Last week, in an attempt to keep me reading and clicking and clicking and reading until I looked at the clock and realize 30 minutes have passed, BuzzFeed posted a list of 21 Texts Every Introvert Has Sent. As the dictionary definition of an introvert, I found this list all too relatable and can attest that I’ve sent all these text several times.
But after I got a good laugh out of the list, I started to think about my own introverted tendencies and the bad rap us quiet types tend to get. I’ve been shy since I was young. (Except in school. That was the one place where I loved to shine. The only thing strong enough to take on my shyness is my love of learning and type A overachiever personality. It’s the same reason I chose journalism as a career. I love finding and telling stories to strangers. As long as it’s not my story we’re talking about.) When company would come over to our house, I would stay in my room for as long as possible, mentally preparing myself to go downstairs and face people—usually people I was related to. In one of my lesser moments I hid in the closet for an embarrassingly long time. If you go through the photo albums from my pre-kindergarten days, you might think I was a perpetually grumpy kid. I never smiled if I was forced to pose in a picture. I would mash my lips together and suck them in, like I had a secret I physically had to work to keep. The secret was that I was scared of smiling, of being exposed.
Even now I still tense up when strangers talk to me. Whenever someone gets in the elevator with me, I let out an inner groan because I know the person will try to make conversation, and I’ll have to say something. And if my fellow elevator companion doesn’t say anything, I spend the whole ride worrying that he or she will. This probably makes me sound like the most awkward social turtle, but like most things, there’s a chance I’m being too hard on myself. If someone says “hi” on the street or chats about the weather in the elevator, I’ll say “hi” back or offer some lame comment like “It’s so nice out!” but I’ll never speak first or ask follow-up questions or try to engage with you beyond what’s socially required of me. I’m no longer hiding in closets, but I will never excel at small talk or flirting or socializing. Once, in a fit of rare confidence, I RSVP’d yes to a Meetup of twentysomething women living in my area. But the day of the event I panicked at the thought of being in a room with 15 strangers who were going to want to talk to me. I didn’t go.
Once I become friends with someone and we’ve gotten to the point where we’re comfortable saying whatever to each other, I usually hear this: “I thought you were kind of cold or above everything at first, but now that I know you, I see it’s not true.” That’s the tough part about being a grown-up shy kid. What once came across as cute is now seen as standoffish. When I hear this, I’m not offended. (Okay, maybe I am a little. Us introverts are human after all.) I mostly felt surprised that someone even noticed me enough to make a critique of my character. That’s the thing about introverts: We spend most of our time trying to go unnoticed.
So what is the point of this post about my insecurities? Consider it a PSA about for you bubbly extroverts. Cut us introverts some slack now and then. We know we can come across as unfriendly, but we really think you’re great and are hoping some of your charisma rubs off on us. Sometimes we do prefer to just be alone. Don’t take it as an insult. We still think you’re great, but it’s just something we have to do for us. Sometimes we like being quiet. It doesn’t mean were mad. (Again, we think you’re great.) It takes a while to crack through to us, but once you do, I promise it’s worth it.