I Thought I Was Broken Until I Discovered I’m an Introvert

IntrovertDear.com introvert INFJ

I’ve always struggled to fit in. I daresay most introverts have experienced the feeling of being an “outsider” more than once—particularly during childhood and adolescence.

Most of the people I knew from primary school went to the same high school as me. So when it came time to start high school, I wasn’t particularly apprehensive. I figured I knew people already, plus I’d make some new friends, and things would continue pretty much as they always had. I wouldn’t say I was popular, but I had always felt safe and confident and had a small circle of friends with whom I felt comfortable.

However, that wasn’t the case. Things changed radically in high school. Trying to fit in suddenly revolved around things I couldn’t do, or didn’t know how. Outgoing behavior was favored. The small group of friends I had (small is relative–I had two friends) were developing their own strong personalities. They were quite happy to socialize with the loud, rambunctious kids who sat just outside the school building to eat lunch. Some of their new friends taunted me for being quiet and shy, and when I suggested staying inside for lunch, it was met with dismissal.

I couldn’t understand it. It was the first time in my life I really realized how different I was.

When I was made to go outside, I felt more alone than ever in the big, noisy crowd. It was like everyone had taken some class to learn how to “be.” I felt I’d somehow missed that class and was forever trying to catch up. I tried to pretend I knew what I was doing, but I still felt out of place.

The Library Became My Safe Haven

The small seed of doubt that something was wrong with me grew every year that followed. I did not enjoy large classes where everyone messed around–I preferred a quiet learning environment. I did not enjoy lunch breaks–loud canteens full of shouting and screaming, and the outdoor areas weren’t any better either. I would stow away in the library, find a hidden desk between rows of books, and sneak mouthfuls of food in between working or thumbing through the pages of the novel I was currently reading. The sweet relief I felt in my own company, away from loud noises, bright lights, and too much going on, was heavenly. It was 45 minutes where I could rest and recharge, and brace myself for the rest of the afternoon, and my woeful attempts to belong.

It also served a secondary purpose: I was bullied mercilessly throughout high school. But those who would taunt me would never be found in the library, so it became my safe haven for many reasons.

Becoming quieter and keeping myself out of sight was my best tactic. If I was quiet, no one would notice me. If no one noticed me, I wouldn’t be picked on. But it did nothing to enhance my already low self-esteem. It became day after day of “just getting through” in a chaotic world which seemed to favor extroverts and attention-seekers.

The feeling of not fitting in (and not knowing how to fit in) grew as I went to college and then on to university. Students seemed to want nothing more than to drink all day and do no school work. It was a culture I tried, and failed, again, to fit into. Becoming intoxicated in an unfamiliar, cramped, dimly-lit club surrounded by people gyrating all around me was not my idea of fun. It was a living hell.

I stopped drinking. I was labeled as boring, dull, weird. I certainly felt it. After all, everybody else was doing these things and actually enjoying it. For a long time, I thought I was the only person on the planet who didn’t. There had to be something wrong with me.

Other girls would dress in short skirts and low cut tops, and giggle at the attention they received from boys and men. I purposely wore baggy clothes and oversized jumpers. Having someone’s attention on me was the worst thing I could think of–I’d freeze up, the typical deer in headlights. I couldn’t understand why they were going to such lengths to get the attention I feared. They would dance in the spotlight and crave every pair of eyes on them. I’d hide in the shadows and pray I wouldn’t be noticed.

I always knew I was shy and quiet. Every school report stated it. Friends and family told me. It was always seen as something “wrong” and “bad” and “not right.” If only I could “get out of my shell more,” I’d be okay. Yet every time I tried, I felt sick. I was being inauthentic; something I now understand goes against part of my core beliefs. I couldn’t stand falseness. Why was it so important for me to be loud and outgoing if, whenever I tried, I knew I wasn’t being me?

