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It's Not You, It's Me (and My Introversion)

college culture




It's Not You, It's Me (and My Introversion)


I spend a lot of time in my head—imagining, creating, contemplating. I’m content with simply sitting and observing my surroundings. During car rides, I like watching the scenery whir by. I constantly produce imaginary scenarios, characters that don’t exist, and dialogues that will never happen. Judging from my quietness, you may think I’m a misanthrope. Being talkative and initiating conversations is not my general state of being. My need for space is interpreted as rejection, as hostility, as flakiness. I love canceled plans. After intense socialization, I feel the need to withdraw into a quiet, solitary nook of my own.

This world isn’t designed for introverts. In school, in the workplace, in public, the social norm is to always be surrounded by people. As a college student, you’re supposed to enjoy going to parties and meeting new people. You’re supposed to constantly keep busy. Eating alone in public is dreaded by many. This is dubbed as the "Extrovert Ideal," the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha and comfortable in the spotlight.

The concept of introversion vs extroversion is based heavily on the research of psychoanalyst Carl Jung in the 1920’s (he co-developed the MBTI test). According to a Psychology Today article on the two different personality types, an estimated 50 to 74 percent of the population is extroverted, while only 16-50 percent is introverted. Extroverts derive their energy from the external world, and being around people, while introverts derive their energy from turning inwards.

Since our society is structured around this extrovert hegemony, many introverts may be misled into thinking that introversion is a "second-class personality trait.” In general, the connotations of introversion are negative (aloof, loner, not a 'people-person'), while extroversion is seen as “a mark of happiness, confidence, leadership.”

But everyone has different temperaments. There are those who are very introverted, those who are very extroverted, and those who fall somewhere in between. Introversion isn’t a personality defect, but a different way of processing information (and there's more than enough research that indicates this).

Large crowds overwhelm me. To me, going to an event without someone I know is uncomfortable, strange, stressful. I feel safe, comfortable when I have a “social crutch”-- whether it’s my phone, a dazed look, or a friend. When I enter a room, I gravitate towards the corner, not the center.
I need time alone. It’s how I recharge. I need to slow down and reflect. When your thoughts flood your mind, processing everything is integral. Constantly being in flux is overwhelming, and detrimental to my mental well-being. I become unhappy, irritated, exhausted. I tend to function poorly, both socially and academically, when I don’t take time for myself.

Most nights you can find me in my dorm, cozied up in my bed. Most times I keep a small circle of close friends. Most occasions I take my time opening up to you.
Being an introvert doesn’t mean you never go to parties or don’t have friends. It’s simply defined by where you feel most energized.

So My Dear Fellow Introverts:
It’s okay to pull back and relax.
It’s okay to say “no.”
It’s okay to not do what everyone else is doing.

And to the Extroverts in my life, I still love you all very much. Don’t take the unanswered text messages personally. It’s not you, it’s me. And my introversion. We’re a package deal.