I look back at my young teen days and I would happily disappear into my room with my Harry Potter books and escape the chaotic world outside. My room was my happy place, at 14 I had OCD and my room was a sanctuary where I felt completely relaxed. In books, I could envisage the characters in far off lands daydreaming that I was exciting, adventurous and brave when in fact I was shy, quiet in the real world all in the safety on my home.
I don’t come from outspoken stock, my parents preferring quiet nights in and limited socialising rather than large family get-togethers and parties. My dad doesn’t drink and my mum rarely so staying in, watching their shows or listening to their kind of music is a choice they are happy to make. They don’t make plans if they don’t want to go, simple really and they are happier for that.
I enjoy being part of a group but now understand that I also enjoy being myself and sometimes. I have to be by myself to recharge especially if I have been around lots of people. It could be as simple as going to the toilet alone or like I would do most Christmases, I would vanish upstairs to the peace of my parent’s bedroom where I would watch the same programme they were watching downstairs, but I would get some time to process, refresh and allow me to continue with the day without getting overwhelmed.
Hanging out with friends was fun but I would always make my excuses before I became restless and irritable. I would say I was going for lunch/dinner with my gran, when I needed to press the reset button then head out again to see them when I felt I could. This way I could still be part of the “gang” but wasn’t pushing too far out of my comfort zones.
At parties, I would often sit on the sides
This wasn’t because I was having a bad time, it was sensory overload at those places and I preferred to sit and observe. I was used to the many adult faces approach with sad expressions concerned that I was isolating myself, not wanting to be a part of it all but in my way, I felt I was. I was just all too familiar with the social hangovers of getting stuck in.
A social hangover is that drained feeling you get after using all your energy to be around people. It can also occur if you’ve been too overstimulated for a period, it doesn’t have to take much. I can find myself overwhelmed after watching too many true crime documents.
It causes mental and physical exhaustion that comes when introverts don’t get the time to recharge. And if you think about it, this actually makes a lot of sense. So, I won’t apologise for needing a breather from time to time.
It is hard being an introvert
Society seems to have it down that being more “out there” is the way to go. We should all be more outgoing, loud and available. For years I faked it, alcohol helped. I would go out every night at Uni. I pushed my social boundaries resulting in a complete burnout. I dropped out of Uni and headed home, and I swear I slept for 4 months. I needed a long pause. My experiment with being an extrovert had ruined my mental health.
There is power in the introvert though, we can just look down history and see that some of the most influential people were self-proclaimed introverts, Albert Einstein, JK Rowling and Bill Gates were/are famously private people -yet changed the world. They are proof that the quiet nature of the introvert is not to be underestimated and that, as Mahatma Gandhi said, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
“Creativity flourishes in solitude. With quiet, you can hear your thoughts, you can reach deep within yourself, you can focus.”
~ Leo Babauta, Zen Habits
I get some of my best blog ideas while out walking alone, headphones in and tapping away on my Notes App on my phone. Believe me, what’s happening inside my head, is often WAY more interesting than what’s happening around me. #mumlife!
My non-stop thinking, over-analysing and nit-picking are all my natural introvert traits and they are just the perfect ingredients for creative magic. Expressing what was going on in my head onto paper is what got me started in all this, it helped me provide a clearer sense of identity, a better understanding of my inner working, and has played an important role in my personal development.
I’m useless at public speaking or any speaking for that matter. I can maybe write a semi-readable post (verdicts still out) but only after going over and over it and then getting my husband to go over it. If I have a new idea, or someone catches me off guard – I get tongue-tied. It’s all mashed up and blending in my mind spitting out the odd keyword but makes no sense to anyone, I need time to process and make sense of it. I find it much more comfortable writing than talking, though I have gotten better with lots of practice on my Instagram stories.
Whether you were the child always left out, the last to be chosen during P.E, or the employee passed over for a deserved promotion, many introverts have had to build their own coping mechanisms living the quiet life. Like most who have had it hard, they are able to empathise with those in pain and correlate with others on a deeper level.
If you’ve had a hug from an introvert, feel blessed; we don’t let just anyone in. But when we do, we are fiercely loyal and empathic. We make some of the best friends, partners, co-workers, and bosses you could ask for.