An Open Letter to Introverts (From an Introvert)

by Amy on May 18, 2017

 
It all started in grade school. I couldn’t figure it out. Why did all the other girls get so giddy over slumber parties?
 
I hated them.
 
Most of the time I would go anyway and pretend to be having fun until I couldn’t stand it any longer. Then I would either retreat to a quiet corner and try to disappear into my sleeping bag with the pillow over my head or I would call my parents to pick me up. Except for that one time when I actually had a panic attack in my friend’s bathroom. While the rest of the little girls were eavesdropping outside the bathroom door, her mom asked me if I was on any kind of medication…
 
Nope. Just a nine year old introvert pretending to be extroverted.
 
But I desperately wanted people to like me so I kept pretending to be like the rest of the world. Once I got a little older alcohol made things easier.
 
Years later I realized something HUGE:
 
At the root of my drinking problem was the conviction that I needed to be different, that I needed to be EXTROVERTED.
 
No problem. A couple drinks in and POOF I was the gregarious, funny, entertaining, attractive girl I had always wanted to be. Miraculously I wanted to be around all the people — by the end of the night I was breakdancing on stage, climbing the rotating Cadillac in the middle of Hard Rock Cafe or stage diving at the Third Eye Blind concert.
 
What makes things harder for all parties is that I pass as extroverted. I am confident, even a bit of a loud mouth some might say. I know how to hold sufficiently pleasant conversations with strangers when I want to. I don’t mind public speaking as long as I don’t have to socialize afterwards and thanks to a lifetime of approval seeking I know the right things to say and do in most common social situations.
 
This frustrates my extroverted friends and family who believe I should want to participate in their book groups or go to their parties or celebrate at the thought of another family reunion.
 
But it is silly for me to expect them to get it. They actually get energized by groups of people talking about price fares to Costa Rico or the last time they had dental work or whether or not, while driving, they turn into the most immediate lane. How can I expect them to understand that I’m not a snob or a hater of humankind or a sociopath? That I do love people but just in smaller doses surrounded by relative quiet where I can engage them in deep, intimate conversations against their will?
 
Once an extroverted family member was innocently trying to make conversation with me and asked if I enjoy to going to concerts. I decided to be honest:
 
“Not really. They’re too loud, too crowded and they go on too late.”
 
She took one look at me, let out an exasperated sigh, raised her eyebrows and walked away.
 
Awkward.
 
Perhaps I am not alone? Perhaps there are others out there like me who prefer garden work over garden parties, who actually prefer shopping alone or would rather read a mediocre book than see and be seen?
 
Since I stopped drinking four years ago, I’ve learned a lot of things about how to be me in an extroverted world.
 
For what it is worth, here is an open letter to other — is anybody out there???? introverts— like me:
 
There is nothing wrong with you. So stop trying to be different. It’s okay to be quiet, to prefer quiet, to go out of your way for quiet. Stop forcing yourself to endure too much stimulus if you don’t have to.
 
If you’re like me and you have loud children, be patient with yourself. It’s hard. You may be tempted to get through it with a good buzz on. The more you do that mama, the less coping skills you learn to help you get through your life like the emotionally mature adult you want to be.
 
You can do hard things. You can do overwhelm, anxiety, fear, embarrassment, shame and anger. These are feelings and even though they hurt, they’re not trying to hurt you, they are trying to get your attention — to teach you things about yourself.
 
If you keep using alcohol or other drugs to be someone else, you will forget who you are (if you haven’t already). When you stop using booze or other drugs it will be hard at first because you will have to face a truth: You are not who you *think* you should be.
 
Say goodbye to the person you think you should be and look in the mirror. Say hello to yourself.
 
Accept it. Start now. Give yourself permission to be you. If you have forgotten who you are, don’t worry. You can get to know yourself now because you aren’t trying to escape yourself.
 
Eventually you will understand that accepting yourself is what real freedom feels like.
 
