It is time to accept that I am not a very extroverted person.
Mathematically speaking, I am probably 20% of the time in a social, “ready for anything” state, and 80% of the time in a state I like to call “happy to stay cooped up in a soft blanket watching Gilmore Girls repeats while creating autumnal mood boards on Pinterest”.
Let’s have a show of hands…
I think that everybody is a bit like this, deep down. Somewhere underneath even the most confident man or woman’s pearly-toothed veneer, there’s a little introvert, desperate to order a pizza and crack on with War Of The Worlds instead of going on yet another boozer with Kevin.
But how often are we allowed to heed our little introvert, and how often do we feel obliged to ignore it?
As I have grown older, I have both felt societal pressure and the voice of my little introvert grow stronger. I find myself desperately needing more time alone to recover from the demands of adulthood (mainly working a nine to six, doing chores and hunting Elk for the winter season) in order to be my “best self” – to unlock that little, calm part of me that helps me stay level.
But it seems that the more I need this private/quiet time, the more difficult it is to find it – and take it.
Once you are a fully-fledged Adult Person, it seems that your time does not “belong” to you so much anymore. My Monday to Friday lifestyle is a good example of this. Like I said, I’m currently working a nine to six – but really, it’s longer than that. I also have to commute home, catch up with my live-in boyfriend, make dinner, have a bath (we are showerless bottom-dwellers) and make my flat somewhat habitable before I settle down. By then, it is usually half past eight. Half past eight, until my time, is “free” again. Suddenly, I am under pressure. What do I do with myself? Do I work on my book? Do I work on my blog? Do I try and do some freelance? Do I read? Do I call my parents? Do I play video games and unwind?
If I decide to write, I end up feeling bad that I didn’t use my time to relax. If I relax, I end up feeling bad that I didn’t use my time to write.
There’s a point to this spiel, which is this.
I think that this lack of free time (commonplace in adulthood) directly impacts on the needs of the little introvert – and I also think that, where the pressure is increased (in, again, being an Adult Person with Adult Duties), the needs of the little introvert also grow.
Put alternatively: as the expectations rack up – on my time, faculties, energy supplies (mental, physical and emotional) and relationships – so does my introverted nature. Like a body demands water when it’s dehydrated, my mind demands recuperation when it’s stretched – and both worsen without.
Now don’t get me wrong.
I am not saying that being introverted is just a character-based defence mechanism, or that there isn’t beauty, too, in being withdrawn. I absolutely cherish my alone time (that is when I know what to do with it), and the fruits that come from it.
But I cannot help but notice that, as a child, I had both. I was very active and social as well as shy, inward-looking and creative. I could comfortably do it all. But the older I get, the less feasible this seems.
An unaccommodating world.
Perhaps this, again, is due to expectations. When you are a child you have next to no expectations – on your time, how you “perform” in society and more. Yet the adult world appears to demand that you are extroverted and energetic for most of your waking hours, while simultaneously refusing to indulge the little introvert at all (unless you are asleep. Or dead).
We are encouraged to fake confidence. We feel obliged to include “team player” as an attribute on our CVs. We feel awkward about going to restaurants or the cinema alone, for fear of being judged. We feel pushed to go to after work drinks so that we are not outcast by our other teammates. And, if social media is to be believed, we are all big travellers, drinkers, selfie-takers and party-goers in general.
Because I am not like this for 80% of the time – but am pretending to be 100% of the time – I am actually more tired and introverted than I have ever been, because I am constantly obliged to ignore my character to fit in.
Just yesterday, my manager told me I can’t solely email people with completed work once I’ve done something. I have to go over and tell them in person, too. I am sure that he did not give this request a second thought; but for me, the idea of tracking down and confronting strangers doesn’t come naturally. Yet this is a classic example of how our extroverted world runs – as though quieter, shyer personality traits don’t exist, or cannot exist. That being alone – or needing aloneness – is a condition to be rectified.
Introverts – it is up to us.
We need to dismantle these expectations in our landscapes, in order to be kind to every part of ourselves. I will begin by being honest when I need some space. By which I mean, that if I want to wiggle out of a social event to buy myself some sacred personal time I will say so, instead of fobbing the invitee off by pretending that I’ve double-booked, or have food poisoning from eating cereal that went out of date in 2003 (though this is not outside the realms of reason). By doing this, the people in my life will hopefully grow an understanding of this facet of my character, allowing my little introvert to exist more comfortably.
Don’t be afraid to be truthful. Don’t be ashamed of your need for quiet. There is no shame in being introverted, whether that’s 30, 40, 70 or 100% of the time.
You deserve to be yourself.