For as long as I can remember I’ve been an introverted person. I’ve been told that as a child I was very talkative and outgoing, but once puberty hit I started to recoil within my shell, prepared to deal with the one person I enjoyed the most—myself. For many people, the term introverted is overlapped with anti-social, despite it being the complete opposite at times. One of my best friends and I are introverted, however we enjoy being social with each other or any of our other friends. My boyfriend, on the other hand is extremely extroverted and yet we get along very well. To begin this discussion I should explain that the distinction between an introvert and an extrovert lies in the way we receive our energy.
Introvert comes from Latin intro-, "inward," and vertere, "turning." It describes a person who tends to turn inward mentally. Introverts sometimes avoid large groups of people, feeling more energized by time alone. The opposite of an introvert is an extrovert, who finds energy in interactions with others.
Being an introverted person has created certain assumptions about this trait that I would like to dispel for anyone else that might believe them or have faced these misconceptions. The first and most prominent one is that being introverted means being shy. On the contrary, once I am comfortable in a situation I am fairly open and boisterous. The second one is that because I am introverted I am missing out on opportunities and experiences. From my own outlook as I’ve grown and gone through half my twenties, I can honestly say that I’ve experienced everything that I’ve wanted to at this point in my life. If I’m “missing out” on anything, I most likely didn’t want to do it in the first place.
As I’ve previously mentioned in another post, the culprit for this mentality seems to be the novel term ‘FOMO’ where a person’s characteristics are changed due to their fear of missing out. This can range from the uncontrollable urge to check Instagram every few minutes or going out when you would much rather spend the night in. Maybe a scenario that someone experiencing FOMO wouldn’t likely have explored before has suddenly become intriguing to them because of this socially constructed fear of not being part of something bigger than themselves. I have fallen into this trap before and it’s always made me feel uncomfortable and not like myself.
Now, there’s a difference between trying new things to step outside of your comfort zone and completely changing your behaviour to subscribe to a certain group mentality. The reason I believe that my boyfriend and I get along so well is that his presence allows me to comfortably try these new things without feeling like I’m stepping away from myself too much. There is an anchor of who I am with a bit of slack for exploration. In these instances, I become social and interactive with others. However, that does not mean I am extroverted. My energy will quickly be drained by these situations and I will need to take some time before I try them again.
I think my explanation of what it's like being introverted is fairly reasonable and yet I've often been faced with a smile of pity when I describe myself as so, as though it’s something that's holding me back in life. For anyone that's introverted or knows someone introverted, I am here to explain that’s not the case. Us introverts may be tentative when allowing knew people into our bubbles or attempting a new activity, but if we like these new experiences we will integrate them into our lives. We may not be as quick to jump into the cold water of new experiences as extroverts are, but if we see value in it then we will take that unnerving leap.
This discussion is all from my perspective as an introvert so I’d love to hear if you’ve experienced anything different. Let me know!