I have always known that I am a shy person.
(Funnily enough, it isn’t something that somebody needs to point out in order for you to be aware of this fact). Either you thrive in all forms of social interaction, or you feel as though you would rather be on your own. I always had the presumption that this was something to do with my anxiety, and it wasn’t until recently that I discovered that I’m actually an introvert, and I’m not the only person to feel this way.
What is introversion?
People who are introverted tend to exhibit similar characteristics to those who are shy, however it is more of a case of preferring their own company, rather than having a withstanding fear of socialising with people, like shyness and social anxiety can accumulate to. An introvert, as opposed to an extrovert, tends to be more inward turning with their thoughts, feelings and actions, and thrives off of being by themselves, rather than being around others. It has been found in numerous studies that we feel this way because we are more sensitive to external factors than most people, meaning we can get easily exhausted and drained in social situations, leading us to become relatively reserved in comparison to our peers.
Introversion can sometimes be a difficult trait to spot in ourselves, and in other people. Some people who you might consider to be a ‘social butterfly’ could actually have numerous introverted tendencies. The same applies when put in contrast – people who you might consider to be introverted could actually love social situations, and thrive off of the energy that they get from being around others. It is vital to remember that although people tend to lean one way or the other, the introvert-extrovert concept is on a continuing spectrum, and people can lie anywhere on this scale.
Common signs of introversion.
One of the ways that I am able to identify my introversion is my lack of energy in social situations. To begin with, I enjoy the thought of going out with my friends and socialising, but when the event gets closer, it’s as if I lose all motivation to get myself dolled up, and I feel as though I would much rather be at home, tucked up in bed with a mug of Camomile tea and my favourite book. Even when I manage to convince myself to go along and be social (“come on Soph, it’ll be fun!”), it’s not long until my energy is at an all time low, and I can’t find it in me to create conversation anymore. At this point I just long for my bed, for my favourite mug full of tea, for my own personal space.
Another frequent characteristic that I notice in myself, is how any form of overstimulation can lead to feelings of confusion, agitation and the feeling of being extremely overwhelmed. This can range from too many people in the room around me, hearing too many different noises that I can’t focus on, seeing bright and/or flashing lights, or any other form of busy and chaotic environment that can make me feel far too pressured. It is when I feel like this that I feel as though I need to escape, even if this is just taking a minute outside to check in with myself again.
This leads me directly on to another sign of introversion – enjoying your own company. I love solitude, and I personally thrive when I am in my own little bubble. Most of my hobbies are ones that I do alone – reading, drawing, journalling, planning, blogging, etc., and I often find that I work better when I am by myself. On top of this, when I do feel overwhelmed or exhausted in social situations, having my own time and space from those around me helps me to ‘recharge’. This is almost as if I am regaining my composure before I am able to face the situation again. I don’t fear these situations, I just need to ensure that I am fully prepared.
Due to having so much time to myself, it has made me very self-aware. I consider this to be another factor of introversion, because anybody who revels in their own time must truly know themselves, inside and out. You are able to examine what triggers you to feel sad, anxious, drained, happy, positive, overwhelmed, and the like. You are able to take the time to explore what interests you, what fascinates you, and what you want from life. Self-awareness is really important to me, and it’s something that I tend to focus on when I’m having time to myself.
I consider myself to be edging towards extreme introversion. Yes, I have anxiety, and this probably causes this to be slightly more exaggerated than most others may be aware of, but I’m slowly learning that the two are not actually connected – despite the common misconception that they are.
Other common misconceptions of introversion.
Introverts are shy. Okay, yes, we have very similar characteristics to those who are shy, but this doesn’t mean that we have an abundant fear of being around others, and have a strict inability to communicate with other people.
Introverts don’t enjoy social engagement. This is another common misconception. Yes, we may feel very drained and overwhelmed in social situations, but that doesn’t go to say that all introverts avoid socialising. The truth is that many of us enjoy being in the company of others – myself included – it can just be harder to remain in these situations for a long period of time.
Introverts are boring. Although we might prefer to be in our own company, we still like to go out and socialise with others, and have just as much fun as our peers. We are humans the same as everybody else; and ‘boring’ and ‘introverted’ are two totally different personality traits that do not coincide at all. Some extroverts can be boring, it is a matter of different individuals.
Introverts are incapable of being confident. This is one that really grinds my gears! Introverts may show similar characteristics to shyness, but the two terms are not interrelated. Introverts have the capacity to be confident and stand up for themselves, just the same as any other person.
Introversion and anxiety are NOT the same thing. This is one that I learnt the hard way. For so long I morphed the two together, thinking my introverted tendencies were just another part of my anxiety. Just because you are introverted and enjoy time to yourself, it does not mean you have anxiety, or any other related mental illness.