As a child, I’ve been told I was quite wild. I was outgoing and joked a lot. I’m not sure what happened to that kid. Maybe my parents are confusing me with some long lost triplet I used to have. Maybe that kid died.
If you remotely know me, you probably have an inkling that I am an introvert. I’ve been an introvert as long as I can remember. I’m the kid who, in sixth grade, almost had a panic attack while reading a story in front of his English class. I was the kid who never liked to raise his hand and ask questions in front of the class; I always waited until after the lesson had ended to ask my questions privately. I was the kid bullies targeted because I wouldn’t talk back.
Being an introvert sometimes means you are susceptible to bullies, or at least I was in middle school. My worst bully once said the reason I didn’t talk to people was because I thought I was better than everyone else, that I didn’t want to stoop to everyone’s level. I never thought that. Heck, in middle school, I felt the exact opposite, my self-hatred making me believe that I was human scum. Bullies only exasperated my angst. I think the real reason I was targeted was because I was seen as meek, easy prey. I was too polite and bashful to stand up for myself, and, at the time, I didn’t have very many friends to help me. Even then, I would have been mortified to ask for assistance. But, still remaining an introvert, I overcame my bully issues in high school; I no longer gave them the satisfaction of demeaning me. The funny thing was, as soon as I stood up for myself, I became invisible to them, like I had outrun the predator to the point where he wasn’t interested anymore. It felt good, empowering even. It was a tough thing to do, so I don’t throw it out there lightly for other introverts to try, but if you do find the courage to stand up to your bully, you won’t regret it.
Another misconception about introverts is that we hate people. I wouldn’t say I hate people (to counter, I wouldn’t say I like everyone either, ex. my bullies, but that’s not the point). College introduced me to a world of student organizations and classes with peers of similar mindsets; suddenly, I became a social butterfly. I may be shy and uncomfortable around people I don’t know, but I enjoy talking with my friends and hanging out. Sometimes hanging out can just be a friend and me sitting in the same room, playing two separate video games than each other and barely talking. Furthermore, I was part of a club in college where we did nothing but sit in a quiet room and watch anime every Sunday night. It’s a refreshing experience, being social and not social at the exact same time. But I also don’t mind throwing a party of some sort every once in a while. I value my alone time a lot more than social interaction, but even I get lonely.
The other day at work, I probably said less than five sentences the entire day, and I loved every single minute of it. I wasn’t being rude to my coworkers. I wasn’t upset. I wasn’t afraid to talk. Being quiet made me feel at peace, an almost state of zen. If I have to talk, I will, and if I want to talk, I will. That’s a difference I’ve realized over the years. At first, I was simply afraid to talk to anyone (I still am, but to a lot less of an extent). Now I choose not to talk out of the comfort that being quiet gives me. It almost sounds like the same thing, doesn’t it? Choice is the key difference.
I know humanity is a social species; it’s part of our process of survival. I don’t see personal bubbles as a way of confining people, but merely a different way of interacting with the world. We don’t have to be friends with everyone we meet as much as we don’t have to be enemies. But those few people who we deem worthy to be our friends respect our comfort zones and help us when we’re in trouble. Likewise, I do the same thing for my friends whenever possible. Introverts aren’t complete hermits who shun society and everyone in it. I do see how paranoid and untrusting being introverted might appear, but we don’t let just anyone into our personal bubbles.
Being an introvert isn’t something to be cured (“come out of your shell,” as the saying goes). It isn’t something to be hated. You shouldn’t feel bad for the kid who prefers to sit alone during lunch. We just like to be alone to our thoughts. We like the world within ourselves instead of the noise of the outside world. I used to shun this aspect of myself, but I’ve come to fully embrace it and take comfort from it.