I’m an introvert. Oh, so you’re shy? No. I’m an introvert.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been labelled “shy.” I never really liked speaking to people and have an especially hard time with new people. To some extent, I guess I am shy. However, that’s not the full story. It rarely is for us introverts.
So what is an introvert?
The average introvert is someone who turns inward mentally. That is to say: someone who tends to spend more time thinking to themselves than speaking out loud. We’re the types to sit silently in a meeting, taking in all of the facts and ideas, rather than reacting to each item.
Introverts generally prefer solitary activities, since socializing drains our energy. If you can get us to a party, we’ll be the ones sitting somewhere along a wall, out of the way. We’re watching the shenanigans, not causing them. It doesn’t mean we’re not enjoying ourselves; it’s just that engaging with others is work to us. Hard work. Where our counterparts, the extroverts, are energized by social activity, we are utterly exhausted by it.
One of the major telltale signs of introversion is the critical need for alone time in order to recover from socializing. We are also more likely to need recovery time from sensory overload in general. For me, leaving the quiet tranquility of my apartment (where I live alone, naturally) and venturing into the loud, bright, constantly buzzing world can be pretty jarring. By the time I’ve taken a crowded subway, where I’ve spent the whole time silently willing people to get out of my “bubble,” and sat down under bright fluorescent lights in my cubicle, I’m already feeling weary.
I have the good fortune of sitting right beside the front door to my office. Throughout my day, I hear the door slam, footsteps rushing to and from various meetings, every conversation on the floor, even the beep of someone’s security badge for the office next door. Concentrating can be, for lack of a more descriptive word, tough.
By the end of some days, my head feels heavy, like I’ve soaked up all of the noise and stimuli from my surroundings, and the only way I can make it home in one piece is by the grace of soft and soothing music in my headphones until I can get back to my quiet cave—I mean home—and just…not for a while.
Being quiet is OK
It took me a while to realize not only what I am, but also that it’s totally fine. Now that I know how my mind works, I can cater to it. I know what’s going to drain me and how to refuel. I know how I think and work and interact with people. I know that I’m not shy or anti-social– I’m an introvert.