Understanding introversion is something that’s helped me not only understand myself, but also to understand people’s strange misunderstandings and reactions to me. Online, I appear to be social, confident, and fun. Some of my friends from my college days may have even said I was outgoing, social, and the life of the party. However, one of my real-world friends often tells people that I’m “shy”. So how does this happen?
I guess here’s the bottom line of it: Introversion doesn’t always equal someone who is socially awkward or who dislikes people or crowds. Introversion does equal someone who does like to spend a lot of time alone, and one who may experience social anxiety in social situations. Oftentimes, as mentioned earlier, my introversion is mistaken as “being shy”, which those who know me well know that I am anything but shy. I’m simply cautious when I first meet people. I have to test the “asshole” waters before I get candid with folks. Also — I HATE SMALL TALK. I hate talking about myself and my books unless the conversation naturally evolves to that and it’s genuine rather than obligatory. I can absolutely tell the difference. Many of my real-world friends will tell you that I don’t go on and on about my writing all the time. I usually give short answers and quickly change the subject. The exception to that are closer friends who I trust are actually interested in the details of my writing and aren’t just asking to be polite.
So, in part to understand me, one must understand the rather complex nature of introversion and realize that not all introverts are alike. Some really are anti-social and socially awkward. But there are even more of us who simply like spending time alone, may experience some anxiety in social situations (because we find them rather exhausting), and who aren’t socially awkward at all.
I’ve never had problems making friends, getting dates (back when I was a single gal) or going to parties. I’ve never had issues initiating parties. However – I need at least a week downtime between each event. Also, at big events like conferences and conventions, I will often hide in my car or room between panels or classes etc… to recharge. It’s not that I dislike people. Not at all. I like people just fine, in small doses. Of course the second I discover I have something in common with someone, or discover they’re interesting – I will start to enjoy myself and the conversation. When you’re in larger groups it’s harder to find that common ground or get to that part of a conversation where you learn interesting things about people. This is probably why I’m also partial to smaller, more intimate groups of people.
The misunderstandings of others is only a small part of why being an introvert is a pain in the ass. Needing that downtime after social interaction is also a pain in the ass. As is that feeling of dread before any social event. Case -in-point, this coming week I’m going to see one of my favorite bands, Iced Earth. My husband and two of our friends are going. I am absolutely dreading being around other people, but ultimately know I’ll have fun once we’re there. I do this before EVERY concert, or party, or other event. I may even try to talk myself out of every event, vacation, etc… because of it. Kind of like I am already dreading my husband’s high school reunion. I keep making excuses like, “I won’t get any writing done! I’ll catch every plague on the plane and be sick the whole time, which happens to me A LOT when we travel by plane. I have to arrange a cat – garden – house sitter!” None of which is too difficult. I can bring a computer. I already have a house/pet/garden sitter lined up, and I can take some AirBourne and cover my face. I’m simply making excuses to avoid the inevitable exhaustion and small talk that accompany High School reunions.
Feel free to share your own experiences as an introvert in the comments below. Do people often call you shy, too, even though you and others have thought you were rather social? Do you try to talk yourself out of social situations even though you know once you’re there you’ll have fun?