Although introverts make up roughly 30 to 50 percent of the population, they are still often misunderstood amid the extrovert-heavy world we live in today. I know, because I am one.
Growing up I was always most comfortable in a state of solitude and deep introspection. From as far back as I can remember it was clear that I was a soloist in my natural state. Unlike other young girls who enjoyed boisterous laughing fits in the park with their friends, I was fueled by playing alone with my dolls in the serene sanctuary of my room. Or you could see me voraciously reading in the library alongside my father or observing myriad museum exhibits. I also adored playing the violin, writing poetry, as well as playing tennis. My life centered around independent endeavors and although occasions arose in which I enjoyed interacting with other children, I would always end up retreating to myself for renewal.
As a youngster, I was aware that I wasn't the typical gregarious girl that everyone flocked to. It bothered me, but I couldn't force myself to become somebody I was not destined to be. Teachers, counselors, and family members alike began to point me out as a difficult child who didn't have proper social skills, simply because I wasn't representative of the norm and had interests that were not aligned with most other girls in my vicinity. Swift action needed to be taken because embracing myself wasn't an option. They may have had good intentions but their ignorance surrounding introversion was truly taking its toll on me.
Here I was, being myself and living in a way that felt right, yet I was made to feel like an awkward outcast who had some type of psychosocial matter on her hands. Anything ranging from rude to peculiar was among the labels I was left with. Why did I have to be a loud teacher's pet or an enthusiastic cheerleader in order to be recognized as worthy and normal? What was so wrong about keeping to myself and minding my own business? I simply didn't feel the need to communicate verbally when I had nothing substantial to say, and I thoroughly felt drained from too much sensory stimulation. I only wanted to speak when I had something deeply meaningful to bring to the table and left a lot of things unsaid. That shouldn't have been something to be ashamed of, but unfortunately I was made to believe I was faulty as my fundamental self. Through all of the external world's attempts at morphing me into a fraud, I suffered and lost myself in the process. I made shallow attempts at fitting in with others and taking on extroverted, more socially accepted qualities and was left thirsty for refuge as a result. I couldn't voluntarily muscle my way into becoming one of those outgoing, popular girls no matter how hard I tried.
I began to progressively hate myself as the years wore on and my journey with self-sabotage commenced. You name it, I had it: A cocktail mixture of depression, anxiety, alcoholism, eating disorders, and mood instability characterized my livelihood and although the reasons are multifaceted and beyond the scope of our purposes, I truly believe that it all started because I was made to feel inferior for being an introvert. I was vulnerable and naive at the time and thereby accepted the false story that was being fed to me. In the present day, I am 25 years old and therefore better understand my identity, but it took years of reconditioning in order to reach self-acceptance. I wish I had known about introversion when I was young, alone, and helpless because it would have saved me years of heartache and inner conflict.
Nowadays, I pour my best efforts into surrounding myself with uplifting, openhearted individuals who support my personality. There are occasions in which I come into contact with people who jump to conclusions regarding my seemingly withdrawn persona without opening their hearts and minds to the truth. There is no guarantee that I can change the way these individuals perceive me and thereby lead them toward newfound insights about introversion. All I can do is try. Introversion is multilayered and is a personality type that isn't supposed to fit into a clear-cut box as the definitions are variable. From my vantage point, however, it is a personality trait that places its emphasis on internal reflection and draws its vitality from the inside out as opposed to the outside in. In other words, unlike extroverts who gain energy from continual outside interactions and social validation, we introverts actually lose energy from engaging in an overabundance of external activity. In my case, you will notice that I tend to get exceedingly agitated in huge crowds and environments in which there are too many things happening at once. That does not necessarily allude to the fact that we do not gain pleasure from taking part in otherwise extroverted pursuits, but it merely means that we may need to recharge our batteries after such loaded, hyperstimulating activities. In fact, we are passionate people with creative, insightful thoughts bursting under the surface, but we do not always have to outwardly share them with others.
If you dig deep enough, you will find unimaginable beauty and depth underneath our rather reserved exteriors. Do not be scared of us just because we are different from what society sells as the ideal way to be. Currently, I have made peace with my introverted existence and do not have the pressure to defend myself and thereby stand in my own way. Although, I will say that I still come across ill-informed individuals who do not comprehend the variations of humanity and the fact that we do not all have to be extroverts in order to be valuable or happy. Happiness is actually an inside job at the end of the day and one that is not solely dependent on external factors. So it could be argued that we may be ahead of the game in terms of our levels of happiness, as we usually draw from our inner gold mine for contentment. How do you know that we aren't happier than the socialite extrovert? I am in no position to say that we are happier people as that may not be the case, but perhaps it's worth noting that there needn't be one way to be. Introverts deserve to be recognized for their countless gifts and amazing qualities and there is no need to place us on the sidelines any longer. It is vital that those of us who are introverts help change the way the world views us and unabashedly own ourselves.
It has been an uphill battle for me to reach this point and to drown out the past whispers of ridicule that used to come my way from every which direction. Fortunately, I have come out the other end and want other introverts out there to know that they are not alone in their magnificence. Introversion is not a sin. You are truly remarkable just for being yourself, and it would be a shame to hide behind a mask rather than reveal your light, splendid being to the world. I am just one more person out there who is sharing my bittersweet story about introversion. Hopefully, through my story, we can move just one inch forward toward the global acceptance of all beings, introverted or not.