I’m going to turn my writer’s hat around for a moment and be the philosopher today. Notice, I’m not taking the writer’s hat off, I’m just turning it around so you see the “Philosopher” label on the back of the hat, because every writer kind of has to be a philosopher and/or psychologist to create the kind of stuff they do.
Something that I’ve been thinking about is the subject of what it means to be an introvert. I am an introvert and I know a few people are are introverts as well. It’s not a bad thing, but I really wouldn’t say it’s a good thing either. It’s just you being you or them being them. Nothing wrong with it. But, I started to wonder why people are introverted and this is what I came up with based on me own conjectures. Much of this stems from the reason why I am an introvert, so you may not agree with some of it (or any of it), but I felt like if there is anyone out there that struggles the way I do, it’s worth writing it all down to share and let them know they are not alone.
First off, please look at this list through the lens of the idea that the introvert is not born that way. When I say this, I’m only talking about that percentage of people who were NOT originally the quiet children in the corner of the play room at day care of. I’m talking about those kids who once were the bubbly and excited about everything. They’re the ones that could walk up to strange adults and say “Hi! Wanna be my friend?” without batting an eye, but somewhere in their childhood, they became the introvert they are today and these could be the possible reasons.
- They suffered from bullying as a child. I know the social media has been blowing this up all over the place lately. And its for a good reason. I, for one, became very introverted at a certain point in my childhood when I was bullied a lot for being the new kid in school. We just moved to a different town when I was in elementary school. I had a few close friends in my old school, but coming to the new school, I was lost. I didn’t have any friends. I had enemies. They were kids who immediately excluded me or picked on me because I was new. This is wrong and no child should suffer this kind of discriminating treatment, especially from their peers. As a result, they avoid new people like the plague because in the back of their mind, they wonder if that person will hate them so unconditionally as the bullies did. They make an effort to avoid that pain and abuse before it becomes a problem. There are tons of new programs out there to try and control bullying, so kudos to them.
- They had failed friendships that have scarred them. I can think of two instances immediately where close friendships have turned sour. What I mean is when you have a close friend that you get along with, have had sleep-overs with, gone out to the mall together, passed notes in class, all that stuff. You even came up with secret hand shakes and a language that only you two knew. But something happened that was not your fault at all and suddenly that best friend stabbed you in the back, spread nasty rumors about you or dropped you like a batch of fries into hot oil, and you two are no longer friends. The victim of such cruelty then becomes hesitant to be close to anyone or be tight friends with anyone again afterwards. I believe this more often happens in middle school and high school.
- The problem stems from issues at home. I’m not talking about verbal or physical abuse inflicted upon a child by a parent. This goes beyond abuse. This is simply an environment thing. I’m sure there are plenty of introverted people out there that had siblings, but I’m not talking about them either. I’m referencing to those kids who grew up as an only child and/or without any other children their age to play with. I have a handful of cousins, but we didn’t see each other much in my later years of growing up and on top of that, I am an only child. Being at home, I had to learn to entertain myself. Not because my parents weren’t around or too busy to deal with me, but because I understood they had their own lives and I needed to learn how to be independent. A lot of things I’ve heard about extroverts is that they draw their energy from interacting with other people. An introvert on the other hand, builds energy from being alone. A child who has learned to be comfortable with alone time and independent activities like reading, writing, video games, etc, are less willing to interact with other people (their age or not) because they think “I can have just as much fun at home, if not more”. This then creates the mindset that they don’t want to go out and would rather be alone.
- They heard too many times “Shut up, no one cares.” I actually saw this in a tumblr conversation earlier this week. You can tell someone has suffered from this because they’ll start talking about something that they’re super passionate about like stamps, geology, the Titanic, or writing and their face is lit up like the fourth of July, but then they stop and say “I’m sorry, I know this is boring.” If you’re a decent person, you’ll let them keep talking and give them your undivided attention. This complex comes from the idea that what they have to say is not important. The same thing can happen if they’ve come across too many people that will simply turn away and start talking to someone else even though you’re in the middle of explaining something to them. I’ll get on my high horse and say that those people are just plain rude and hurtful. I strive to always give people my undivided attention because I know how bad it hurts to think that you’re not important enough to deserve the time and consideration of another human being. An introvert can be quiet because of this, be soft spoken or hesitant to input their own thoughts into a conversation. To avoid the humiliation at all, they may just avoid conversations or people in general. Which leads into my next point.
- They were humiliated too much. Either as a child, or an adult; by their own doing or that of others, an introvert may likely have become who they are today because of an incident where they felt publicly humiliated. It may not have been a thing like slipping on a banana peel or called out for having a funny accent. It could have been something very subtle like a rash comment made by a coworker that may not have been true, but brought a laugh out of everyone else at your own expense. It may not have been intended as a slight to that person’s character or appearance, but it sure felt that way. Or it might be that the introvert has made too many mistakes in conversation like saying something completely wrong and inappropriate that no one else may have picked up on. I’ll give you one example. I work in a furniture store and we have customers that pick up their orders in the warehouse. The warehouse employs take care of pulling the merchandise and bringing it out to the customer. I was going back into the warehouse to tell the guy that there’s a pick up. It was ten minutes till time to go and he was just messing around saying that he wouldn’t do it. He’s done this before and it’s not unusual. Sometimes it’s actually kind of funny. But I left the warehouse and still had the invoice in my hand because he wouldn’t do it. I was not mad, I wasn’t frustrated, I just wanted the job to get done. I came up to the warehouse manager and handed the invoice to him. When he asked me why, I said “Because (name) is being a male reproductive organ and won’t do it.” This got the warehouse manager furious and he snatched the ticket away and stormed into the back, mumbling curses all the way about how the warehouse worker was getting on his last nerve. I had to have blushed because I felt so humiliated that I had just inadvertently said and done the totally wrong thing and now I’ve gotten someone else in trouble that didn’t deserve it. It makes me dread going back to work and facing either of them.
- They think way too much. I’m guilty of this. And thinking too much is a pretty broad phrase. They could be thinking about too much of a lot of things. They may be thinking too much about how people will see them when they walk through the grocery store. They could think too much about what exactly they would say to someone when they are forced to face them. They may think too much about all the things that could go wrong with going out into public or meeting new people (such as everything I have listed above). They could be thinking too much about how they reacted and interacted with other people after they get home. All of this over thinking, I believe, leads to the feeling of being mentally and emotionally drained after interacting with society as an introvert. I know on my way home from work, my mind is going a thousand miles an hour faster than my car is, thinking about all the things I had done wrong at my job or all the things I could have done better. I have the best witty comebacks to my coworker’s sarcastic remarks, but I always think about them after the fact instead of in the moment and I kick myself for it every time because if I don’t reply at all or very little, I feel like I’ve set a bad impression that I’m not a fun person to be around. See, thinking too much right there! It leaves you doubting yourself, doubting your abilities to handle social interaction and makes you inadvertently dread it in the end.
Like I said in the beginning, I hope that maybe you or someone you know can relate to this. I’d love to know what you think if you care to comment below.
As a close, I will say this, to avoid the spread of unnatural introversion, be a kind person. Don’t degrade someone or act like they don’t deserve your time. Everyone deserves to feel loved and accepted for who they are, not how YOU idealize them to be. You may not want to be friends with them, but at least be a good person so that they know not all people are bad.