If you look up “introvert” in the dictionary (let’s face it, you’re going to google it, not “look it up”) it will say “a shy person.” A shy person?! Let me grab my glove, slap the dictionary in the face and challenge it to a duel. J’accuse!
Introversion and shyness are separate things; similar, but separate. That’s not to say they can’t go hand-in-hand. I’m not sheepish in any way, however I do label myself as an introvert. If I’m quiet or reclusive, it is by choice not by design. Shy people experience a fear or anxiety about socializing or being with others and in a lot of cases have low self esteem. Anyone who knows me knows that I do not fit that description.
“You have power over your mind-not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” Marcus Aurelius
Introverts fixate on turning inward. We direct our energy toward internal thoughts and feelings. We enjoy our own company and spending time with others is often exhausting. My sister, an extrovert, describes it in terms of power. Her power comes from external sources: being with others, attending social situations, choosing to interact with humankind. As an introvert, my power comes from within: being alone and enjoying quiet solitude.
“Make new friends, but keep the old…?”
My sister makes friends left and right. She truly enjoys the company of others and I know that she still gets together with old pals from high school when she comes home to visit. How normal of her! I, on the other hand, don’t manage relationships well. It’s not that I don’t have friends. I just don’t keep in contact with them regularly. I have lots of friends from years past, but as I get older I don’t seem to make new friends. The whole process is draining. I find it difficult to relate to people anymore; my standards have become exceptionally high. Believe me, I am the best acquaintance you’ll ever make, but anything more and I start to fade into the background. I suppose I’m looking to make friends with someone just like me. That’s a little tricky as I was always told by my dad that I am “one of a kind.”
“All rascals, unfortunately, are sociable.” Arthur Schopenhauer
You know, it’s not that I don’t socialize. My work environment (I’m a phlebotomist at a blood center) keeps me surrounded by others. I like my coworkers and donors – some more than others. When I refer to myself as an introvert they seem to be in disbelief because to them I’m winning the Miss Congeniality contest. For me, being social is something I can turn on and off, at will, when I choose. When I’m at work it is always on. At the end of the day as I get into my car the switch is turned off. Both are done by my choice. I control it.
So, don’t assume that all wallflowers lack confidence or that the quiet person in the back of the room is brooding. Perhaps they are an introvert and are enjoying the art of reserved observation. Although, more likely, they were probably coerced into attending whatever insipid function their so-called friends thought would be fun and now they are day dreaming about being somewhere else by themselves. And social distancing… I’ve been doing it for years! Give it a try. Learn what you are capable of doing on your own. I do lots of stuff by myself: hikes, museum visits, road trips, eating out. I love it. I find it empowering. Maybe you will too.