You will disappoint people. Some of your “friends” may even complain about how boring you have become. These may not be true friends.
 
Say no. If you don’t want to go, don’t. Be willing to disappoint them. When you say yes to them because you don’t want to let them down, you are trying to control their emotional response to you. This comes from a place of fear. It has nothing to do with them and everything to do with you. You can’t control other people’s emotions anyway.
 
The cultural wisdom that you have to show up for your friends of family is bullshit if you can’t show up for yourself first. If they get mad at you, don’t get mad back. After all you have, up to this point, taught them what to expect from you and how to treat you by how you respond and what you have been willing to tolerate.
 
Things will change. Your relationship will stabilize. New ones will come that blow the old ones away.
 
Be patient. Extroverted people don’t often get it. You might try to explain to them. Some will actually understand. Let yourself be pleasantly surprised by these people.
 
You are who you are and how you are for a very important reason. Make peace with it and trust that it will reveal itself to you.
 
xoxo
-a
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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer Diepstraten May 18, 2017 at 10:13 pm

You definitely captured the introvert! Thanks for the beautiful writing and your heart. Love you sister!!! -Jennifer

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Lacey May 18, 2017 at 10:14 pm

Thank you. I am also an introvert and I would rather stay home than go to gatherings. I tried going to parties and bars and even tried volunteering as a way to be more social. Just felt more lonely and tired than before. I appreciate that someone understands. Still working on learning to accept myself, so it helps to hear of someone else who made it through.

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Kat May 18, 2017 at 10:21 pm

This is so true. I think it’s the same case for being sensitive.
Most people don’t get it because we are in the minority.
It’s great to accept though! Thanks for the article

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Angela May 19, 2017 at 2:12 am

Kat, I agree with you about being sensitive (and an introvert). After many years of wondering “why am I so different, sensitive, wanting to do things on my own, stay out of crowds” for the most part…I’m finally okay with it. At least, most of the time. As Amy said, I can’t control others’ emotions and the way they respond to me anyway. I’ve definitely been able to tell who my real friends are when I do things because I want to rather than because I’m trying to please someone else, and these friends think I’m just fine. It brings a sense of peace.

Amy, thank you; it’s a great article.

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Lynne May 18, 2017 at 10:34 pm

This really spoke to be as well as described me. Thanks for being so open and honest.

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Deirdre May 18, 2017 at 10:36 pm

I get the introvert. I would much rather sit in my cozy home than to go out. I also choose to sit in my “made cozy” minivan while my kids are in various practices rather than sit with the other moms on the sidelines.

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Brenda May 18, 2017 at 10:46 pm

Oh wow! I completely understand how you feel. I have just begun accepting that I am not an extrovert and I will never want to spend a lot of time surrounded by people talking for hours. I’m glad you were able to explain so well what it’s like for us introverts.

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Charlotte May 18, 2017 at 11:57 pm

Amy, wonderful piece, All of us introverts relate to this completely. It does not mean that we don’t like other people. It’s that we need more alone time than others might need. As a life coach, I often use the phrase “extroverted introvert.” We do like our interactions with others, but our souls require more quiet space on a daily basis. That’s where the alcohol enters. It’s (at the beginning) an anesthetic to relieve the pain of being “different”. After awhile, though, it steals our soul.

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Kathy Benton May 19, 2017 at 12:31 am

I’m so glad you are speaking more about alcohol and what it can do to yourself, relationships etc. I have been wanting you to create something around addiction. I follow Tommy Rosen and can’t sing his praises enough. We are all hiding our “true, bad-ass” selves behind different forms of addiction. it’s what I have decided to build my coaching around – the numbing gets us nowhere, we stay stuck and don’t get to let our true light shine. Thank you for your work! You are a beautiful soul. XOXO!