Discovering My Introversion Changed My Life

Post-university, where I’d studied psychology, I began to turn inwards and reflect. I researched more of the things I’d learned while earning my degree, and investigated the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. When I found out I was an introvert, and specifically, an INFJ personality type, it felt like everything clicked into place. I suddenly understood why I felt the way I felt and responded the way I did. But mostly, I realized I was not broken. I was normal. I did fit in, though not in the way I thought I had to.

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It was okay to feel what I felt. I did not need to pretend to be something I was not.

I felt liberated. I began to offer myself the same compassion I so freely and willingly gave to those around me. I told myself, repeatedly, it was okay to skip a party or decline an invitation. It was okay to say no to things and not feel I had to behave in a certain way to fit in. It was okay to only do what I wanted to do. That by being true to myself, and being authentic, was by far the best way for me to live. True friends would remain, and I’d make long-lasting connections with people who valued me for me–not what I portrayed or pretended to be.

My advice to you, fellow introverts, is to love yourself and be patient with yourself. It’s so important. We’re all so keen to make sure everyone thinks of us in the best way that we forget to take care of ourselves. Life is not a competition, and your worth should not be measured by traits like talkativeness and how outgoing you are. What about kindness, respect, and compassion? These are the traits I value in myself and in others, so I will continue to champion them.

Fitting in is not the be all and end all of life. Loving yourself and accepting who you are… that’s more important, I think. retina_favicon1

Read this: 25 Contradicting Things About Being a Shy Introvert


  • Kat says:

    Thank you very much for this article. I realized that I am not broken only recently (after being bullied at work for who I am also because I was not attending the drinking events) and now I am trying to recover from the mess because I started to hate people and be afraid of them. I am also trying to love myself but it is difficult because I learned from others that I do not deserve to be loved so I do not know how to do it. Not sure if I ever meet someone who will accept me the way I am (people still try to “fix” me) but at least now I know that I am not a psycho.

  • Lauren says:

    You ABSOLUTELY deserve to be loved. I know you may have been told otherwise, and you may believe otherwise, but you absolutely, categorically, deserve to be loved. It isn’t easy, certainly, but show kindness to yourself, at least, if others wont. Things will change in time, and no, you’re not a psycho! Genuine people will accept you for you. 🙂

  • Kat says:

    Thank you for your warm words 🙂

  • Sumant Bagade says:

    Absolutely brilliant!! Being an introvert, I can totally relate.We shouldn’t change to get accepted in this world. It takes guts to feel confident in your belief and thoughts rather than being took off and flowing with what people around you are doing. Thanks for this article.

  • Lauren says:

    Indeed! I really dislike when you’re told you have to be a certain way. What if that ‘way’ isn’t who you are? And what’s wrong with being yourself? It isn’t easy, though, and sometimes there are days I wish I could ‘just do’ some things I struggle with. But as you say, being confident in yourself and your belief is so important!

  • Geraldine says:

    I too am now kinder to myself through discovering I am INFJ. We really aren’t like everyone else, and understanding this helped me to forgive people who don’t see who I really am. We are so warm hearted but appear cold and aloof because we don’t outwardly display it in the way the rest of the world does. We aren’t fake but live in a world where being fake is normal behaviour. Articles like yours help so many people be more accepting of themselves, so thank you.

  • Lauren says:

    No, we aren’t really like everyone else, but at least we can forgive others for not understanding that, and forgive ourselves when we sometimes believe what others say about us being cold and aloof, when it’s not true. I’m so pleased that people are accepting themselves more, and being kinder to themselves. If my article has helped that, then I’m incredibly touched!

  • Isa says:

    Great article I can totally relate and also spent hours in the library at school! I only learnt about Briggs Meyer a few yrs ago in my 40’s and it was such a relief it explained so many things about me Im INFP and my long term partner is INFJ ?

  • Phoenicia says:

    Thank you for sharing. I resonate with so much of what you have written. I too was bullied in high school (secondary school in the UK) but about my appearance. My shy nature and serious lack of confidence did not help matters. For years I felt “wrong”, and it robbed me of joy throughout my teens.

    Finally I can embrace my introvertedness. No guilt, no shame – just me!

