All alone! Whether you like it or not, alone is something you’ll be quite a lot.
˜ Dr. Seuss ˜
According to author Susan Cain, “introverts prefer less stimulating environments and tend to enjoy quiet concentration, listen more than they talk and think before they speak. Conversely, extroverts are energized by social situations and tend to be assertive multi-taskers who think out loud and on their feet.”
Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be an extrovert. One of those outgoing, happy-go-lucky types who can go anywhere, anytime among any number of people known or not and, completely at ease, strike up any old conversation.
As you might have guessed by now: yeah, I’m most certainly not one of those. Let’s see. Socially awkward? Check. Chronically shy? Yep. Horribly anxious? Uh huh.
I am textbook introvert. Well, maybe not in the ‘listening more than I talk’ scenario, but to be clear that’s specifically in one-on-one’s with people I know well and trust a lot. Aside from that, my ability to converse with strangers off the cuff or carry on idle chit-chat is pretty much non-existent.
Beyond classic introversion, I am often anxious in settings involving larger groups of people, particularly where I don’t know anyone or what to expect. Chatting with a group of people I’ve never met in contrived social situations such as parties, fundraisers or meet-and -greets for me, and I suspect for many introverts alike, is akin to walking into a death trap.
There is no better example than what I experienced attending an event this evening. The whole process went something like this:
* Decide to attend event
* Put said event firmly out of mind until event day arrives.
* Spend day of event debating whether to go or not with varying degrees of freaking out.
* Decide not to go. Full Stop. Sort of.
* No, wait. I’m going.
* Changed mind (at least 10x).
* Fuck it. I’m going.
* Have complete meltdown about what to wear. Like this has *ever* mattered to me. In the history of anything.
* After bucking up buttercup and getting ass out door, sigh of relief ensues. “How bad can this really be?” I nervously tell myself.
* Begin mercilessly questioning whether I’ll be scrutinized for being new, out of place, for dressing too casually, for saying the wrong thing, for standing in the wrong place, for…breathing.
* Arrive at event. Walk in Door. Another deep breath.
* Survey room. Realize I know NO ONE.
* Looking around for a place to stand back and out of sight, I realize there is nowhere to go.
* Small room, big crowd, noisy, no one making eye contact. I smile awkwardly here and there, nod. No one says a word. Even if I wanted to, I can’t. My voice box is paralyzed.
* I begin to sweat and swoon. The walls close in. Everyone sounds like they are speaking into a tin can. I am separating body from earth.
* I am alone in a crowd. The loneliest place of all.
* I feel awkward, afraid and deeply embarrassed.
* I realize I need to take in fresh air, and this propels me forward.
* I leave.
The self-perceived Elephant Has Left The Room.
And that is just fine: the elephant is the strong silent type and she’ll be back when she’s ready to introduce herself.
To all the introverts out there that I’ll never meet because you and I are way too busy avoiding parties: I get you, homies. You know what? We can’t all be extroverts and that’s a-ok. Those of us who are not are gonna be just fine. Preferably over lunch for two at a cozy, non-chaotic restaurant.