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Natalie Matushenko May 19, 2017 at 2:48 am

I love this post Amy! I always thought I was an extrovert but am now starting to think that I am actually introverted with lots of learned extraverted behavior. It’s actually liberating to not always want or need to be around people. Thanks for sharing so openly and beautifully about your experience! It’s inspiring!

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setheny May 19, 2017 at 3:17 am

Really good article! I;m an introvert, would much rather garden than go to a garden party. That was an excellent analogy.

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Sher May 19, 2017 at 7:16 am

I think you just nailed it for me. I always considered myself half introvert and half extrovert. I have no problem teaching a class and carrying on about a subject I like with a group. But, when it comes to seeing people on the street, small talk, and going to large gatherings of new people, I walk the other way! It’s gotten much more so, as I’ve gotten older. I fantasize about being in click of friends and having buddies to hang with regularly but the truth is, I don’t have time for that because I love my own company!

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Judy May 19, 2017 at 3:03 pm

Amy… you speak to my heart. Thank you for this article. I still, after all these years feel guilty that I don’t want to call friends to get together… I’d rather hang out at home and read, cook, garden etc. I have to go to big social events with my husband and the best way to get through them is with a glass or two of wine. Getting home and putting on my pyjamas is the best part of the night. Thank goodness I do have a few friends that really GET me.

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Virginia Reeves May 19, 2017 at 5:44 pm

Amy: it’s good to read about other ways people move beyond coping when they have certain personality traits or convictions. I’m an in-betweener also; prefer being alone (reading is my pure pleasure) or be with a few people at a time but can function okay in larger groups. Saying no to others and yes to yourself is so powerful. Totally agree about concerts and add in going to fairs with crowds or shopping on big sale days.

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Carol May 19, 2017 at 10:36 pm

Thank you!

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Anne DeMarsay May 20, 2017 at 12:11 am

Amy, beautifully said! I’m sorry you got, or were given, the idea that you should be different from who you are. When I was young, I dreamed of being beautiful, popular, and at ease socially. Eventually I learned the last. (One out of three ain’t bad?) It took several more years to discover that I was an introvert, and that what I imagined to be some defect in me was simply my nature. I practiced till I shed my social awkwardness and (most) anxiety, but every social event costs me “spoons” and requires solitude to recharge, so I’ve gotten choosy about what I say “yes” to. My very extroverted husband will never get it, but at least he accepts me and cheerfully allows me my alone time. Thank you for speaking up for us!

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Iris July 31, 2017 at 9:09 pm

Thanks for writing this, and sharing yourself honestly. I remember as a kid I always liked being by myself. I remember being in preschool, and being content playing with myself, and all the adults thinking there was something wrong with me. I remember in kindergarten I started making friends, not because I was looking for them, but because they befriended me. And although I liked being by myself I also enjoyed having friends too. As I grew older in elementary school, I had a healthy amount of friends, but would specifically take time to play by myself. It was around 4th grade when I was playing make-believe by myself, and my friends wouldn’t leave me alone. They thought I was sad, when it actuality I was just fine.

Post-fourth-grade I stopped playing by myself. The years following I started to get criticized for being introverted. People thought I was depressed or pathetic. I remember telling my ex-boyfriend when I was 19 that I was the type of person who needed alone time, and he just thought I had depression. Over time, I started to assume there was something wrong with me. These lies started to build up so much in my mind, that I equated my self-worth to the number of friends I have. It got so bad that I started researching it all online, and the site helps me realize that there isn’t anything wrong with me. I still feel insecure about it, but I think overtime I will believe in my heart (and not just in my mind) that I am fine just the way I am.

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Angela B October 21, 2018 at 8:41 am

Hi Amy. I’m appreciating your re posting of this article. It has helped me beyond measure to see myself, past and present, for the extroverted introvert I am. Looking forward to reassuring some younger family members that its ok to need and enjoy alone and quiet time. Hope you’re feeling ok however you are today.

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Amy October 25, 2018 at 3:33 pm

So happy it helped you angela!

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