As an introvert, I'm always trying to find the balance in the world that seems to be rife with extroverted norms and activities. I get that we need to work together for our society to progress, but all the focuses on community-building and connecting with others give me palpitation.
I have yet to reach the introvert enlightenment. But there are some things that I've learned over the years that have helped me to survive and even thrive in the world full of out-going people.
1. Choose your friends
Don't waste time hanging out with people whose company you don't enjoy. As an introvert, when you're interacting with other humans, your energy drains fast like an old smartphone battery. You need to conserve it and must not spare it on someone who is not essential.
You might want to be seen as a pleasant individual and don't like saying no to people who invite you, but the person you need to prioritise the most is yourself. If you have several friends or acquaintances that you'd rather not spend time with, let them go.
2. Get over fear of missing out
I wondered what life as an extrovert would be like, so I decided to do an experiment one year while I was pretending to go to college.
Starting from just after I graduated from high school until I dropped out of college some ten months later, I lived as how I imagined an extrovert would. I hang out with my friends all day and all night, going for midnight drives and doughnuts, and forced myself to drink at parties (I'm allergic to alcohol). I wanted to be loud and carefree. But, after one car accident and a totaled car, several boyfriends and a knee injury from too much snowboarding, I've had enough.
Honestly, I wasn't really acting like an extrovert; I was more like being an idiot. But I'm glad that I went through that phase and came out alive because now I know that trying to act like someone you are not is exhausting.
I didn't find any evidence of extroverted life being better than an introverted one either. You're not missing out on anything just because you don't go out all the time and surround yourself with people. Let go of that fear.
3. You're not inferior to extroverts
Introverts and extroverts, neither is better, we are just different. So, it seems like the society is trying to reward more extroverted traits. There is much emphasis on team building and working collaboratively with other in school and at a workplace.
But just because something seems popular, it doesn't make it right or the best. I think there is a benefit in knowing your colleagues through small talks, but it's counterproductive to continue to do so at every meeting. I want to stick to the agenda and finish the meeting on time because the room is booked for another meeting after ours.
If your workplace, school programme, or another organisation is constantly at odds with your style of doing things, perhaps you need to leave. You don't need to fit some mould. You have the right to be in an environment where you can be yourself.
4. Stop being so polite and understanding
Thanks to Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, coming out as an introvert is easier than ever; however, there is still a misconception about us.
Next time a well-meaning extrovert tells you that you should come out of your shell and go out more often, just show them your middle finger.
OK, I was kidding (or was I?) but instead of nodding, smiling and making an excuse like, "Maybe next time, " just tell them that you don't feel like it. You shouldn't have to work so hard to socialise unless that's what you want to do (to practice going out because you want to conquer social anxiety or whatever.) You don't need to be fixed. Not wanting to go out is not an illness.
5. Socialising is not just for extroverts
If I had a choice, I generally choose reading a book over going to a house party full of people I've never met. But, even a hardcore introvert like me crave to meet new people once in a while. But you want to make sure that you will have a good time, and how can you guarantee that?
There is a new meetup group in my city for highly sensitive introverts, and I attended its first meeting. It was lovely! People in the group took turns to talk, and no one cut each other off when someone was talking. There were some quiet moments when everyone was thinking carefully about what to say next.
It seemed counterintuitive to have a group meeting for a bunch of introverts, but somehow this worked. I'm grateful to the organiser. So, if you think meeting a group of strangers is something an introvert must avoid, think again. If there is no group like that in your town, you should start one yourself. I bet there will be tons of introverts who are interested.
To conclude, introverts need lots of quiet space to hear our own thoughts. Let's get rid of all the noises to be our essential introverted selves.