I am an introvert. I am not weird and I am not completely anti-social, I just do things the way only I can do them and I’m OK with that.
I used to think that my introverted personality traits derived from the incessant bullying I went through for pretty much all of my school days until college (a topic left for another post when I’ve finally mustered the energy to relive it) but if I’m being honest with myself, I can say I’ve always been the way I am. From the time I was able to talk, I made it clear that I was uncomfortable in new or crowded environments. In grocery stores, family parties, hell my own parties… my often go-to phrase was “don’t look at me”.
My parents called this being shy and while I was little it was thought of as cute. When I got older, I was just seen as rude. But being shy is a completely different thing from being an introvert. Being shy means you worry about how you are judged by others and therefore afraid of being seen or heard. As a young child I didn’t understand what it meant to be judged, however when I entered school, particularly middle school, I understood it all too well. What a double whammy of crap that was. Good times. It also didn’t help that before I discovered makeup, my face (meaning my Casper-like skin) showed everything I was feeling starting from a light pink level to an almost purple hue of red.
But I digress.
Recently, at the ripe old age of 31, I’ve been getting a lot of slack for being the way I am. I understand that to many the way I deal or prepare for new social settings may seem a little whacky and hard to comprehend, but it’s my way and it gets me through. The amount of friends I have that I am 100% comfortable with in all situations can be counted on just one hand, and trust me I am forever grateful to have them, but it also means that for everyone else, unless you’ve been with me when I passed out in Times Square on New Years Eve or held my hair while I puked in a potted plant outside a bar in Westchester, I’m going to be a bit guarded with you at first.
Just the idea of getting through that first bit of small talk when people get together makes me cringe. I hate it. Sometimes it just comes off as so disingenuous, the way a passing stranger will ask, “How are you?” and you’ll reply, “Good thanks and you?” despite that you may be having the most craptacular day that ever existed. Many might call these moments common niceties or polite exchanges, but to me they’re just uncomfortable fillers that I would love to avoid. But because of that, you may think I’m rude or anti social, that I hate all people. And while a history of working retail did result in me declaring that I do, in fact, hate all people, it’s not really true, especially since I’m not at the cash register anymore.
I actually enjoy conversation and hanging out with people, it’s just that first step, that curtain you have to open that sends me into mini panic attacks. I know it sounds silly to let myself get so flustered and nervous before going to a party or meeting up with new friends, but it is simply how I process things. My brain knows that once I am in a new situation and allow myself to relax a bit I’ll be fine, I’ll have fun, but I almost need to go through my personal freak out to get there. Now, if you are a social butterfly (first of all I’m not impressed and second you can’t begin to understand how I feel or operate), and happen to witness me go through this process, the worst thing you can do is to tell me I’m being stupid. I know it looks and sounds stupid to you, but it isn’t to me. I have anxieties like any other person; it’s just that mine are often about things most deem unworthy of worrying about. And for a very long time I let those opinions, from those who couldn’t even begin to empathize, affect me. I let their perceptions of who I am make me feel like I had a problem, that I was someone who needed to be fixed.
I’ll admit, I am quite sure there are things about me that could be fixed or at the very least improved upon, I mean who really has it all together? But to say my personality is screwed up because I handle social situations different than most is just unfair. I started this blog in an attempt to be myself freely and without apology, something I’m not comfortable doing because it often feels like you need to be loud to be yourself but it’s actually the exact opposite. Being ones self isn’t defined by anything, it’s just living as you are. It’s pretty simple. So I have embraced who I am and how I am. I can be social when I want to and keep to myself when I need to. I know that I do my best work when I am left to my own devices and I know that when I am able to break through the social veil I can discover some really great people and ideas. It just takes me a little longer to get there than most, but I think my way affords me the ability to create genuine and long lasting connections.
So ask to me to come hangout or meet at the club. I will, I might dread it for days but I’ll show. Call me, although I probably won’t answer right away, but I will respond eventually, most likely through text. If you care to have me in your life just accept me and don’t tell me I need help, not for this anyway, one issue at a time. If you stick with me, I’m sure you too will be able to see me at my worst or most embarrassing, forging a life long relationship of mutual respect and comfort. Until then, you might just see me as shy and awkward, but we can’t all be the life of the party, some of us just need to write about it.