As an introvert, art is my refuge and a window into my inner world — which is why it can be so hard to share it with others.
I’m not sure which is scarier: the apocalypse … or showing one of your drawings to someone who might dislike it. Oh wait, just kidding, I’ll take the apocalypse.
Art has been my introvert refuge, from music to doodling to writing, and the place where I most feel myself. However, these private worlds many introverts build in our heads and on paper can seem just that: private. For many of us, this can feel pretty dissatisfying — here, look, I spent all day creating a masterpiece and no one can see it.
Art, from music to drawing to poetry, is a form of self-expression that makes us whole in difficult times and allows us to express joy in good times. Art is also all about vulnerability, and making emotion expressible. For people who think best when given space inside our own heads, it can be challenging to let others into our creative worlds filled with self-expression.
Yet what I have found through sharing my art (such as poetry and drawings) with others has largely been a shared sense of humanity, and I’ve befriended more quiet artists like myself; they “get” me, which is important to introverts when it comes to making friends.
For the guarded, quiet, emotional, and creative ones, here is what it’s like to show someone else your artwork.
All the Things I Feel as an Introvert When I Share My Art With Others
1. I downplay my art as a way to shield myself from messy emotions.
The best art comes from the raw depths of your soul — Georgia O’Keeffe is one example of such an artist. As much as I hate to disappoint you, what’s in the raw depths of my soul isn’t exactly glamorous. (I mean, there are hints of glamour, sure, but the depths of my soul, like that of many others, is a strange and emotional jumble of weirdness).
Profound emotions and vulnerability make for beautiful poetry, music, and art, but it can invoke incredible amounts of anxiety to share these feelings with others. For guarded introverts who aren’t too keen on sharing much of themselves to begin with, this anxiety is even further magnified.
I often find myself downplaying something I’ve done because I want to use it as a shield for the fragile emotions it pertains to. “This doesn’t really mean anything,” I’ll say, pretending it’s true, before I show a friend my sketchbook of cartoon animals or rainy landscapes. But when they react — by saying something like “I can really relate to that” — the true emotional vulnerability that comes with sharing your art is revealed. It’s also what makes it so intriguing. A story or painting that doesn’t stir up any sense of emotion? I’ll take the profoundly emotional any day.
2. It’s harder with those closest to me.
I often feel like I exist as one version of myself when I have to interact with other people, but that my true self emerges when I’m finally alone. (Can my fellow introverts relate?)
Sometimes it can feel even more difficult to show a drawing or a poem to someone close to me because that person knows one version of me, while the inner artist feels like a stranger. For example, I may show them a silly sketch of a cat rolling around on its back, but the abstract portrait of colors representing the perpetual fluctuations of human existence? Nope.
3. Sharing my art gives people a glimpse into my introvert brain.
It can be a strange feeling to tell a close friend of over a decade that I actually love to draw or sing or play the ukulele.
“What?” They might ask. “How did I not know that?”
Well, because I can’t always do those things in front of people, of course — for the same reason I just can’t talk in big groups, or think right when the TV is on, or focus when too many people are talking at once. It takes me time to process how I’m feeling, and that often means that emotions will come out later in the form of a drawing or surprise poem.
Art, for me, happens at its best when I am left alone, preferably without noise. My thoughts are loud enough as it is. But at the same time, this need for solitude makes it hard to express who I am in my head.
There is something magical about bringing another layer of yourself to the surface: While I wouldn’t change being the creative introverted thinker I am, it is a neat way to find connection by showing someone a little more about what goes on in my thoughts, such as poetry that expresses the need for solitude or a drawing of a peaceful, silent garden.
4. Art heals — but it’s harder to share the serious stuff.
I’m usually perfectly comfortable showing someone a story, poem, or doodle if it’s funny, like a cute drawing of a cat chasing its tail or a self-deprecating poem about forgetting my lunch. Make someone laugh but without actually having to talk? I’ve found my purpose in this world.
