Large, crowded bars. Sold out concerts. Meeting new people. Presentations at work. Grocery shopping on Sundays. Talking on the phone. Birthdays. Birthdays. Random, impromptu social gatherings. Dating apps. Honestly, dating in any capacity. Small talk. Feeling that desperate need to be alone.

If you shuddered at any of the above, you know some of the stressors attached to introversion. While introverts don’t necessarily dislike social situations, they dislike what comes afterward- exhaustion. For introverts, socializing without mental prep is like running a marathon without training. A few minutes in, you realize this was a big mistake. Images of your couch flash before your eyes. Running on fumes leftover from all of the energy that socializing takes, you try gracefully to navigate the course without appearing like you’re out of shape, and would rather be anywhere but there. When this happens, introverts often come off as unapproachable, disinterested and even snobbish at times, creating a world of misunderstanding.

Because of that misunderstanding, being introverted can mean feeling awkward, out of place, or “the odd one out”in what is otherwise a largely extroverted world. More specifically, sometimes it can create social anxiety. Worried what others are thinking of you, you develop an egocentric mindset that makes it feel impossible not to shed a metaphorical spotlight on yourself. While on the outside you appear to be engaging in social conversation, your brain is actually hovering above the scene, picking it all apart, preparing you for what to say next so you don’t present as awkward or disinterested. Introverts, at times, suffer in front of the public eye- assuming they’re being judged, picked over, gossiped about. This constant inner dialogue is exhausting. However, what you’re failing to realize in these moments is that it’s not others who are judging you- it’s you. And it’s keeping you from
being where you are.

 

Extroversion is rewarded in our culture, making it all the more important for us to celebrate the unique qualities and undervalued aspects that introversion yields. In Susan Cain’s book, “Quiet”, she defines introverts as people of contemplation who enjoy others’ company but are also comfortable with solitude. While you may not have the most clever quip to contribute in large conversation, introverts strengths are being patient, empathetic, analytical, reflective, innovative, great listeners, creative and thrive in more intimate settings. You’re also great at reading people and can be quite skilled at conversing. You’re not intimidated by silence. You’re comfortable being alone, traveling solo and discovering new parts of yourself to connect to.

 

Large or busy social settings will never be your favorite, but they’re inescapable- and avoiding them only reinforces and validates irrational voices in your mind. As an introvert, it’s important to keep in mind all of your strengths and unique attributes. It’s even more important to validate your anxiety- anyone entering a situation that they’re not particularly excited about ultimately feels a sense of dread. Furthermore, know that unlike extroverts, you simply are not energized by large groups of people. And that’s okay- finding energy on your own is far less of a hassle, anyways. The only thing you can do is prepare with recharging yourself, and practice, practice, practice.

What support? Our clinician Alexandra Butler has expertise in working with introverts.