When you see an introverted person, you might see someone who is aloof, quiet, reserved, awkward, unresponsive – not such good stuff.
I am an undeniable introvert. Unfortunately, people often mistake that for being shy, because the official definition of an introvert includes being shy. But that’s not necessarily true. You don’t have to be shy to be an introvert. Because I am not shy, and I am not quiet.
One time, I was over at my ex boyfriend’s place. I had been pretty tired, so I fell asleep and woke up in a daze 2 hours later to the sounds of people hanging out (a usual occurrence at his place). I could hear his rather loud, very extroverted sister chatting and singing in the kitchen.
Here’s the thing with me: sometimes, when I’m tired, I don’t want to talk. It’s like using your muscles after working out all day – they’re sore, and you kind of don’t want to move. Here’s the other problem: my voice is generally quite small. Even if I’m shouting, 5 out of 10 times, someone will need me to repeat myself. So usually, I stick with gestures when I’m tired. I’ll do my wide awkward smile or wave at people.
So when I got out to the living room, I muttered a small hello to the people around me and waved. Unfortunately, everyone was so absorbed in their phones and laptops that no one saw me.
At this point, my ex’s sister was pretty much singing at the top of her lungs while banging pots and pans around. I said hi to her as well, but I don’t know if she didn’t hear me or if she just was ignoring me or was too absorbed in her singing. I couldn’t tell. Either way, I just shrugged and slipped out the door.
So later that night, after I got home, she messaged me on Facebook, asking me why I didn’t say hi. I told her I did, but she was singing and I don’t think she heard me, and she had also been chattering away to her friend she was cooking with. I also told her that I was really tired and it’s hard to raise my voice when it feels like my chest is caving in.
Her response was, “Oh, you’re always welcome here! Don’t be a mouse!”
I just laughed and didn’t respond anymore. The thing is that I’ve fallen victim to this stereotype many many times.
Yes, I am introverted. I am probably one of the most introverted people you will ever meet. I like spending time by myself. I literally have 4 friends whom I see regularly, and for the most part I’m okay with that. It can get difficult when i’m not doing well, but that’s a completely different story. I have the classic symptom of having a limited social battery – if I’m around people for a long time, I will become physically fatigued. If I go to a party where I’m standing around and eating and chatting with people who are around, I need to go home and sleep a solid 10 hours to recuperate. After 3 full days of work in a row, I don’t want to interact with anyone because I’m so drained. Being around people is very draining
I don’t like talking any more than I should. It’s one of the reasons I hate chit-chat. I don’t understand talking mindlessly for hours. This was something I had to get over very quickly as a nurse. The majority of the population my hospital serves is the elderly white or Hispanic population, and let me tell you, old Caucasian people LOVE to talk. I had to learn quick how to make small talk, and I think that drains me more than working to keep everyone alive.
And I don’t have a need to announce myself or my intentions everywhere I go. I browse social media often (mostly FB and IG), but I rarely pose, unless it’s something abstract or if I’m doing something special with my friends. But it’s rather rare.
But I’m not quiet and I’m not shy. I’m not afraid to tell people things as they are, particularly if I think it has merit. I can be loud, crack witty (I think) jokes, and dance like a crazy person. I’ve talked down particularly aggressive patients, without raising my tone or cursing. I’m not afraid to demand a wrong be right.
There was a time when I was shy… almost painfully so. I didn’t know how to defend myself. People manipulated me, used me. They played pranks on me, bullied me, and said horrible things to me to my face. They played with my emotions, doing whatever they could to embarrass me, simply because they knew I wouldn’t defend myself. People ran me over so hard that I had permanent emotional scars that, to this day, are visible.
But these days I’m not.
People, I want you to understand one thing: being an introvert doesn’t mean being shy. I might not talk much, but I will stand up to you if you cross a line. I may not speak up often, but if I think there’s merit to it, I will talk for hours. I can stand up in front of 100 people and give a presentation, no problem. And I can dance like I don’t care.
Don’t think that just because I’m introverted that I’m shy. Those are two completely separate entities.
Now, insecurity? That’s a different story for a different time.