I've defined myself as an introvert for as long as I can remember, but I never truly began to understand the word and all that it entails until these past four years. Any extrovert reading this may laugh when I say this, but there is a certain stigma around being an introvert - one that seems to create a negative vibe whenever the word is passed around in conversation.
The old way of thinking often views introverts as shy, quiet, "hating people", rude, and closed off. Unreceptive.
Harsh? Perhaps these aren't the only ways you would describe introverts, but it's often what comes to mind for a lot of people when trying to define the word. You wouldn't believe how many times a week someone tells me to "talk more" or "smile more" because they are uncomfortable with the fact that I can operate in silence, or that I'm more of an observer than anything else.
I've been reading books and articles on introverts over the past few years because I wanted to understand myself better, and in turn be able to explain introverts in a different way to those around me. It's hard to say if I was born an introvert, or if certain events led to that way of processing and thinking, but I can definitely tell you there were some negative moments in my late teens that heavily contributed to my negative thinking about being an introvert. One in particular that really stands out to me was when an ex-boyfriend told me during a break-up that if I was "more outgoing and less shy" then he would date me. Am I the only one that has always been told "It's not me, it's you?"
So it was my being introverted that was wrong with me, among many other quirks that go along with it.
That's why I didn't deserve to have a strong, committed relationship with someone. What twisted thinking.
So off I went into the university world thinking I was broken. That if I could just learn to party as hard as everyone else, and be as loud and un-thinking as everyone else seemed to be, then I would find my soulmate.
And in my efforts to fix something that wasn't broken, I can tell you that it actually broke me.
I returned home from university after my sixth year of grasping for a foothold in the extrovert world, having just went through a record of three break-ups in the span of four months, and it broke me.
I didn't recover for a full two months. May and June of 2014 were dark, and my introverted self became a hermit, a person that couldn't handle seeing the outside world and felt angry at it for being so harsh to me, and not letting me be myself.
I can remember the exact day that I sat in my parent's basement on my yoga mat and told myself "I am okay to be alone. I am okay to be quiet when I want to, and loud when I need to be. I don't have to please anyone. I can just be me."
That summer I started my journey of looking into introversion and how to thrive as an introvert instead of constantly trying to conform to extroversion.
Since this is just a sliver of my story, and I could go on and on about being an introvert, I'll first leave you with this - the easiest way I have found to start looking into yourself and see which camp you're sitting in:
BAG OF BEANS - Pretend we all have a bag of beans that represents the amount of energy we have in a day, and each little bean represents an encounter with another person.
EXTROVERTS wake up with an empty bag of beans. Each person they see throughout the day adds a bean into their bag, and by the end of the day, if they've seen enough people and had enough interactions, their bag of beans will be full. They're ready to party and are able to keep absorbing people's energy well into the night.
INTROVERTS wake up with a full bag of beans. They're full of energy and ready to face the day, but each encounter with a person, whether negative or positive, takes a bean away from their bag. Slowly their energy drains, until at the end of the day they are left with no beans in their bags and they need to spend time alone to replenish.
If I spend the day alone, working in my home office, I'm able to have a great evening with friends and potentially stay up late into the night chatting. However, if I do a shoot in the morning, and then I work a shift at my part-time job, and then I go stop at my friend's house for a fire that evening, I'm probably not going to last long or I won't be very talkative. All my beans are gone.
This took me soooo long to figure out, and I had so much guilt around it my first year of being in my first serious relationship. Most of the time, my boyfriend can stay out late, hang out with as many people as he wants, and chat for hours and keep on "gaining beans". At first, I wanted to fall into my old relationship patterns and force myself into pretending I still had the energy - that I could hang out just as long as everyone else and no one would ever know I'm an introvert, but I learned so quickly that if I follow my own path and stay home when I need to, or go to bed when I need to, everyone around me is much happier. No more pushing myself to the point of exhaustion, and then blowing up and blaming everyone else for their ability to absorb more human energy than me.
I have learned to be unapologetically introverted, and that doesn't mean that I'm shy in all situations, or unable to talk to people. It doesn't mean that I don't like hanging out in big groups, or that I nerd out every night with a book (although I often do this). It simply means that I have a different way of absorbing energy than an extroverted person does, and that by understanding how I operate, I can have just as good of a time as everyone else in my own unique way.
Before I sign off on this one, I want to mention that there are people who are both (ambiverts), and that I think it can be harder to tell where you fall if you are one of them. Perhaps one day you have a full bag of beans in the morning, and other days you don't? I'd love to hear your thoughts if you think you fall into both categories. My main mission with starting to share some deep personal things on this blog is to let people know they aren't the only ones, and to let those of you that don't define yourselves by these terms know that your friends, family, and significant others that are like this aren't wired incorrectly. They aren't broken, and they don't need to change. They're just different from you.