As an introvert, I’ve probably gone through all possible phases introverts can go through and now I know for sure that introverts don’t need to be fixed. In middle school, I tried to convince myself that I liked socializing. In high school, I was the closest to the real me I’ve ever been: I set boundaries and defended them; I preferred my hobbies to mindless wandering and gossiping with friends; and I could turn down an invitation to a birthday party just because I didn’t want to come.
During my first year in college, I was the same real me: I didn’t talk to people until they talked to me first and I always told the truth. But years in college taught me conformity, and social standards commonly imposed on young people made me betray myself. Let’s take dating as an example. Young people are supposed to be interested in romantic relationships. However, I wasn’t. But because everyone else from college was engaging in romantic relationships, I felt like I was missing out. So, I tried to keep up with my peers and started attending parties, looking for new acquaintances, and dating people who didn’t care about me. As a result, I progressed in further developing my social anxiety and panic attacks; I developed codependency; my self-esteem dropped to the lowest level possible; I suffered from depression; and I picked up the habit of drinking to handle social situations. I was a mess. Here are 12 mistakes I made that I wish someone had warned me against.
After college, I didn’t know my true desires anymore and I didn’t have plans for life. I accepted the first job I was offered even though the amount of money they offered was below my expectations. I kept attending office parties and drinking a lot to cope with my social anxiety. I thought I was not good enough.
Long story short, eventually I’ve started listening more to myself and letting myself do what I want instead of doing what society expects from me. I’ve managed to build a long-term healthy relationship with an extrovert (read how in Relationship Requires Hard Work: True or False?) without the need to betray myself. I’m certainly not what I was in college and after it anymore, but I’m also not what I used to be in high school yet. I still try to become more me. It takes a lot of effort to unlearn conformity and sacrificing my needs and desires for the sake of fitting in, but it’s the only way I can be happy. Through this blogpost, I’d like to convey a message for all introverts reading it and struggling with fitting in this mad and mostly nonsense extroverted world. Introverts, don’t betray yourselves!
Things introverts don’t have to do
Introverts don’t have to attend birthday parties
Birthday parties are an obligation for an introvert in the extroverted world and they are more so if those are birthday parties of your partner’s friends. I attended some. They drained my energy completely, so I couldn’t leave home for a week after and I couldn’t stop overthinking what I saw or heard there for weeks after. Some friends of my partner’s friends are extremely toxic people. My partner saw how bad I felt after those parties, so he understands my decision. And my decision is as follows: I don’t care what my partner’s friends may think of me if I don’t show up at their parties. Moreover, I am sure they don’t care if I come. The invitation is just a social norm. They feel obliged to invite me as their friend’s girlfriend. As for me, it makes little sense because it means a lot of pretending for both parties. Attending birthday parties is on my list of 11 Things that Annoy Introverts.
Introverts don’t have to congratulate people via phone
My mom, who is so extraverted that even other extraverted people think that she’s extra, is often mad at me because I refuse to congratulate our relatives via phone. She can’t understand that coming up with meaningless phrases every year because you’re obliged to is something I can’t do just like I can’t understand why it’s so important for her and why some people may feel offended if I text them instead of calling. Personally I don’t feel offended even if some relatives don’t congratulate me at all. It doesn’t affect my mental state or my life. Neither situations nor people can affect you if you don’t let them. If someone wants to feel offended because of their own expectations I can’t meet, let it be. I am not responsible for all unrealistic expectations people put on me.
Introverts don’t have to maintain friendships
I think that friendships don’t last forever. It happens because interests and mindsets of friends who don’t spend much time together anymore, change. I don’t want to put the burden of keeping in touch with people I have little in common with on my shoulders just because it’s expected in society to have friends who you meet with every weekend and post photos on Instagram. I don’t get jealous if my friends find new friends to take photos for Instagram with. I don’t see a point in bragging that you have a social life because for me social life is unimportant. Moreover, understanding that I don’t need to be like everyone else and have social life helped me understand that active social life is the reason for the need for external validation people have and vice versa, trying to have and show off your social life is a validation-seeking behavior. Read more about external validation in Why You Don’t Need Validation from Others.
Introverts don’t have to keep up small talks
Small talks seem to be very popular among people where I live. However, I don’t see a point in talking about meaningless things with a person I’ve met in the elevator or with my hairdresser. If they think that silence is awkward, I feel sorry for them.
Introverts don’t have to initiate a conversation
In continuation to the previous point, I don’t think that silence is awkward. Silence is natural and more meaningful than hundreds of words.
Introverts don’t have to pretend and lie
Extroverts are so weird! Sometimes I wonder if they really feel what they say or if they are just fake. Social standards make us lie in order to be polite. Telling someone that you don’t like their outfit when they ask you about it, for example, would be considered rude. However, pretending to like the person’s outfit is considered polite and the right thing to do. I don’t want to be a people pleaser. If you ask my opinion and really want to know it, be prepared to hear the truth or just don’t ask.
Introverts don’t have to explain themselves
I used to explain myself a lot. I would tell people stories of my life not only in person but also on social media. I would post some mysterious quotes that could relate to me hoping that people would understand my personality better. I would engage in arguments, sometimes becoming really emotional, trying hard to persuade the other person that my opinion was best. And I would often think about what other people may have thought of me. Now I couldn’t care less. If someone misunderstands me, it won’t affect my life. I’ve also learned that people can’t and will never understand each other fully because everyone comes from a different background, has a different mindset, etc. This notion helped me overcome my social anxiety after 13 years of struggle which I discuss in detail in my article How to Overcome Social Anxiety |12 Steps|.
Introverts don’t have to put up with unacceptable behavior
Remember those toxic friends of my boyfriend’s friend? The way they communicate with each other and other people is unacceptable for me. I don’t expose myself to that kind of behavior anymore, so I just don’t attend events where they may be present. I put my mental wellbeing over the need to be nice. If someone does something unacceptable, I’ll let them know what I think even if my remark humiliates them in front of others. Sometimes you just have to teach toxic people acceptable behavior.
Introverts don’t have to work at an extraverted job to become successful
Have you seen stories on social media where extroverts post every single minute of their day? It’s like they are at the gym at 6 am, at work by 7, during the workday they have dozens of meetings, etc. They all seem to be so motivated and successful (or at least trying to become). It’s believed that to become successful in the modern world, you have to rush, you have to be an overachiever, you have to always strive for more. However, if you ask those people where they are rushing to or what’s their dream life – they don’t know it. They usually have no idea what they’re working for.
To become successful you don’t need to become a CEO. You can become successful at whatever gives you joy. It may be painting, writing, creating, blogging, etc. A busy lifestyle doesn’t guarantee success.
Introverts don’t have to step out of their comfort zone
I’ve never understood the “step out of your comfort zone” quotes. As for me, they make no sense because it’s in human nature to strive for a comfort zone. All those overachievers are not in their comfort zone and have never been there because everything they want is everything they don’t have yet and those things are their comfort zone. If they had everything they wanted (their comfort zone), they wouldn’t have the need to step out of it.
Some extroverted people would definitely call me cynical now because I say what I think, I don’t explain myself and I don’t try to be likable. But I am not cynical, it’s just my mind working differently. I don’t think that meeting social standards for communication makes you a good person and refusing to meet them makes you a bad person.
Introverts, remember that this world is yours just like it’s theirs. Don’t betray yourselves, you don’t have to do something you’re uncomfortable with to please extroverts.