However, it’s a complex world and, like most people, I have both a silly and a serious side. While creative endeavors are incredibly therapeutic and an amazing way to process more difficult feelings, it’s much harder for me to show anyone a more serious or emotional piece of writing, or artwork that expresses something darker rather than joyful.
Deep truths of the universe are uncovered by laughing together — but also by processing the things that make you cry or shake with anger and fear. Seeing poetry and paintings about these emotions have made me feel validated, whole, and understood, and serve as a great reminder that we all have more in common with each other than is sometimes evident.
So even if I may not always be comfortable sharing my “deeper” pieces, seeing the work of others helps me feel understood. It reminds me that we all are capable of filling the emotional spectrum: Drawing and writing about intense feelings — such as loneliness, sadness, or even joy — can bring us toward healing.
5. It gives me a rush when someone likes what I created.
It’s an amazing feeling to be accepted and valued for being exactly who you are. Especially in a world where craving silence and solitude are seen as funky quirks under the dictionary definition of introversion, we introverts often need a bit of validation to remind us that we are perfect as we are.
So when a friend absolutely loves a poem you wrote, it’s quite affirming. I’m not interested in using art to fish for compliments — if I’m being honest, half of my drawings are just scribbles I’d be embarrassed to even show my mom — but it is validating and affirming when another person sees and acknowledges your artistic self.
6. Sharing my art inspires others to share theirs, too.
When I think of my friends who publically share their poetry and drawings, I feel less awkward for having my own journal filled with poems and drawings. Art tends to inspire more art — or at least makes sharing it less anxiety-filled for others.
You don’t have to become a trendsetter, but doing something that feels strange can be the first step in making it less awkward for others. Can you imagine a better thing than filling the world to the brim with creative endeavors? Let’s make this happen, please.
I once pulled out a sketchbook in front of a friend, only to have her ask to borrow a piece of paper and start doodling right along with me. This was the first of many shared drawing sessions (which, thankfully, all occurred in near-complete focused silence).
Finding a person I can occasionally sit with while we both quietly do our own thing has turned out to be the perfect balance of creative introvert time while retaining a grip on community, too.
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7. Art can feel like a lifeline in a world that drowns out introverts.
While there are assuredly beautiful forms of collaborative art, many introverts find a refuge in the solitary aspect of artwork. It’s understood that sketches and poems are created by sitting quietly with paper and pencil, and without talking to anyone else. For me, that’s absolute heaven.
Writing and drawing feel like things I cling to because they simply exist in the quiet space in my brain. (But talk to someone? Out loud? No, thank you.) To be honest, this is what I most love about being an introvert: the creativity I am capable of when I am just left alone to think.
It’s funny, in a world that so highly values good conversational skills, charisma, and group projects, being good at art has felt like I was making up for what I felt I lacked in those other skills.
8. Wow, there are so many artists out there in the world!
I’m a little embarrassed to admit I’ve often assumed I was the only quiet, creative individual in most given scenarios, or the only one who could write or draw instead of speak loudly.
Fortunately, I’ve learned I wasn’t quite right in that assumption. Just as I have found some strategies to survive in group discussions, I’ve also become well-acquainted with the fact that everyone can communicate something through one artistic medium or another, whether it’s about grief, joy, or just the mundane (yet interesting) trials of daily life.
There are so many types of art — music, dancing, drawing, literature — that I am perpetually amazed by people’s abilities to produce it. Even more, I sometimes have to remind myself that art is human, not competitive.
Clinging to writing and drawing because they seemed like the two forms of communication I could actually do decently made me a little wary of putting myself in a scenario where anyone might be judgmental about my work. Instead, thinking about writing and art forms as inherently human traits — ones that absolutely everyone has in some capacity — helps me to break away from this imagined sense of competition.
Rather than being afraid that my piece isn’t “good enough” by comparison, I’m finding a sense of curiosity about what happens in the hidden creative lives of my fellow introverts. And I feel this secretly binds us together.