I am a classic social introvert, although I didn’t know that until a few years ago. I am the person who loves to go out, and then sit in a corner and watch everyone else.
I like to go to events and be alone at those events.
I am a watcher of people – I study what others do and I live through their experience. And I am okay with that. I didn’t used to be. It used to upset me greatly that I would go out and not “have fun” myself. I blamed it on others. I blamed it on people just not liking me. But, the truth is that I have always given off the energy that I am a watcher and not a talker or doer in social events. Yes, I am one of those parents who absolutely lived through their kids experiences! And I loved every minute I spent watching them do their thing.
I’ve been called “moody”. I’ve been told I “look mean”. I’ve been told I just need to “relax”. And you could always find me sitting away from other parents at ball games and events, whenever possible. Some found that “standoffish”, I suppose. But, the truth is that it was just me being a social introvert – wanting to be out in the world, but wanting to do it from a distance.
Until I figured out this is who I am, I fought my natural tendencies to be alone and forced myself to interact and become part of the group. Anxiety would take over and social functions ended up being nightmares for me. Going out became excruciatingly painful and I began skipping team dinners and events even for the kids if I knew that socializing was a must.
When I was trying to be part of a group and to fit in with other parents or neighbors or community members, I never did “fit in” because I wasn’t meant to – it wasn’t authentic. But, because I wasn’t self-aware or self-accepting, I thought fitting in was what I was supposed to want – that being part of a clique is what I was supposed to do. I was miserable, though, because I never could live up to that. Weddings, reunions, group dinners, family gatherings, home sales parties, barbecues with strangers, and work functions – anxiety ridden nightmares.
So, where did I feel comfortable? Small group gatherings of people I really knew well or hanging out with just a single friend – at home . Gatherings where I could sit back and watch all the goings on and not have to participate. Less stimulating environments mostly, but not always. Really large gatherings like conferences, concerts, college or even high school football were okay because I wasn’t expected to interact with others except an occasional “high-five”, clap, or cheer.
It was looking at this pattern of anxiety versus comfort that clued me in to the fact that I am massively introverted and allowed me to begin healing the negative thoughts and beliefs about my not being overly social. I liked being around others, if I could disappear in to the background.
Once you accept and acknowledge where you are, you can then work on loving yourself and living with the person you are – instead of fighting your natural instincts at every turn.
But, I still had a problem – I wanted friends and friendships. Humans need other people, after all. How to find and keep friends that could work with my discomfort in partying, hanging out with strangers, going to unfamiliar places, and hanging out with me mostly doing very boring things would be quite a journey.
Here are some things I have learned:
- Don’t pretend to like doing something just because someone else does. You’ll end up anxious and won’t have fun.
- Talk about your personality with new friends so they know you aren’t being distant or turning down their requests to hang out because you are snobbish.
- You can be friends with extroverts if you can understand each other’s quirks and not judge each other.
- Try socializing if you feel like it. It’s okay to say no – but it’s also okay to say yes – even if that means you need to leave early or take many trips outside for fresh air!
- Be honest. Don’t lie to get out of something. Lies always come back to bite you in the tush and ruin friendships.
- Remember that it is not all about you. There will be times that you have to suck up your anxiety, discomfort, and fears and put your friend’s feelings first. You will regret not going to a friends wedding or graduation party or baby shower!
- Make sure you are working on your self-care and self-awareness so that when opportunities to enjoy friendships do come up you are in the best emotional place to enjoy them.
- Give and Take. Compromise with your more extroverted friends. They hang with you at home watching a movie on Friday and you go out with them on Saturday. Do an IOU if needed, but a person won’t stay friends with someone who repeatedly lets them down. Be honest about your level of comfort in socializing.
- Use social media wisely. It is so easy to meet people online, just be careful. Also, airing your personal problems on Facebook is often a trap for introverts because you aren’t face-to-face with people. This is a huge mistake for anyone. Private message a close friend if you need to vent or talk about a problem.
- Love yourself for who you are uniquely and individually. Get rid of any old beliefs that tell you how you must socialize or how friendships are supposed to operate. There are lots and lots of people who will accept and love you for you – and visa versa. Just be you. ♥