{on being an introvert}

I vividly remember my first few days at college, as if it were only a couple days ago rather than almost seven years. Most people I know, my friends and former classmates, loved that time. The days were filled with excited anticipation at meeting your roommates, plenty of lectures on how to avoid getting an STD (which often included free condoms), and way too many new names and faces to ever remember.

The memory that sticks out the most in my mind, however, is the complete and utter misery I felt during it all. By the end of my first week at school, I was convinced I was going to quit, mainly because I thought that was how it was going to be for the next four years: the skits and the ice breakers and the loud RAs who ran around the dorms yelling the alma mater to wake us up. I thought there was something wrong with me because I didn't like it, and it took me a long time to realize that this isn't true. 

I didn't quit school, but I wasn't very involved that first year. I knew that anything I did become involved in would include those things that I hated, and I just wasn't willing to risk it. Eventually, however, I did join a few clubs and apply for a few on-campus positions. I started slowly, but eventually I too became one of those obnoxious RAs. Being in college broke my shy personality, but it didn't change the fact that I am a natural introvert. 

It seems as if being an extrovert is the only way to get ahead in our culture. At school, we're forced into group activities and situations that often involve acting ridiculous or telling our deepest secrets so that we can "bond." At work, we're expected to work in teams, while all competing to be the leader. It almost seems counter-productive to me.

I watched a Ted Talk recently{one of the best I’ve ever seen}, which made me realize that I don't need to be "cured" of my introversion. We’re just a different type of normal, though society has yet to figure that out. I have so many great ideas, but because I don't communicate them in a way that conforms to the ideal placed upon me by my culture, they are automatically considered inferior. How is that fair? It isn't. 

In those years since freshmen orientation, I've learned how to bulls*** my way through it all. I've learned how to speak up in a group, work together on a team, and start a conversation with a complete stranger. While in high school, I got a C on my senior project because I was terrible at public speaking. But at my graduation from college, I gave the commencement speech in front thousands of people. I wasn’t comfortable, but I was still proud of myself for doing it.

I like to drive in silence, go on long walks by myself with nothing to distract me but my thoughts, and lie in bed at night alone so that I can think. I don’t need music or television to stimulate me, and I don’t need to be with other people in order to brainstorm or come up with ideas. I can do that on my own, and that’s what I’m comfortable with. I just wish everyone else were comfortable with that too. Not that they conform to the way that I do things, just that they be okay with it and accept me for me.


This. It’s all so. very. true.

And if you’re interested, here is that Ted Talk I mentioned before:


Amanda {The Uncrafter} said...

I'm with you. I'm a sophomore in college and am often surrounded by extroverts who just don't "get" me. I've found that even though I may be afraid to speak up sometimes or put myself out there, I know myself so well and I am okay with being alone sometimes...that's also a very valuable thing!

Andrea D said...

I had a terrible first year of college. I tried to join a sorority, in the hopes that it would help me branch out, and even though the girls were all nice, I felt so uncomfortable I ended up quitting. I spent most of my freshman year hiding out in the dorm watching movies with my boyfriend and feeling bummed that I wasn't living up to "college life" expectations. Thankfully, I learned a lot about myself and the remaining three years were so much better. I still sometimes feel like an introvert in an extrovert's world...but I'm learning how to work with it :)

Jenna said...

I'm also an introvert in the sense that I'm quite shy, but also an extrovert in the sense that I get my energy from going out and doing things rather than staying in and reading a book. My boyfriend is the exact opposite. Extremely outgoing in social situation, but given the option he would always choose to stay in over the weekend and read a book.

Neither one is better than the other, we're just different :)


Anonymous said...

There is nothing bad about being an Introvert, it's just society who wants us all to be extrovert.
I am very shy, I like to be on my own but I enjoy others too, socializing and time with friends. I just don't like when people force me to do things. I did not enjoy school for this, I don't enjoy work much for this, people in constant competition. It's exhausting.

Let's be the way we are and let's celebrate who we are. There is beauty in introversion too!
Sweet day to you Joelle!

Gloria said...

Oh my goodness, as a fellow introvert, I'm SO happy I found this post - can't wait to watch that TED Talk!

Lauren Alyse said...

OMWord I was thinking of doing a post on the "How to Care for Introverts" list too...great minds think alike I suppose haha. As a psych student and a strong introvert, I was nodding along as I was reading your post. It's sometimes tough to convince others that there's nothing wrong with us, we just do things a little differently. :)

Punky J said...

Great post, Joelle. I can relate in some ways as I feel like I am BOTH-is that possible? To be an introvert AND an extrovert? I have to say yes, because I certainly have qualities of both. And like you, I embrace those truths.

I'm proud of my ability to be outgoing in certain situations, but then I also can't deny my longing to do a lot of things by myself, without the company of others. I've always had a much better time getting and spending time with someone one on one, rather than in group settings--I tend to remain very quiet and reserved in bigger groups. That's just how I am!

Thank you for writing this post :)

Simply Splendid LOVE said...

Love the How to care for introverts! That's spot on! I can totally relate!!!!

Betty said...

I never really thought I was an introvert until the past few years when I realized how much I was forcing myself (unsuccessfully!) to be an extrovert. And your post just really showed me how much of an introvert I am! The rules for introverts really made sense to me! Thanks for sharing this it's reassuring to know I'm not alone!