“She’s very quiet, why is that?” I remember my biology teacher asking my parents at a parents’ evening when I was about 13 years old.
For as long as I can remember, even as a child, people have called me shy and responded differently to me than they might others because I’m an introvert. It frustrates me somewhat, although quietly, because I don’t think I am shy. To me, I think of shyness as being when someone is afraid of speaking to other people – they want to revert back to that childhood behaviour of hiding behind their parents legs when someone wants to speak to them. That’s the thing…I’m not really afraid of speaking to other people and I don’t see myself as shy. I don’t see shyness and introversion as the same thing.
I’m not anti-social either…I’m just selective about who I socialise with. I prefer quality over quantity, which is why I have only a few close friends. As an introvert I need time alone in my own space to recharge my batteries. I sometimes find it quite difficult if I have to do a lot of things day after day and become burnt out over periods such as Christmas when I’m out socialising each day, even if it is just with family.
I’m not an open book, I don’t trust people easily, but when I make friends I’m very loyal. It takes time to get to know me and I really appreciate people that do take the time to get to know me and earn my trust. When I write, that’s about the most open I get. I think that’s why I like it so much, it allows myself to express myself through words in an introvert-friendly way. I think a lot of introverts are quite bookish and enjoy creative things such as writing or art, I know that’s certainly true of me anyway.
It’s not just quality of people that I prize over quantity – it’s what we talk about too. I marvel over extroverts who are able to just chat away with ease. Talking to extroverts is good for me in many ways, as it takes the pressure away from me in a conversation, I can just fill in the gaps and not have to try and think of things to say. I don’t find it easy to make small-talk and if I do make small-talk, I dissect it in my mind as I’m talking. “I’m talking about the weather! That’s so cliché and British of me”, I think, “they probably think I’m talking about the weather because I have nothing else to talk about…and they’re right!” The thing is, I’m just not very good at talking unless I feel I have something of value to say. When an introvert sparks a conversation with you, you know that they genuinely want to have that conversation and it’s likely to be something worthwhile listening to.
Now, oddly enough, when I’m with close friends and family I don’t find talking so difficult – I guess it’s because we all know each other so well, I don’t feel that pressure to have to talk anymore. Silences aren’t awkward and we just have conversations about things naturally.
I don’t know whether it’s my part of my introversion, or another part of my personality, but I’m very good at listening to people and being able to empathise with their feelings. I am very aware of my surroundings and good at picking up on people’s emotions. I also would consider myself a good judge of character – my first thoughts on people are generally right.
I guess when you’re an introvert it can make you seem kind of mysterious; as you’re not an open book people often don’t get the right impression of you and find you disengaged, uninterested and perhaps moody. I think people have judged me that way before and they’re completely wrong! Sometimes I just prefer to observe rather than participate.
Unfortunately, I think introversion is largely misunderstood, but I hope one day people will value the many wonderful qualities that introverts have more and perhaps take the time to get to know us – we’re worth getting to know, I promise!
Are you an introvert and does any of this sound like you? I’d love to hear from you, fellow introverts!