Even when the pressure is on, you don’t have to do these “extroverted” things just to fit in.
I’ve probably gone through all the phases that an introvert can possibly go through. In middle school, I convinced myself that I liked popularity and socializing. In high school, I was the closest to the real me I’ve ever been: I set boundaries and defended them, preferred my hobbies to mindless gossiping, and I turned down invitations to parties just because I didn’t want to go.
Then years in college taught me conformity, and social standards commonly imposed on young people made me betray myself.
Let’s take dating, for example. Young people are supposed to be interested in romantic relationships. However, I wasn’t. But because everyone else was engaging in romantic relationships, I felt like I was missing out.
So I tried to keep up with my peers and started attending parties, looking for new acquaintances, and dating people who didn’t care about me. As a result, I developed social anxiety, panic attacks, and codependency. My self-esteem dropped to the lowest level possible, I suffered from depression, and I picked up the habit of drinking to handle social situations. I was a mess.
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Trying to Find My Introvert Within
After college, I lost touch with my true desires and didn’t have any specific plans for my life. I accepted the first job I was offered, even though the salary was below my expectations. I kept attending office parties and drinking to cope with my social anxiety. I thought I was not good enough.
Long story short, eventually I started listening to myself and letting myself do what I wanted to do instead of doing what society expected of me. I’ve even managed to build a healthy romantic relationship with an extrovert — without the need to betray myself as an introvert.
I’m certainly not who I was in college, but I’m also not who I used to be in high school… yet. Although it takes a lot of effort to unlearn conformity and to stop sacrificing my needs and desires just for the sake of fitting in, I still strive to become more “me.”
I recently read the article, “Why I’m Proud to Be an Introvert,” and it inspired me to write this piece. In this article, I’d like to share a message with all introverts reading it, those who also struggle to fit into this extroverted world: Introvert, dear, don’t betray yourself!
Remember, even when the pressure is on, you don’t have to do “extroverted” things to fit in. Instead, just be you!
9 Things You Don’t Have to Do as an Introvert
1. You don’t have to attend parties.
Birthday parties (and birthday dinners) can feel like a burdensome obligation for an introvert. (This may be even more true if they are the birthday parties of your partner’s friends who you don’t know well.)
I have attended some of these parties. They drained my energy so much that I was left with an introvert hangover and couldn’t leave home for a week afterwards. On top of my exhaustion, I couldn’t stop overanalyzing all that I’d seen and heard at these events.
My partner saw how bad I felt after these parties, so now he understands my not wanting to go to them. (I also don’t care what my partner’s friends may think of me if I don’t show up. I feel the invitation is just a social norm, and they feel obliged to invite me as their friend’s girlfriend. As for me, it makes little sense, because it means a lot of pretending for both me and them.)
2. You don’t have to make phone calls; a text is just fine.
My mom, who is so extroverted that even other extroverts think it’s a lot, often gets mad at me when I avoid calling our relatives on the phone. She doesn’t understand that coming up with meaningless phrases every year — just because you’re obliged to — is something I struggle to do. (This is similar to how I don’t understand why it’s so important for her and why some people feel offended if I text them instead of calling.)
Personally, I don’t feel offended if relatives don’t call to congratulate me on certain accomplishments or wish me well. It doesn’t affect my mental state or my life. If someone feels offended because of their own expectations, let it be. I am not responsible for the expectations that people put on me.
3. You don’t have to maintain friendships that no longer serve you.
Some friendships aren’t meant to last forever. I think this happens because our interests and mindsets change over time, which is natural. This is especially true if you don’t see each other very often.
I don’t want to put the burden of keeping in touch with people I have little in common with on my shoulders just because society expects it (like posting to Instagram). And I don’t get jealous if my friends take Instagram photos with new friends.
4. You don’t have to engage in small talk.
Some people love small talk. However, I don’t see a point in talking about the weather with a stranger I meet in the elevator or with my hairdresser.
We introverts are fans of silence. While we may engage in small talk sometimes, if we don’t, don’t take it personally. (And, my fellow introverts, don’t feel pressured to make small talk if you don’t want to.)
5. You don’t have to fill every silence.
If no one else is talking, don’t feel like the beautiful silence has to be broken. Chances are, the other introverts in the group are enjoying it! For introverts, silence is our chance to decompress, think, daydream.
Do you ever struggle to know what to say?
As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.
6. You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone.
I used to explain myself… a lot. I told stories about my life — not only in person, but also on social media. I posted mysterious quotes that related to me, hoping my friends and followers would understand my personality better. I got into arguments, sometimes becoming really emotional, trying hard to get the other person to see my perspective. Then I would think (and overthink) about what others thought about me.
Now I couldn’t care less.
If someone misunderstands me, I’ve learned that it won’t really affect my life. I’ve also learned that people can’t — and will never — fully understand each other; everyone comes from a different background, has a different mindset, and so on. This notion helped me overcome my social anxiety after 13 years of struggling with it.
7. You don’t have to put up with unacceptable behavior.
When you encounter toxic people, it’s okay to remove yourself from the situation or no longer attend events they may attend. You need to put your well-being over the need to be nice and people-please.
If someone does something unacceptable, I will diplomatically let them know what I think of their behavior, because I feel it’s better for them to know rather than for me to stay quiet.
8. You don’t have to work an extroverted job to be successful.
Have you seen some Instagram Stories where people post almost every single minute of their day? It’s like they are at the gym at 6 a.m., at work by 7, then they have tons of meetings…
They all seem to be so motivated and successful (or at least trying to be). I think this is because people think that to be successful, you have to take part in “hustle culture” — you have to go-go-go, be an overachiever, and always strive for more. However, if you ask those people where they are rushing to or what their life dream is, they might not know.
The truth is, to be successful, you don’t have to become a CEO or even an extrovert. You can be successful at whatever gives you joy. It may be painting, writing, creating, and so on. In fact, some of the greatest leaders of all time were introverts, from Abraham Lincoln to Bill Gates to Oprah.
Remember: A busy lifestyle doesn’t guarantee success.
9. You don’t have to step out of your comfort zone.
I’ve never understood the “step out of your comfort zone” quotes; frankly, I’m tired of hearing them. The quotes make no sense to me because it’s in our nature as humans to strive for comfort.
I don’t think that perfectly meeting everyone’s expectations of you makes you a good person, and I don’t think that refusing to meet them makes you a bad person. But I do think there are introvert-friendly ways to push yourself and grow that are less intense.
In essence, do what makes you happy, my fellow introvert, no one else.
Check out my blog, Mindfulness Inspo, where I write about overcoming anxiety, building healthy relationships, living a stress-free lifestyle — and more.
You might like:
- 7 Things Introverts Are Tired of Hearing
- What Not to Say to an Introvert
- 12 Things Introverts Absolutely Need in Life to Be Happy
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