An Open Letter From an Introvert…
“You really should enjoy life,” he smiled, wrapping his arm around me. “You only live once.”
It’s really amazing how often I experience some variation of this scene… Someone violating my personal space in an effort to figure me out, while simultaneously spewing their horribly skewed perception of me and my actions. It seems whenever I end up in a social setting with a group of people who don’t know anything about me (aside from what I look like and my relationship with the person who brought me) being low-key is next to impossible. Apparently, people are particularly perplexed by the fact that I just like to chill, drink my beer, smoke my cigarette and vibe to the music. I don’t need to dance. I don’t need to socialize. I don’t need to “enjoy life”, “let it all go”, “stop holding back”, or *insert random observation of my mood, outlook on life, self-esteem, actions or social prowess here*. I don’t need to pretend to enjoy things I don’t enjoy or talk about things I have no desire to talk about in order to convince anyone that I’m not antisocial. I am not quiet or shy at all… When I feel as if I don’t have anything substantive to contribute, I usually abstain from polluting the environment with pointless noise emanating from my mouth. I wish everyone would do the same. That being said, I am not antisocial; I’m selectively social. There is a difference.
“Why aren’t you drinking? You should really loosen up!”
My life was perfectly rich and fulfilling before you walked over here and tried to liberate me from my perceived shackles of social anxiety. I receive love, compliments and general goodwill on a daily basis and I can only surmise that it is because I give of these things freely. I have a wonderful family and an inherited sense of humor. I have beautiful friends who truly understand me, do not judge me, and accept me for everything I am and all that I am not. I get all the intellectual intercourse required to keep me sane. I express myself freely. I attend plenty of events with music I thoroughly enjoy… and I dance… oh man, do I dance! I actually DO stop and smell the roses. I watch ants do their daily work and save insects from being stepped on. I love when flocks of birds fly over my head in these beautifully chaotic patterns. I am in love with the sound of the rain. I watch sunsets and believe in miracles. I view the world through a filter of intrigue, with just a touch of cynical whimsy. I am so grateful for life and the privilege of living on a planet that is so magnificent! I am spiritually, emotionally and mentally freer than most people could ever imagine and I feel no need to prove any of this to anyone but myself. I am an introvert. I’m not shy, I’m not stuck up and I’m not antisocial. I’m not depressed. I don’t have low self esteem. I don’t feel left out. I don’t need anyone to feel sorry for me and I most certainly don’t need anyone trying to tell me how I should be enjoying myself in order to rectify any of these problems I’m assumed to have. I really wish people would stop trying to “fix” me. Your heart is in the right place, but you don’t know me. And that’s okay. Everyone is entitled to be wrong.
- “When introverts want to be alone, it is not, by itself, a sign of depression. It means that they either need to regain their energy from being around people or that they simply want the time to be with their own thoughts. Being with people, even people they like and are comfortable with, can prevent them from their desire to be quietly introspective. Being introspective though, does not mean that an introvert never has conversations. However, those conversations are generally about ideas and concepts, not about what they consider the trivial matters of social small talk.” -Carol Bainbridge
“You’ve gotta enjoy life, babe. You’re beautiful; you have a lot to offer the world. You’ve gotta stop holding back.”
Now, you may be thinking I’m being unfairly hard on people who are just trying to be friendly. These people are making a genuine effort to get to know me, include me and help me to “loosen up”. I get it. I understand this so well that I allow them to be condescending, to invade my personal space, to be too familiar with their words, to make me uncomfortable and to judge me. So I ask you people who think I am being too cynical, is this fair to me? Is it fair to any of us introverted people to have to be subjected to people who equate our introversion with low self-esteem? Is it fair to be given unsolicited communication advice? Is it fair to be subjected to people who can’t seem to have a good time unless everyone is drinking, dancing, taking pictures every two seconds, talking about nothing or otherwise scrambling around, frantically searching for something to do, when all we want to do is sit and take in the moment? When did it become such a huge problem for people to just BE? I, sitting there alone with my beer, smoking my cigarette, listening to music… I am more present in this moment than any of these people are. I see this moment for all of it’s potential and all that it lacks. I can bathe myself in every drop of enjoyment that this moment has to offer without moving a single inch, and you would be none the wiser. That is what you don’t understand about us introverts. We are having a great time… and you’ve just ruined it.
- “Introverts are more concerned with the inner world of the mind. They enjoy thinking, exploring their thoughts and feelings. They often avoid social situations because being around people drains their energy. This is true even if they have good social skills. After being with people for any length of time, such as at a party, they need time alone to “recharge”.” –Carol Bainbridge
“Why aren’t you dancing? You seem like you’re not enjoying yourself. Come dance with me.”
I believe it was Friedrich Nietzsche who said, “My solitude doesn’t depend on the presence or absence of people; on the contrary, I hate who steals my solitude without, in exchange, offering me true company.” What is true company, you ask? Well, for us it is someone who can manage to “get to know us” without making us feel like we’re on a job interview. What’s your name? What do you do? Why is that always the succession of questions? Good company asks you what your passions are… How you feel about the evolution of human consciousness or if you play any instruments. Good company gets to know you from the inside out, past all the surface bullshit people use to define themselves. That being said, I beg of you, I am pleading from the deepest parts of my yearning soul, please stop harassing us. Please stop pulling us to dance floors, filling our ears with incoherent questions, putting us on the spot, embarrassing us in public, invading our personal space, giving us advice we did not ask for, trying to “help” us, trying to force a connection that just isn’t there and violating our God given right to just sit and be. If you truly wish to engage us, there is only one thing you have to do: LISTEN. I am a person with my own thoughts, views, opinions, experiences and perceptions on life and they are all unique and valid. I do not need to be taught any lessons on how to enjoy life from someone who believes he has managed to figure me out during the walk over to me or by asking me silly questions like what I do for a living. Honestly, who the hell cares? I have NEVER asked a person what they do for a living in order to get to know them. Seriously, I am troubled by the thought that human beings are really this boring.
- “Contrary to what most people think, an introvert is not simply a person who is shy. In fact, being shy has little to do with being an introvert! Shyness has an element of apprehension, nervousness and anxiety, and while an introvert may also be shy, introversion itself is not shyness. Basically, an introvert is a person who is energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around other people.” –Carol Bainbridge
“Come take a picture!“
“Are you okay?”
“Here, have a drink.”
“Don’t be shy.”
“Why are you so quiet?”
“You need to get out more.”
“You seem really stuck up.”
“Are you in a bad mood?”
“Come dance with me!”
“Oh c’mon! Have some fun!”
With this post I can only hope that someone somewhere can gain a better understanding of people who are very tired of being misunderstood. Maybe it’s that girl you think is stuck up, or your child who can’t seem to make any friends. Maybe it’s a family member you’ve dismissed as depressed, a friend who you think is boring, or a significant other who you just can’t quite reach the next level with. Introverts are more prevalent than you think. You may even be one yourself! The funny thing about us is once we feel comfortable with you, we can be the funniest, most enjoyable people to be around. It’s like a secret we feel comfortable sharing with you… except the secret is our personality 🙂 Remember, it’s always the quiet ones…