It’s ok, it’s called introversion

I never thought I’d ever publicly admit this, but here it is. I’m an introvert. And I’m really okay with that. It’s not a disease, an illness or a condition, so I guess it’s not really a big deal. I just want to share a few things because it’s exhausting having to hear “Why are you so quiet?” or “Why are you always alone?” all the fricking time.

I was never the loudest one in my friendship group, nor have I ever been an outspoken person in class. I’ve always thought that I was just shy, and for some time I even doubted my intelligence for not saying much, which admittedly, knocked my self-esteem a few hits down. That, coupled with remarks like, “You keep to yourself a lot” made me feel so isolated and uncomfortable. It’s as if they’re trying to say I’m helplessly alone and vapid. Needless to say, it was horrible!

It was confusing for me because I knew I was processing whatever was happening and there was so much going on in my head, but I just couldn’t get myself to verbalise my thoughts. I felt pressured to speak up when sometimes all I really want to do is be there and listen. I concluded that I was just shy, but see, it didn’t quite fit right, so… then, back to being plain odd.

I found the term ‘introversion’ a few years ago and the more I read about it, the more I identified myself as one. It made me realise that I’m not weird (at least, not so much in a bad way) for preferring to go solo on most things or being quiet most times. It’s simple, really. I’ve just got a different approach, that’s all. My saying less does not mean that nothing’s going on up there. My doing things my way and on my own does not mean I’m anti-social. Maybe it’s an issue with not feeling comfortable in certain social situations. I don’t know for sure.

There are some misconceptions about introverts that bug me, especially because they’re often oh so wrong and potentially hurtful. First off, introverts are not sociopaths. We’re not malicious as often associated with deranged criminals. Just because we seem to ‘keep to ourselves a lot’ (air quotation marks intended here) does not mean that we’re plotting something dark and twisted against you or any other person. That may be paranoia kicking in. Or, whatever?

We’re not socially awkward loners, like many seem to think. We just like our own space. I have enough mates to occupy my days and time with and I like going out in public. Generally, I prefer solitude and being with people I know well but I still like meeting new faces. That’s nothing out of the ordinary. Put me in an open area with strangers and I could probably strike up a conversation with them without feeling awkward. Probably.

Having said that, introverts are not essentially depressed and lonely just because they actually like being alone. I’m content being by myself and it doesn’t necessarily equate to being lonely or having a negative personality. Sure, our extroverted peers are often loud and active, thus, obviously appearing happier but this is not always the case. Let me think of an example… Robin Williams? He appeared so vibrantly happy but little did we know he was suffering from depression. Not a hit, just saying assumptions can be misleading.

If these misconceptions I’ve experienced had been true, don’t you think I’d be living under a rock or a cave void of all fun and human contact? Instead I’m living with six other people, all of whom I interact with on a daily basis. Or should I just forget coming in to uni, because I just ‘can’t handle’ (air quotes intended, again) that many people around me? No, definitely not, and that’s why you certainly shouldn’t make assumptions just because someone may be an introvert, there’s a lot more below the surface of such a person.

By Jana Oliveros

Twitter: @heyjmae