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I’m an only child. I don’t know if that’s specifically why I’m an introvert, but I am. I have always been able to spend time alone, and even live alone, in complete bliss. Wiktionary defines introverted as: “Preferring the internal, satisfied with self, lacking interest or comfort in social interactions.” That’s a pretty simplified explanation, but that’s the sum of it. Introversion was first identified by Carl Jung. Essentially, while extroverts gain energy from social interaction, introverts expend energy for social interaction, and it can be a very draining experience.

The term “introvert” gets tossed around a lot, often in a derogatory sense. There are a lot of misconceptions about it, the main one being that introverts are lonely. But I proudly out myself as a bonafide introvert. It varies for everyone. For me, it doesn not equal loneliess; it means that I prefer avoid interactions with people I don’t know. I am comfortable and happy with my own company, and I don’t need a lot of external interaction to feel complete. Some introverts have crippling social anxiety. It can make it difficult to deal with people period. I have had to force myself to have an extroverted version handy for certain situations, largely because of my career, where I do have to occasionally meet and interact with people. The ugly flip-side of being an introvert is that people make snap judgments about you and label you (because people just LOVE labeling others) as a snob, or even (gasp) a BITCH. I have had multiple people tell me (once they’ve gotten to know me better), “You are so sweet. I used to think you were a bitch.” Um, thanks?

I have always had a small, tight-knit group of friends. My best friend is very much like me. When we make plans, if one of us isn’t feeling it, we cancel. We don’t even have to explain, because we understand each other. We both hate talking on the phone, and although we talk almost every day, it’s usually over text. And we are okay with that.

Being an introvert doesn’t mean just staying home and binge watching tv

Introverts are all different. Personally, I am rarely bored. It’s not that there aren’t any outside events that I enjoy, it’s just that most of the time I would rather stay at home. I adore being at home. It is absolutely my favorite place to be. My home is pretty and comfortable, dogs are allowed, and I love to cook. Thanks to Amazon, I am so close to not ever needing to leave my house. Whenever I do venture out, I am easily annoyed. People in stores are the worst. Rude, pushy people get my hackles up. There are no pushy, rude people at my house (well, my Boston Terrier Bijoux can be a little rude and pushy sometimes, but she’s really adorable, so I put up with it). There are endless fun things to do at my house: I could be infinitely happy reading, watching movies, listening to music, having friends over, sewing sometimes, sitting on my patio, cooking, and taking my beloved bubble baths. I’m pretty easy to please. I also enjoy being hermits with friends, either at my house or theirs. And any of these things are preferable to events with lots of people I don’t know, which inevitably lead to SMALL TALK.

Small talk: just ugh

One thing that I really can’t handle is small talk and chit chat. I should probably live in Europe, where small talk is nearly non-existent. I’ll just go ahead and use Americans as an example. Americans tend to love sharing their entire life story with you within five minutes of meeting. I am not that easy to get to know. It takes me awhile to get comfortable with new people. I don’t like giving up much information about myself. I am very private. I don’t share much about my private life on social media. Online shopping, customer service chat, and self-checkout lines were great boons to introverts. Any opportunity I have to take care of business over text, chat, or email is a win in my book! I’m not even good at pampering sessions: making small talk with a hair stylist or manicurist is anathema to me. “What do you do? Are you married? Do you have kids? How about this weather?” It doesn’t help that I have always felt like an outsider/outcast, and that throughout my life I’ve encountered very few people who find what I have to say interesting. If they do, I open up like a rose! I don’t know about this weather, but let’s talk about Louis XIV and his passion for architecture or Hollywood Regency! No? I usually get blank stares. So I don’t open up much. (Sidenote: if anyone feels like chatting about 17th century French court culture, I’m your girl!). It’s a defense mechanism for sure. Sometimes I will make a calculated effort to avoid “running into” an acquaintance in a store. Sounds awful, right? But sometimes I just can NOT drum up the energy to engage in chit chat.

Decompression

I have moments of extroverty social butterflyness, but they are rare, and whenever I do engage in social activity, I find that I need to decompress afterwards. I need even more alone time than normal to recover my sanity. When things are too people-y, it takes a toll on me. If I have too many activities, I have to go into full hermit mode for awhile. Eventually I’ll snap out of it and feel ready to interact again. At my previous job, I was surrounded by people and noise all day. I couldn’t wait to get home where it was quiet and there were no people except the ones who matter: my husband and the dogs. Driving home from work was like heading towards HEAVEN. Now I work from home, and it’s heaven 24-7.

Events & Activities

When I was younger, I was Miss Busy. I was constantly going out and doing things. Even though I was a born introvert, it was my time to do Things. And I did so many things. But now that’s out of my system. I don’t crave events and activities any more. Occasionally, something will come up that I just HAVE to go to, but it has to be pretty damn appealing. I am very conscious of my time and how I spend it, and especially who I spend it with. Crowds are a HUGE no-no for me. I just don’t have the patience for crowds. And UGH: SMALL TALK.

How to deal with introverts

Extroverts probably aren’t reading this article. But if you are, don’t put too much pressure on people who might be introverts — it isn’t always easy for us to say no, but sometimes we do like being invited. Younger me often made up excuses for not going. Now I have empowered myself to say “I can’t make it, but thanks for the invite.” I have to be careful though, because the truth is that 9.8 times out of 10 I’m not going in the future, either. I have had people really pressure me before, and it makes me uncomfortable. If you’re an extrovert who loves activities and doing stuff, try to be more understanding of the fact that not everyone likes doing stuff.

For introverts: a little toolbox

While doing research for this article, I came across lots of tips for how to NOT be an introvert. I’m not going to tell you how to do that! I feel introverts are often outcasts in society because people don’t know how to handle them. Call me biased, but I don’t see anything wrong with being an introvert. I am 100% happy being an introvert, thankyouverymuch. It isn’t something that needs to be corrected. It’s your life, and you can do what you want. So here are just a few tips from me personally. I’m not a psychologist or a life coach, but these are things that have helped me. Adult introverts have developed a lot of tools to help them get through social situations and life in general.

  1. Don’t be sorry. You don’t have to apologize for being how you are. You’re a damn grown up lady now.
  2. Eliminate your FOMO.
  3. Learn how to gracefully turn down invitations. Excuses aren’t necessary. You can’t make it. That’s enough.
  4. Don’t feel like you have to justify your choices to anyone.
  5. Keep expanding your inner world. Don’t stop learning and having things to look forward to.
  6. Keep improving your surroundings*. Your home, your wardrobe, yourself.

*Since I am spending the vast majority of my time at home now, I have really focused on my surroundings. I want to keep improving my home to truly make it my nest. Also, working from home, I have seen my wardrobe change drastically. I have pared down my “dress up” and “work” clothes, and have focused on getting comfortable things to wear that are not sweatpants. Even though few people see me besides my husband these days, I like to keep my appearance up. It’s very good for my self esteem 🙂

Are you an introvert? Let us know in the comments. And feel free to share your tips, stories, annoyances, and joys! Introverts unite!

by Stacie Herndon

Stacie is a writer, graphic designer, and web developer. Legend has it that she was born old. She has always loved outrageous older ladies, often befriending them over people her own age. She is a devoted Francophile, loves a good Sauvignon Blanc and can mix a mean cocktail. She will have red hair until the day she departs this earth.