I do not have an extroverted bone in my body. Seriously. I am not outgoing nor overly talkative. I hate large groups of people. Small talk is my worst nightmare. My brain doesn’t have an off switch. I spend too much time remembering all the stupid things I’ve said or done. And worst of all, talking is hard.
If you can relate to those things, you’re probably an introvert. Welcome to the club where, despite our reputation, we’re actually all really cool here.
I have been introverted my whole life. I will continue to be an introvert until I die. It took me a long time (a loooooooong time.) to accept that and move on. There was a point in my life where talking was excruciating. I spent a majority of my childhood thinking I was an outcast because I was shy. I’ve dealt with so much crap for it I’m surprised I haven’t snapped yet. There were times I would cry because of the criticism. I cried because I thought if I only tried harder, I would be more outgoing. People assumed I wasn’t trying because I was still so quiet, when in reality, I was obsessively thinking about it and trying to “fix myself.”
If you’ve ever been in that boat, I want to write this for you. I spent years fighting this and trying to stop being so shy and it only make me feel terrible. I wished that instead of telling me to “just talk” people would have actually helped me. I hope I can help you out a bit. Trust me, I learned these the hard way.
First of all, you don’t need to be fixed. Should I say it louder for the people in the back? INTROVERTS DON’T NEED TO BE FIXED. Introversion is not a disease, a fault in your personality, or a defect. It is just who you are. Just because you are quieter than your peers does not make you any less capable or intelligent. It is not a crutch or a weakness. You are allowed to be shy or introverted or quiet. You don’t need to talk more to make people accept you. You need to surround yourself with people who are okay with your silence.
You don’t need to try harder. Seriously. Stop punishing yourself when you can’t be this person you’ve made up in your head. We all have that person, don’t we? That picture of ourselves where we’re confident and brave and can talk to anyone without feeling the crippling anxiety. Yeah. You need to let it go. Because if you set up this standard for yourself, you’ll beat yourself up every time you do so much as stutter. You’re going to get heavy with the weight of regret from all the times you “should have spoken up.” That weight will crush you. I know because I almost let it crush me.
Accept your shyness. I talked to a coworker of mine the other day about my shyness and he told me “I don’t think it’s a lack of motivation or desire. I think it’s just who you are.” There are a million lessons in that but let me say this, you’re going to be an introvert forever. So you can either live your whole life in constant worry about not being good enough, or you can learn how to get crap done while being an introvert. I know, the world runs on an extroverted system and it’s messed up. So everyone expects you to do things the way outgoing people would, but you’re creative. So think of ways to do things. Don’t expect yourself to run the same way other people do. Find those loopholes.
Stop. Comparing. Yourself. To. Extroverts. Or even other introverts. Or literally anyone. Just because some introverts can do things doesn’t mean you should spend the next 3 weeks crying because you’re too scared to do them. Be yourself. (Cliche. I’m over it.) But true. Alright?
You are worthy of love and respect. Introverts are the recipient of so much ridicule because we are vastly misunderstood. But you are worth just as much as anyone else. You are just as deserving of love as anyone else. Being quiet doesn’t make you any less of a person. It doesn’t make you any less valuable. You still have your place in a group. You still have your talents. You are still a person.
This one’s from my favorite book, Its Kind Of A Funny Story. The book that literally changed my life. I’ve mentioned it before, but Craig says “I don’t owe people anything and I don’t need to talk to them anymore than I feel I need to.” That quote can pretty much take 100% of the credit for how much I talk now. People will give you crap. You’ve probably heard the sarcastic “wow! Why are you so loud?!?!1” comment. People will try to shove you into uncomfortable situations in an attempt to “cure you.” And guess what?! You don’t need to talk to them. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing something in a group, you don’t need to. If you don’t want to talk, you don’t have to. Not talking doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you.
Those are the biggest things that come to mind right now. But listen, I know for me, once I was able to deal with all that stuff, I actually opened up more. I talk a lot. (I bet now people wish I would shut up.) There are still situations I have bad anxiety with. Some people I don’t open up around. But that’s who I am and that’s okay. You are okay just the way you are.
I think I wrote this to remind myself of all that. I got a new job doing what I love (photography.) but it requires so much talking and being outgoing. I’m also going to be a leader up at camp (next week!!) and that requires me be outgoing. And I’m going to do it because I know who I am and I know that I’ll have my moments (or days or weeks) but that doesn’t mean I’m a failure. So not talking doesn’t make you a failure either. We can do this. Some days we won’t be able to talk. But some days…some days we’ll take the world by storm.
(With plenty of intervals of alone time.)