I spent most of high school with my face stuck in a Stephen King novel.
It wasn’t like people were mean to me. They didn’t exclude me or ignore me. Often I’d get asked what I was reading, if it was good, some kind of comment about the fact that I was always reading. It’s not that I don’t like people. I get along with almost everyone.
But I’m still an introvert.
Somewhere along the way, shortly after high school, I got it into my head that being an introvert was bad. Maybe I’d watched too many episodes of “Friends” or someone made a comment about staying in on a Saturday night just to read. Whatever it was that triggered it, when I hit the age of nineteen, staying in on a Saturday to read became unacceptable.
If a Friday or Saturday night came along and I wasn’t out somewhere doing something, I felt shame flare up. Like I was a loser for staying in. I clearly didn’t have any friends, did I?
I responded to these new feelings by turning into a total bar star. Every weekend, Friday and Saturday and sometimes Thursday, I would go out. And I didn’t care who I went out with. Sometimes it was with best friends, sometimes it was with coworkers I barely knew.
It wasn’t because it was fun. In fact, most weekends I would be reluctant. I didn’t want to go out dancing, I had that great new book I wanted to read….but I knew that Saturday night would roll around, and I’d look up from that book and feel embarrassed that I was sitting at home reading.
But here’s the thing about introverts, they’re not made the same way as extroverts. They can’t go on and on in a wild cycle of parties and outings. They need time alone, they need to recharge. Sometimes they need to just sit there and be alone. It’s important.
But I didn’t care about that. I was determined that I wasn’t an introvert. I was a wild. I was social. I was the life of the party.
Until I wasn’t.
When an introvert tries to act like an extrovert, things break down. I wasn’t recharging. I wasn’t taking the time I needed to be healthy. The stress started having physical effects and I woke up one morning and realized it had been weeks since I’d written anything. It had been weeks since I’d even thought to write.
Writing. My passion. My life.
And I had been too busy drinking at bars to even think about it. I was worn out. I was exhausted. I was broke. Worst of all, I realized, I wasn’t staying true to myself.
There are many misconceptions about introverts. That we don’t like people. That we’re not friendly. That we don’t enjoy going out ever. But the most damaging misconception is that being introverted, needing alone time, needing to recharge, is somehow a bad thing. It’s not fashionable, it’s not cool. Nobody actually chooses to stay home, right? They just stay home because nobody wants to go out with them. Because they’re weird, awkward people that don’t know how to socialize.
But that’s all wrong.
Introverts are regular people. There’s all different types. Most of us actually do enjoy company. You should go to a writer’s conference sometime! Giant banquet halls full of introverts chattering and laughing and enjoying one another’s company. Because we like people. We enjoy meeting new people and staying up late to have a drink at the hotel bar. But we also understand that at some point, we need to recharge. To take a breath in a quiet place, with just our own thoughts for company. Many of us enjoy being social in spurts, with hours of quiet in between.
We are still strong people. We can still be leaders. We can still speak up when we see an injustice. It doesn’t even necessarily mean that we’re shy. Introverts are some of the most outspoken people I know.
Never let anyone make you feel bad for being an introvert. Never let anyone make you feel like you need to try on new personalities, or try to change yourself. You’re allowed to be you, even if you would rather stay home and read.
Are you an introvert? Do you ever feel like you need to change yourself? Has anyone ever made you feel bad about being one?
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