – that’s normal for anyone who goes out and drinks. I’m not a big drinker (most of the time I don’t drink at all) and yet I struggle to recover the next day. My social interaction hangover can last for days before I finally get the rest I need to make up for it.
I also worked out that when it comes to going to any kind of event, big or small, I need to drive there. It gives me control over the situation and I can leave before I get too close to my limit. I never intend to be rude by leaving early, it’s actually more polite for me to leave before I hit that limit than for me to try and push myself. I get tired, a little grumpy and frustrated if I can’t leave when I want to. It sounds like I’m a petulant child but I’m not here to make apologies, I’m just here to explain that leaving early really is the best option for all of us.
Saying no to things is extremely important. I used to feel the pressure to say yes to everything and it wasn’t because I was influenced by Jim Carey and Zooey Deschanel. I didn’t want people to think I was being rude or that I didn’t like them if I said no to hanging out with them but quite frankly, I just need to say no sometimes. If I’ve been busy for the last three nights, I need to take a break on the fourth. That time is so important to make sure you can recharge and be as good as possible to tackle the weekend or whatever is coming in the days ahead.
Before I realised that you don’t actually have to operate at the same speeds or even the same wavelength as everyone else, I was pretty confused as to why I couldn’t keep up. Now I know that I can’t keep up and I am completely okay with that.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Perhaps you’re somewhere in between?