I remember taking one of those "introduce yourself" icebreaker surveys back in middle school and one of the questions read, "Are you an introvert or extrovert?" I circled "extrovert" fully knowing that it was untrue, yet out of middle school naiveté and a yearning for social aptitude, I so desperately wanted for it to be true. Recently, I began to think about why.
The introvert vs. extrovert conservation has been happening since forever ago, but let's recap on some of the stereotypes: introverts are antisocial and think they're better than others, introverts miss out on so many social events, introverts are soo intense (why do they have to keep all their feelings to themselves?), introverts are boring; the list goes on. But really, when has the term "introvert" ever been favorably portrayed?
Growing up, I learned these stereotypes too. On Mondays back at school when people would ask "Hey, where were you this weekend?" I'd fib because I couldn't bring myself to admit that I enjoyed the company of books/Nintendo/Ugly Betty/music more. But I didn't feel "high" from attending social gatherings, flirting with boys was immensely awkward and eating in the cafeteria gave me anxiety when everybody else couldn't wait to rush to see their friends. Eventually, I felt totally disjointed from the established social culture.
As Susan Cain wrote in her book Quiet, I thought being introverted was "a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology."
So to make up for this social shortcoming I over-exerted myself to try and mask my introvertedness: I went to more football games, movies, mall trips, sleepovers, parties and everything in between not necessarily because I was thrilled to do these things but because they were "fun" and so I felt obligated to at least make an attempt to enjoy them. Sure, no one forced me to do these things besides myself, but I didn't know how to be "normal" any other way. The harder I tried to force myself to "convert" myself to an extrovert, the faster I found myself growing more and more unhappy.
So I gave up. It's cliché to say, I realize, but I gave up trying to be something that I wasn't then and probably never will be.
And... I guess with time, I settled into my introversion and grew to embrace it.
Now I eat lunch alone and check my emails or catch up on news while comfortably tucked away in a wing where few people ever see me, I "go out" sparingly, my circle has narrowed down to a few close friends, I prefer to spend Friday nights unwinding, I've stopped trying to hold a front of social sleekness and I'm happier than I've ever been in my whole life. By spending time off that's removed from my environment, I've gotten better acquainted with myself and discovered the things I'm truly passionate about: human rights, education and blogging. And by pursuing these passions, I've become connected to a whole network of like-minded people with whom conversation flows naturally and the interactions we have leave me feeling inspired and motivated. I genuinely enjoy having a few close friends I can to talk on the phone, go to dinner and explore cities with. I love getting to know people one-on-one. And I finally feel like "me" now... without any discomfort or fakeness.
I'm still figuring it out (ain't that the anthem to teenage-hood?), but I know that being an introvert is a key component of my personality and that by embracing it I have been able to fully accept myself. It's not at all crazy to be introverted and to love it. Not one bit.