  • Lauren says:

    I’m from the UK, too! My appearance was also part of why I was bullied – but also I think because I hate conflict and confrontation and I was too weak to say anything at the time, so I was an easy target. At the time, I really did feel like I was the only person going through it, it’s so isolating! I’m sorry to hear that you endured the same struggles 🙁 But I take heart in knowing introverts like you and I have been able to embrace our nature without worry! And yes, as you say, no guilt or shame! We are who we are and we should be so proud of that, and all we have (and will) achieve! 🙂

  • Lauren says:

    Thank you, fellow library-lover! 😀 It’s quite an incredible feeling when you learn about it, isn’t it! I’m so pleased you’ve felt the relief and understood yourself and your partner more! 😀 Introverts unite! 😀

  • Tina Frederick says:

    Such a great post! Many things that I identified as social anxiety I am discovering is introversion. So thankful for websites like these!

  • Lauren says:

    Thank you! I do have social anxiety too (trying to work through it!), which certainly didn’t help while I was at school. It’s amazing how much a difference it makes when we discover our introversion, isn’t it! Introvert, Dear is so fantastic!

  • Amy G says:

    So good to read this! I wish I had known about different personalities growing up, as your journey mirrors mine. I remember many, many days of eating lunch in the bathroom and staying in there the entire lunch period. I have never felt more weird or alone, as I did all those years in school!

    • Lauren says:

      You’re definitely not alone! Or you certainly weren’t! It’s comforting to know that we weren’t the only ones, though saddening that so many of us were made to feel like this for so long! I hope you’re in a better place now! 🙂

      • Amy G says:

        I’m 49 now and in a much better place, thank you. Those school years were horrible! So glad they’re behind me now. 😉

    • tutu91 says:

      I also spent a lot of my breaks in the bathroom during my school years. Felt like such a loser. It’s so comforting to know that someone else in this world has been through a similar experience

  • Jill Carlier says:

    Thank you so much, i agree with everything! Although, sometimes when I’m super rested and fulfilled, I can be loud ha ha lots of love to you! Xo

  • Rachael Cochlin says:

    A great read. I agree with most of what Lauren said, and I definitely felt a little different growing up. I often felt like I was missing something, despite being intelligent. I loved to read, and never thought of being sent to my room as punishment! I was one of the ‘popular’ kids despite feeling different, and only recently discovered my type as INTJ, so I can only assume that it was the logical thinker in me that enabled me to ‘act’ like I fitted in. I wish I could have embraced my introverted side more. Trying to fit in meant sacrificing grades and scraping through college, despite my teachers expecting top marks. I shudder now at those memories and really wish that I could go back and re-live my school days as the true me.

    • Lauren says:

      I think so many of us wish we could go back and re-live those school days. Hindsight is great, isn’t it!! It’s amazing how many of us introverts felt we were missing something! I definitely wished I could embrace my introverted side more, instead of seeing it as a burden or a weakness. At least we’re in happier, more understanding places now? 😀

      • Rachael Cochlin says:

        Absolutely. Changed my life now that I understand myself better. Now I realise I am not just grumpy or depressed. I’m just me. 🙂

  • Jimbaux! says:

    “It was like everyone had taken some class to learn how to “be.” I felt I’d somehow missed that class and was forever trying to catch up. I tried to pretend I knew what I was doing, but I still felt out of place.”

    Wow. That explains it so well. It’s better than the analogy that I heard earlier that it’s like everyone is able to pick some radio signals that introverts aren’t able to pick up.

    Thank you. Wow.

  • Lynne Fisher says:

    Lovely post! I hated secondary school, but didn’t really know it, I was numb, just going through the motions. And my ‘friends’ left me for the extroverts, which kind of hurt me. I hooked up with another introvert which got us both through! In in my early adult years I certainly felt like an outsider. Then when I got married and worked in a store, I had a taste of what it was like being an insider. And here’s the thing, it felt too shallow, way not enough for me. I found myself when later on I became an artist, did a humanities degree with the OU and now I write fiction. I only found out I was an INFJ a few years ago – I’m 55 now. It felt like coming home!