Believe it or not, I am an introvert, through and through. I don’t like loud noises, bright lights, crowds, cramped spaces, or the feeling of being unable to move freely and comfortably about in my own space. I take a huge sense of comfort in being alone, though I have opened up my ‘bubble’ to be nearly equally comfortable when spending time with Matt. If I’m too far out of my comfort zone for too long I get stressed out, irritable, tired, and usually quite frustrated.
There are certain situations that really don’t work for me. When I have to socialize by myself in a large crowd, I usually feel utterly awkward, displaced and uncomfortable. When I’m in someone else’s home, I have a hard time relaxing, unless it’s a home that is comfortable to me, like a grandparent or parent’s house or that of a really close friend. Travel can be quite stressful and I’m usually feeling relief instead of sadness by the time I’m almost home. Guests in my own space can make me feel pretty stressed especially if I’m unprepared or feel like I have to be entertaining when I have other things on my plate. Even when loved ones like my father are visiting and reassure me that they are perfectly fine on their own, I still have that little feeling of unease.
A lot of people say, “Oh, just sit down and talk to someone!” or “You won’t notice us at all!” or “Make yourself at home!” but it just doesn’t seem to work like that for me. I feel very much on edge in these situations. The worst part is that most people seem to be extroverts, and they really don’t get that I’m not being mean, I’m not being rude, I’m not intentionally trying to push people out of my bubble, I’m just trying to self-preserve so I don’t end up dissolving into tears when I can’t sleep, can’t relax, and can’t properly communicate.
If you’re interested in how you, personally, could make an introvert feel much more comfortable, I have a few suggestions. (That’s not to say that my way is the best way, not at all — I recognize that sometimes I need to push past my own feelings and step into the bright lights and loud noises, at least for a little while.)
First off, for me, the number one biggest thing people can do to make me comfortable is give me advance notice of changes. Whether its expected travel, a task I will be asked to take on, or anything that requires me to make a decision or shuffle things around, the more notice, the better. As soon as you know you’re going to want something from or of me, let me know. Please.
I also recommend you read this fantastic article from the Atlantic, Caring for Your Introvert. Something to take to heart:
“This isn’t antisocial. It isn’t a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: “I’m okay, you’re okay—in small doses.”
My last piece of advice is simple — please don’t try to make me, or any other introvert you might encounter, into an extrovert. It is not a part of who I am and it will just serve to make me more uncomfortable. I’m not actually missing out on anything or upset by not being in the center of the social scene. You may feel like you would be, because you’re an extrovert, but I am perfectly happy, content, and comfortable to be a bit more withdrawn. There is nothing wrong with me, so please don’t act like I need to be changed.
If you really want to get into reading material, the book The Highly Sensitive Person, seems to be applicable in learning how to deal with introverts. I’m not sure that all introverts are highly sensitive people but I know when I read this book that I found myself agreeing with and understanding a lot of what the author wrote.
I have no idea how many people out there are introverts as compared to extroverts. But we do exist, and you probably know at least one of us (because you probably know me!), so keep in mind that you may be dealing with someone who literally just wants some peace and quiet. We will gladly party with you, but on our own terms.
Do you identify as an introvert or an extrovert (or somewhere in between)?