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I’m Not Rude, I’m Not Shy… I’m Just An Introvert

16 Feb 2017

I was in the 8th grade when I shifted to a new school. Unfamiliar surroundings, new teachers and no friends left me unsettled. I remember people asking me if I talk at all and I would nod mutely in response. Needless to say I was teased mercilessly and that just pushed me into a shell even more. I avoided raising my hand in class to answer questions; I stayed in class during the lunch breaks with a book and I made just two friends, who I’m still close to, nearly 25 years later.

 

All through my childhood and teenage years I heard friends and family make excuses for me, telling people I’m shy because I would stay quietly in a corner in most social situations. Even my farewell dance in school saw me standing on the sidelines while the others partied away. Often people accused me of being bored, when actually that was far from the truth. I had such a rich imagination I rarely got bored.

 

I could sit for hours by myself and just watch people go by, imagining their lives, their story. Yet, I found myself getting more and more anxious about how people perceived me—rude, shy, bored, not fun, doesn’t like to talk. These are some of the things I often heard. Even my friends would ask me why I became so quiet in big gatherings when I was so chatty in smaller groups. I felt pressurised to push myself to act outgoing—basically to be someone other than myself— and then felt exhausted and drained afterwards.

 

What was happening? Why wasn’t I like everyone else? I was plagued by these questions and decided I needed to find a therapist to help me understand what was wrong. Within a few sessions, I was surprised by her diagnosis.

 

After nearly 30 years of hearing that there was something wrong with me and believing that I had to change, I found out there was no problem at all.  My therapist said I was a classic introvert. I’d always thought “introvert” was just another word for shy, but I was wrong.

 

I discovered introverts’ brains react to stimuli differently. They take a longer time to process any interaction than extroverts do. Which explained why every time I went out for a movie, people would come out discussing it while I would quietly think about it and give my reviews much later.

 

I always felt that for every hour that I spent with people, I needed a few hours of quiet time to gather my thoughts. I used to feel guilty about this till I found out that introverts need solitude—it’s crucial for their well being.

 

Soon I was able to say no to meeting people without the guilt when I need some quiet time. Knowing that I was an introvert was so liberating, because I finally started to understand myself and see that all the labels I had acquired over the years were untrue. I wasn’t rude or shy. It’s not that I hated talking or didn’t want to meet people. It’s just that I needed more quiet time and would only talk when I felt that I had something relevant to say. I would always find it easier to have real, honest conversations with a few people, instead of interacting with large groups of people.

 

The best part was I could accept my true self and stop trying to change unnecessarily. Now I schedule my interactions keeping in mind that I need to give myself some time to recharge alone. It’s making me a happier person and is much easier on the people around me who aren’t at the receiving end of my exhaustion and irritability anymore.

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Tags: #Introvert #notrude