Being Introverted in an Extroverted World

At one point in my life, I decided to buy a drink for a person I had never spoken too. Along with the fact that I was out in a very crowded, very public space, I also never do this. But, I mustered up whatever liquid courage I had in my body and asked this person what kind of beverage they wanted. This person then proceeded to look at me as if I had asked them to jump off a bridge (cool right?). I'll leave out the semantics of the rest of the night, but it was definitely sub-par. I had intended to barely get my feet wet in the big pond of extroversion, but instead I drowned in that bitch. I spent the next few hours surrounded by loud noises, people EVERYWHERE, and constant social interaction. It took me about 48 hours to recover from that Thursday night. I have no earthly idea why I thought this was a good idea, because the thought of it now makes me wanted to vomit.

When I'm not making a fool out of myself in public, I am working at an extremely upscale Country Club about 45 minutes from my college campus. I spend my Friday and Saturday nights waiting on millionaires, and interacting with a small group of awesome employees. I get to work around 4 in the afternoon, but our dinner service does not start until 6:30. We are trained to prepare for service before by doing various jobs. While most people are grouped up together polishing silverware, or putting away glasses in the wait station, I make a beeline for the pavilion where I can set the tables with a salad fork (on the left), a dinner fork, and a wine glass. I do this for a few reasons - the chance to be outside on the deck (I work in the prettiest place ever), and the most important reason being that I get to be alone. It helps mentally prepare myself for the overload of people that I am about to interact with once dinner service begins. 

Although my job site is flawless, school is definitely my favorite place to be. I plan on being a teacher for goodness sake, and I'm pretty sure loving school is a fundamental requirement for all aspiring educators. I remember not being able to sleep the night before my first day of middle school (and high school, and college). I looked forward to filling up my planners and notebooks with knowledge my wonderful teachers would bestow upon me. It wasn't until high school that I realized there were aspects of school that I truly dreaded, one of those being basic human interaction. Lots of teachers pushed group work and partnering, and I always found this scary and unsatisfying. It didn't help me become a better student, or get my things done quicker, it simply festered a small pit of anxiety in my stomach. Once I got out of high school, I imagined my days of group work to be over. I dreamt of living in a single dorm and sipping coffee in the library while I worked diligently, and alone, on my assignments. I am now a senior in college and am still being pushed into group settings where I have to work with students I have never even met before. My strategy is to take on as much of the project as possible so it doesn't look like I am lazy or uninterested in the assignment. I sit quietly and listen to my other group members, voice my opinions when necessary, and avoid getting to know anyones names. I understand that being able to work in a group is a very vital skill in "the real word", it is just a skill that takes a significant amount of energy for me to do. And it is absolutely not the best way I learn.

I think the common misconceptions with introverts are that they are shy people, while extroverts are outgoing. For me personally, that is not the case. Occasionally I'll feel a sting of shyness when I have to meet new people, but overall I feel confident when I encounter a new colleague or acquaintance. Being introverted is more about what energizes me versus what drains me. I feel the most motivated and energized in my apartment, or in a quiet corner of the library. I enjoy the silence and the lack of interaction with society. Stick me in a crowded room full of people who are ready to talk to me, and I'll more than likely pass out from exhaustion by 6pm. I'm just not equipped to handle being around people all day, but somehow I find myself constantly in situations where I'm being 'extroverted'. My career of choice for example, is going to be a 10 hour shift of "being around people". I'm mad excited for that, I swear, but you wont find me running all the teacher meetings or making a huge effort to gossip during our lunch break.

So what do we do as introverts in a primarily extroverted world? We aren't outcasts or weird for being more reserved with our personality; we're actually in pretty good company. Some of todays (and yesterdays) biggest names are introverts, and I promise you there's someone in your life that can relate to your introversion. Don't force yourself into extroversion because it's the norm, or what society is pushing. You can absolutely be an introvert and a business owner/teacher/singer/actor/ruler of the universe. We're actually pretty good at these things. Sometimes we sit on the sidelines at meetings, but our minds are constantly racing. We're creating new ideas, problem solving, observing and listening; we just might be quiet about it for a while.

So, fellow introvert, enjoy your space. Enjoy your time alone. Don't let this world that can't seem to shut up for five seconds tell you that it's weird or unusual to prefer solitude over time with other people. Don't push yourself to exhaustion just so you can 'fit in', because chances are you still wont feel satisfied. The best way I can describe my overall outlook on my life is I feel like I got off at the wrong stop. But the reality is, I'm not the only introvert who got off at the extroversion stop, I'm just one of many.